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himself with guards ; had obtained authority from the
Senate to carry out all decrees and orders left by the
late Dictator; and when he could not find, amongst
Caesar's memoranda, materials to serve his purpose, he
did not hesitate to forge them. Cicero had no power,
and might be in personal danger, for Antony knew his
sentiments as to state matters generally, and more par-
ticularly towards himself. Rome was no longer any
place for him, and he soon left it this time a volun-
tary exile. He wandered from place to place, and
tried as before to find interest and consolation in phil-
osophy. It was now that he wrote his charming
essays on ' Friendship ' and on ' Old Age,' and com-
pleted his work ' On the Nature of the Gods,' and
that on 'Divination.' His treatise 'De Officiis' (a
kind of pagan ' Whole Duty of Man ') is also of this
date, as well as some smaller philosophical works which
have been lost. He professed himself hopeless of his
country's future, and disgusted with political life, and
spoke of going to end his days at Athens.


But, as "before and always, his heart was in the
Forum at Some. Political life was really the only
atmosphere in which he felt himself breathe vigor-
ously. Unquestionably he had also an earnest patriot-
ism, which would have drawn him back to his country's
side at any time when he believed that she had need
of his help. He was told that he was needed there
now ; that there was a prospect of matters going better
for the cause of liberty; that Antony was coming
to terms of some kind with the party of Brutus, and
he returned.

For a short while these latter days brought with
them a gleam of triumph almost as bright as that
which had marked the overthrow of Catiline's con-
spiracy. Again, on his arrival at Rome, crowds rushed
to meet him with compliments and congratulations, as
they had done some thirteen years before. And in
so far as his last days were spent in resisting to the
utmost the basest of all Eome's bad men, they were to
him greater than any triumph. Thenceforth it was
a fight to the death between him and Antony ; so long
as Antony lived, there could be no liberty for Rome.
Cicero left it to his enemy to make the first attack.
It soon came. Two days after his return, Antony
spoke vehemently in the Senate against him, on the
occasion of moving a resolution to the effect that
divine honours should be paid to Caesar. Cicero had
purposely stayed away, pleading fatigue after his
journey ; really, because such a proposition was odious
to him. Antony denounced him as a coward and a
traitor, and threatened to send men to pull down his


house about his head that house which had once
before been pulled down, and rebuilt for him by his
remorseful fellow-citizens. Cicero went down to the
Senate the following day, and there delivered a well-
prepared speech, the first of those fourteen which are
known to us as his ' Philippics ' a name which he
seems first to have given to them in jest, in remem-
brance of those which his favourite model Demosthenes
had delivered at Athens against Philip of Macedon.
He defended his own conduct, reviewed in strong but
moderate terms the whole policy of Antony, and
warned him still ostensibly as a friend against the
fate of Caesar. The speaker was not unconscious what
his own might possibly be.

" I have already, senators, reaped fruit enough from
my return home, in that I have had the opportunity
to speak words which, whatever may betide, will re-
main in evidence of my constancy in my duty, and
you have listened to me with much kindness and
attention. And this privilege I will use so often as I
may without peril to you and to myself ; when I can-
not, I will be careful of myself, not so much for my
own sake as for the sake of my country. For me, the
life that I have lived seems already wellnigh long
enough, whether I look at my years or my honours ;
what little span may yet be added to it should be your
gain and the state's far more than my own."

Antony was not in the house when Cicero spoke ;
he had gone down to his villa at Tibur. There he
remained for a fortnight, brooding over his reply
taking lessons, it was said, from professors in the art


of rhetorical self-defence. At last he came to Borne,
and answered his opponent. His speech has not
reached us ; but we know that it contained the old
charges of having put Eoman citizens to death without
trial in the case of the abettors of Catiline, and of
having instigated Milo to the assassination of Clodius.
Antony added a new charge that of complicity with
the murderers of Caesar. Above all, he laughed at
Cicero's old attempts as a poet ; a mode of attack
which, if not so alarming, was at least as irritating as
the rest. Cicero was not present he dreaded per-
sonal violence ; for Antony, like Pompey at the trial
of Milo, had planted an armed guard of his own men
outside and inside the Senate-house. Before Cicero
had nerved himself to reply, Antony had left Home
to put himself at the head of his legions, and the two
never met again.

The reply, when it came, was the terrible second
Philippic ; never spoken, however, but only handed
about in manuscript to admiring friends. There is
little doubt, as Mr Long observes, that Antony had
also some friend kind enough to send him a copy ; and
if we may trust the Roman poet Juvenal, who is at
least as likely to have been well informed upon the
subject as any modern historian, this composition
eventually cost the orator his life. It is not difficult
to understand the bitter vindictiveness of Antony.
Cicero had been not merely a political opponent ; he
had attacked his private character (which presented
abundant grounds for such attack) with all the venom
of his eloquence. He had said, indeed, in the first of


these powerful orations, that he had never taken this

" If I have abused his private life and character, I
have no right to complain if he is my enemy : but if I
have only followed my usual custom, which I have
ever maintained in public life, I mean, if I have only
spoken my opinion on public questions freely, then;
in the first place, I protest against his being angry
with me at all : or, if this be too much to expect, I
demand that he should be angry with me only as with
a fellow-citizen."

If there had been any sort of reticence on this point
hitherto on the part of Cicero, he made up for it in
this second speech. Nothing can equal its bitter
personality, except perhaps its rhetorical power. He
begins the attack by declaring that he will not tell all
he knows "in order that, if we have to do battle
again hereafter, I may come always fresh-armed to the
attack ; an advantage which the multiplicity of that
man's crimes and vices gives me in large measure."
Then he proceeds :

"Would you like us, then, to examine into your
course of life from boyhood 1 I conclude you would.
Do you remember that before you put on the robe of
manhood, you were a bankrupt? That was my father's
fault, you will say. I grant it it is a defence that
speaks volumes for your feelings as a son. It was
your own shamelessness, however, that made you take
your seat in the stalls of honourable knights, whereas
by law there is a fixed place for bankrupts, even when
they have become so by fortune's fault, and not their

A. C. Vol. ix. F


own. You put on the robe which was to mark your
maniiood, on your person it became the flaunting
gear of a harlot."

It is not desirable to follow the orator through
some of his accusations ; when he had to lash a man
whom he held to be a criminal, he did not much care
where or how he struck. He even breaks off himself
after saying a good deal.

" There are some things, which even a decent enemy
hesitates to speak of. ... Mark, then, his subse-
quent course of life, which I will trace as rapidly as I
can. For though these things are better known to
you than even to me, yet I ask you to hear me with
attention as indeed you do; for it is right that in
such cases men's feelings should be roused not merely
by the knowledge of the facts, but by calling them
back to their remembrance ; though we must dash at
once, I believe, into the middle of his history, lest we
should be too long in getting to the end."

The peroration is noble and dignified, in the orator's
best style. He still supposes himself addressing his
enemy. He has warned Antony that Caesar's fate
may be his : and he is not unconscious of the peril in
which his own life may stand.

" But do you look to yourself I will tell you how
it stands with me. I defended the Commonwealth
when I was young I will not desert it now I am old.
I despised the swords of Catiline I am not likely to
tremble before yours. Nay, I shall lay my life down
gladly, if the liberty of Eome can be secured by my
death, so that this suffering nation may at last bring to


the birth that which it has long been breeding.* If,
twenty years ago, I declared in this house that death
could never be said to have come before its time to
a man who had been consul of Rome, with how much
more truth, at my age, may I say it now ! To me
indeed, gentlemen of the Senate, death may well be a
thing to be even desired, when I have done what I have
done and reaped the honours I have reaped. Only
two wishes I have, the one, that at my death I may
leave the Roman people free the immortal gods can
give me no greater boon than this ; the other, that
every citizen may meet with such reward as his con-
duct towards the state may have deserved."

The publication of this unspoken speech raised for
the time an enthusiasm against Antony, whom Cicero
now openly declared to be an enemy to the state. He
hurled against him Philippic after Philippic. The
appeal at the end of that which comes the sixth in
order is eloquent enough.

"The time is come at last, fellow- citizens; some-
what too late, indeed, for the dignity of the people of
Rome, but at least the crisis is so ripe, that it cannot
now be deferred an instant longer. We have had one
calamity sent upon us, as I may say, by fate, which
we bore with in such sort as it might be borne. If
another befalls us now, it will be one of our own
choosing. That this Roman people should serve any
master, when the gods above have willed us to be the
masters of the world, is a crime in the sight of heaven.
The question hangs now on its last issue. The struggle
* I.e., the making away with Antony.


is for our liberties. You must either conquer,
Romans, and this, assuredly, with such patriotism
and such unanimity as I see here, you must do, or
you must endure anything and everything rather than
be slaves. Other nations may endure the yoke of
slavery, but the birthright of the people of Rome is

Antony had left Rome, and thrown himself, like
Catiline, into the arms of his soldiers, in his province
of Cisalpine Gaul. There he maintained himself in
defiance of the Senate, who at last, urged by Cicero,
declared him a public enemy. Caesar Octavianus (great-
nephew of Julius) offered his services to the state, and
with some hesitation they were accepted. The last
struggle was begun. Intelligence soon arrived that An-
tony had been defeated at Mutina by the two last con-
suls of the Republic, Hirtius and Pansa. The news was
dashed, indeed, afterwards by the further announce-
ment that both consuls had died of their wounds.
But it was in the height of the first exultation that
Cicero addressed to the Senate his fourteenth Philippic
the last oration which he was ever to make. For
the moment, he found himself once more the fore-
most man at Rome. Crowds of roaring patriots had
surrounded his house that morning, escorted him in
triumph up to the Capitol, and back to his own house,
as they had done in the days of his early glory.
Young Caesar, who had paid him much personal
deference, was professing himself a patriot ; the Com-
monwealth was safe again and Cicero almost thought
that he again himself had saved it.


But Eome now belonged to those who had the
legions. It had come to that : and when Antony
succeeded in joining interests with Octavianus (after-
wards miscalled Augustus) " the boy," as both Cicero
and Antony called him a boy in years as yet, but
premature in craft and falsehood who had come " to
claim his inheritance," and succeeded in rousing in the
old veterans of his uncle the desire to take vengeance
on his murderers, the fate of the Eepublic and of
Cicero was sealed.

It was on a little eyot formed by the river Eeno,
near Bologna, that Antony, young Caesar, and Lepidus
(the nominal third in what is known as the Second
Triumvirate) met to arrange among themselves the
division of power, and what they held to be necessary
to the securing it for the future the proscription
of their several enemies. No private affections or
interests were to be allowed to interfere with this
merciless arrangement. If Lepidus would give up his
brother, Antony would surrender an obnoxious uncle.
Octavianus made a cheaper sacrifice in Cicero, whom
Antony, we may be sure, with those terrible Philip-
pics ringing in his ears, demanded with an eager ven-
geance. All was soon amicably settled ; the proscrip-
tion-lists were made out, and the Triumvirate occupied

Cicero and his brother whose name was known to
be also on the fatal roll heard of it while they were
together at the Tusculan villa. Both took immediate
measures to escape. But Quintus had to return to
Eome to get money for their flight, and, as it would


appear, to fetch, his son. The emissaries of the Trium-
virate were sent to search the house : the father had
hid himself, but the son was seized, and refusing to
give any information, was put to the torture. His
father heard his cries of agony, came forth from his
hiding-place, and asked only to be put to death first.
The son in his turn made the same request, and the
assassins were so far merciful that they killed both at

Cicero himself might yet have escaped, but for some-
thing of his old indecision. He had gone on board a
small vessel with the intention of joining Brutus in
Macedonia, when he suddenly changed his mind, and
insisted on being put on shore again. He wandered
about, half-resolving (for the third time) on suicide.
He would go to Rome, stab himself on the altar-hearth
in young Csesa/s house, and call down the vengeance
of heaven upon the traitor. The accounts of these last
hours of his life are, unfortunately, somewhat con-
tradictory, and none of the authorities to be entirely
depended on ; Abeken has made a careful attempt
to harmonise them, which it will be best here to

Urged by the prayers of his slaves, the faithful
adherents of a kind master, he once more embarked,
and once more (Appian says, from sea-sickness, which
he never could endure) landed near Caieta, where he
had a seaside villa. Either there, or, as other accounts
say, at his house at Formiae, he laid himself down to
pass the night, and wait for death. "Let me die,"
said he, " in my own country, which I have so often


saved." But again the faithful slaves aroused him,
forced him into a litter, and hurried him down through
the woods to the sea-shore for the assassins were in
hot pursuit of him. They found his house shut up ;
but some traitor showed them a short cut by which
to overtake the fugitive. As he lay reading (it is said),
even during these anxious moments, a play of his
favourite Euripides, every line of whom he used to
declare contained some maxim worth remember-
ing, he heard their steps approaching, and ordered
the litter to be set down. He looked out, and re-
cognised at the head of the party an officer named
Lsenas, whom he had once successfully defended on
a capital charge ; but he saw no gratitude or mercy
in the face, though there were others of the band
who covered their eyes for pity, when they saw the
dishevelled grey hair and pale worn features of the
great Eoman (he was within a month of sixty-four).
He turned from Lsenas to the centurion, one Heren-
nius, and said, " Strike, old soldier, if you understand
your trade !" At the third blow by one or other of
those officers, for both claimed the evil honour his
head was severed. They carried it straight to Antony,
where he sat on the seat of justice in the Forum, and
demanded the offered reward. The triumvir, in his
joy, paid it some ten times over. He sent the bloody
trophy to his wife ; and the Roman Jezebel spat in the
dead face, and ran her bodkin through the tongue
which had spoken those bold and bitter truths against
her false husband. The great orator fulfilled, almost
in the very letter, the words which, treating of the


liberty of the pleader, he had put into the mouth of
Crassus " You must cut out this tongue, if you would
check my free speech : nay, even then, my very breath-
ing should protest against your lust for power." The
head, by Antony's order, was then nailed upon the
Eostra, to speak there, more eloquently than ever
the living lips had spoken, of the dead liberty of



CICERO shared very largely in the feeling which is
common to all men of ambition and energy, a desire
to stand well not only with their own generation, but
with posterity. It is a feeling natural to every man
who knows that his name and acts must necessarily
become historical. If it is more than usually patent
in Cicero's case, it is only because in his letters to
Atticus we have more than usual access to the inmost
heart of the writer j for surely such a thoroughly con-
fidential correspondence has never been published be-
fore or since. " What will history say of me six
hundred years hence ? " he asks, unbosoming himself
in this sort to his friend. More than thrice the six
hundred years have passed, and, in Cicero's case, his-
tory has hardly yet made up its mind. He has been
lauded and abused, from his own times down to the
present, in terms as extravagant as are to be found in
the most passionate of his own orations ; both his
accusers and his champions have caught the trick of
his rhetorical exaggeration more easily than his elo-


quence. Modern German critics like Drumann and
Mommsen have attacked him with hardly less bitter-
ness, though with more decency, than the historian
Dio Cassius, who lived so near his own times. Conyers
Middleton, on the other hand, in those pleasant and
comprehensive volumes which are still to this day the
great storehouse of materials for Cicero's biography,
is as blind to his faults as though he were himself
delivering a panegyric in the Eostra at Eome. Per-
haps it is the partiality of this author's view which
has produced a reaction in the minds of sceptical
German scholars, and of some modern writers of our
own. It is impossible not to sympathise in some
degree with that Athenian who was tired of always
hearing Aristides extolled as " the Just ; " and there
was certainly a strong temptation to critics to pick
holes in a man's character who was perpetually, during
his lifetime and for eighteen centuries after his death,
having a trumpet sounded before him to announce
him as the prince of patriots as well as philosophers ;
worthy indeed, as Erasmus thought, to be canonised
as a saint of the Catholic Church, but for the single
drawback of his not having been a Christian.

On one point some of his eulogists seem manifestly
unfair. They say that the circumstances under which
we form our judgment of the man are exceptional in
this that we happen to possess in his case all this
mass of private and confidential letters (there are
nearly eight hundred of his own which have come
down to us), giving us an insight into his private
motives, his secret jealousies, and hopes, and fears, and


ambitions, of which in the case of other men we have
no such revelation. It is quite true ; but his advocates
forget that it is from the very same pages which reveal
his weaknesses, that they draw their real knowledge of
many of those characteristics which they most admire
his sincere love for his country, his kindness of heart,
his amiability in all his domestic relations. It is true
that we cannot look into the private letters of Caasar,
or Pompey, or Brutus, as we can into Cicero's ; but it is
not so certain that if we could, our estimate of their
characters would be lowered. We might discover, in
their cases as in his, many traces of what seems insin-
cerity, timidity, a desire to sail with the stream ; we
might find that the views which they expressed in
public were not always those which they entertained
in private ; but we might also find an inner current of
kindness, and benevolence, and tenderness of heart, for
which the world gives them little credit. One enthu-
siastic advocate, Wieland, goes so far as to wish that
this kind of evidence could, in the case of such a
man as Cicero, have been " cooked," to use a modern
phrase : that we could have had only a judicious selec-
tion from this too truthful mass of correspondence;
ythat his secretary, Tiro, or some judicious friend, had
destroyed the whole packet of letters in which the
great Eoman bemoaned himself, during his exile from
Eome, to his wife, to his brother, and to Atticus. The
partisan method of writing history, though often prac-
tised, has seldom been so boldly professed.

But it cannot be denied, that if we know too much
of Cicero to judge him merely by his public life, as we


are obliged to do with so many heroes of history, \ve
also know far too little of those stormy times in which
he lived, to pronounce too strongly upon his behaviour
in such difficult circumstances. The true relations
between the various parties at Borne, as we have tried
to sketch them, are confessedly puzzling even to the
careful student. And without a thorough understand-
ing of these, it is impossible to decide, with any hope
of fairness, upon Cicero's conduct as a patriot and a
politician. His character was full of conflicting ele-
ments, like the times in which he lived, and was
necessarily in a great degree moulded by them. The
egotism which shows itself so plainly alike in his
public speeches and in his private writings, more than
once made him personal enemies, and brought him
into trouble, though it was combined with great kind-
ness of heart and consideration for others. He saw
the right clearly, and desired to follow it, but his good
intentions were too often frustrated by a want of firm-
ness and decision. His desire to keep well with men
of all parties, so long as it seemed possible (and this
not so much from the desire of self-aggrandisement, as
from a hope through their aid to serve the common-
wealth) laid him open on more than one occasion to
the charge of insincerity.

There is one comprehensive quality which may be
said to have been wanting in his nature, which clouded
his many excellences, led him continually into false
positions, and even in his delightful letters excites in
the reader, from time to time, an impatient feeling of
contempt. He wanted manliness. It was a quality


which was fast dying out, in his day, among even the
best of the luxurious and corrupt aristocracy of Rome.
It was perhaps "but little missed in his character by
those of his contemporaries who knew and loved him
best. But without that quality, to an English mind,
it is hard to recognise in any man, however brilliant
and amiable, the true philosopher or hero.

The views which this great Roman politician held
upon the vexed question of the ballot did not differ
materially from those of his worthy grandfather before-
mentioned.* The ballot was popular at Rome, for
many reasons, some of them not the most creditable
to the characters of the voters; and because it was
popular, Cicero speaks of it occasionally, in his forensic
speeches, with a cautious praise ; but of his real esti-
mate of it there can be no kind of doubt. " I am
of the same opinion now," he writes to his brother,
" that ever I was ; there is nothing like the open
suffrage of the lips." So in one of his speeches, he
uses even stronger language : " The ballot," he says,
" enables men to open their faces, and to cover up
their thoughts ; it gives them licence to promise what-

Online LibraryW. Lucas (William Lucas) CollinsCicero → online text (page 6 of 24)