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ever they are asked, and at the same time to do what-
ever they please." Mr Grote once quoted a phrase of
Cicero's, applied to the voting-papers of his day, as a
testimony in favour of this mode of secret suffrage
grand words, and wholly untranslatable into anything
like corresponding English " Tdbella vindex tacitce
libertatis" "the tablet which secures the liberty of
silence." But knowing so well as Cicero did what was

* See p. 3.


the ordinary character of Roman jurors and Roman
voters, and how often this "liberty of silence" was a
liberty to take a bribe and to vote the other way, one
can almost fancy that we see upon his lips, as he utters
the sounding phrase, that playful curve of irony which
is said to have been their characteristic expression.*
Mr Grote forgot, too, as was well pointed out by a
writer in the ' Quarterly Review/ 1 that in the very
next sentence the orator is proud to boast that he
himself was not so elected to office, but " by the living
voices" of his fellow-citizens.

The character of his eloquence may be understood
in some degree by the few extracts which have been
given from his public speeches ; always remembering
how many of its charms are necessarily lost by losing
the actual language in which his thoughts were clothed.
We have lost perhaps nearly as much in another way,
in that we can only read the great orator instead of
listening to him. Yet it is possible, after all, that
this loss to us is not so great as it might seem. Some
of his best speeches, as we know those, for instance,
against Verres and in defence of Milo were written
in the closet, and never spoken at all ; and most of the
others were reshaped and polished for publication.
Nor is it certain that his declamation, which some of
his Roman rivals found fault with as savouring too
much of the florid Oriental type, would have been agree-

* No bust, coin, or gem is known which bears any genuine
likeness of Cicero. There are several existing which purport to
be such, but all are more or less apocryphal,
t Quart. Rev., Ixi. 522.


able to our colder English taste. He looked upon gesture
and action as essential elements of the orator's power,
and had studied them carefully from the artists of the
theatre. There can be no doubt that we have his own
views on this point in the words which he has put
into the mouth of his " Brutus," in the treatise on
oratory which bears that name. He protests against the
"Attic coldness" of style which, he says, would soon
empty the benches of their occupants. He would
have the action and bearing of the speaker to be such
that even the distant spectator, too far off to hear,
should " know that there was a Roscius on the stage."
He would have found a French audience in this re-
spect more sympathetic than an English one.* His
own highly nervous temperament would certainly tend
to excited action. The speaker, who, as we are told,
" shuddered visibly over his whole body when he first
began to speak," was almost sure, as he warmed to his
work, to throw himself into it with a passionate

He has put on record his own ideas of the qualifica-
tions and the duties of the public speaker, whether in
the Senate or at the bar, in three continuous treatises

* Our speakers certainly fall into the other extreme. The
British orator's style of gesticulation may still be recognised,
mutatis mutandis, in Addison's humorous sketch of a century
ago : "You may see many a smart rhetorician turning his hat
in his hands, moulding it into several different cocks, examin-
ing sometimes the lining and sometimes the button, during the
whole course of his harangue. A deaf man would think that he
was cheapening a beaver, when he is talking perhaps of the
fate of the British nation."


on the subject, entitled respectively, ' On Oratory,'
' Brutus,' and ' The Orator,' as well as in some other
works of which we have only fragments remaining.
With the first of these works, which he inscribed to
his brother, he was himself exceedingly well satisfied,
and it perhaps remains still the ablest, as it was the
first, attempt to reduce eloquence to a science. The
second is a critical sketch of the great orators of Rome :
and in the third we have Cicero's view of what the
perfect orator should be. His ideal is a high one, and
a true one ; that he should not be the mere rhetorician,
any more than the mere technical lawyer or keen
partisan, but the man of perfect education and perfect
taste, who can speak on all subjects, out of the fulness
of his mind, " with variety and copiousness."

Although, as has been already said, he appears to
have attached but little value to a knowledge of the
technicalities of law, in other respects his preparation
for his work was of the most careful kind; if we
may assume, as we probably may, that it is his own
experience which, in his treatise on Oratory, he puts
into the mouth of Marcus Antonius, one of his greatest
predecessors at the Roman bar.

" It is my habit to have every client explain to me
personally his own case ; to allow no one else to be
present, that so he may speak more freely. Then I
take the opponent's side, while I make him plead his
own cause, and bring forward whatever arguments he
can think of. Then, when he is gone, I take upon
myself, with as much impartiality as I can, three dif-
ferent characters my own, my opponent's, and that of


the jury. Whatever point seems likely to help the
case rather than injure it, this I decide must be brought
forward ; when I see that anything is likely to do
more harm than good, I reject and throw it aside alto-
gether. So I gain this, that I think over first what
I mean to say, and speak afterwards ; while a good
many pleaders, relying on their abilities, try to do
both at once."*

He reads a useful lesson to young and zealous advo-
cates in the same treatise that sometimes it may be
wise not to touch at all in reply upon a point which
makes against your client, and to which you have no
real answer; and that it is even more important to
say nothing which may injure your case, than to omit
something which might possibly serve it. A maxim
which some modern barristers (and. some preachers
also) might do well to bear in mind.

Yet he did not scorn to use what may almost be called
the tricks of his art, if he thought they would help to
secure him a verdict. The outward and visible appeal
to the feelings seems to have been as effective in the
Eoman forum as with a British jury. Cicero would
have his client stand by his side dressed in mourn-
ing, with hair dishevelled, and in tears, when he
meant to make a pathetic appeal to the compassion of
the jurors ; or a family group would be arranged, as
circumstances allowed, the wife and children, the
mother and sisters, or the aged father, if present-
able, would be introduced in open court to create
a sensation at the right moment. He had tears ap-
* De Oratore, II. 24, 72.

A. c. vol. ix. G


patently as ready at his command as an eloquent
and well-known English Attorney-General. Nay, the
tears seem to hare been marked down, as it were, upon
his brief. " My feelings prevent my saying more," he
declares in his defence of Publius Sylla. "I weep
while I make the appeal " " I cannot go on for tears "
he repeats towards the close of that fine oration in
behalf of Milo the speech that never was spoken.
Such phrases remind us of the story told of a French
preacher, whose manuscripts were found to have mar-
ginal stage directions : " Here take out your handker-
chief;" " here cry if possible." But such were held
to be the legitimate adjuncts of Roman oratory, and it
is quite possible to conceive that the advocate, like
more than one modern tragedian who could be named,
entered so thoroughly into the spirit of the part that
the tears flowed quite naturally.

A far less legitimate weapon of oratory offensive
and not defensive was the bitter and coarse person-
ality in which he so frequently indulged. Its use was
held perfectly lawful in the Roman forum, whether in
political debate or in judicial pleadings, and it was
sure to be highly relished by a mixed audience. There
is no reason to suppose that Cicero had recourse to it
in any unusual degree; but employ it he did, and
most unscrupulously. It was not only private charac-
ter that he attacked, as in the case of Antony and
Clodius, but even personal defects or peculiarities were
made the subject of bitter ridicule. He did not hesi-
tate to season his harangue by a sarcasm on the cast
in the prosecutor's eye, or the wen on the defendant's
neck, and to direct the attention of the court to these


points, as though they were corroborative evidence of
a moral deformity. The most conspicuous instance
of this practice of his is in the invective which he
launched in the Senate against Piso, who had made a
speech reflecting upon him. Referring to Cicero's exile,
he had made that sore subject doubly sore by declaring
that it was not Cicero's unpopularity, so much as his
unfortunate propensity to bad verse, which had been the
cause of it. A jingling line of his to the effect that

" The gown wins grander triumphs than the sword " *

had been thought to be pointed against the recent
victories of Pompey, and to have provoked him. to use
his influence to get rid of the author. But this an-
notation of Cicero's poetry had not been Piso's only
offence. He had been consul at the time of the exile,
and had given vent, it may be remembered, to the
witticism that the " saviour of Rome " might save the
city a second time by his absence. Cicero was not
the man to forget it. The beginning of his attack
on Piso is lost, but there is quite enough remaining.
Piso was of a swarthy complexion, approaching pro-
bably to the negro type. " Beast " is the term by
which Cicero addresses him. " Beast ! there is no
mistaking the evidence of that slave-like hue, those
bristly cheeks, those discoloured fangs. Your eyes,
your brows, your face, your whole aspect, are the tacit
index to your soul."t

* " Cedant arma togse, concedat laurea linguae."
\ Such flowers of eloquence are not encouraged at the modem
bar. But they were common enough, even in the English law-
courts, in former times. Mr Attorney-General Coke's language


It is not possible, -within the compass of these pages,
to give even the briefest account of more than a few of
the many causes (they are twenty-four in number) in
which the speeches made by Cicero, either for the
prosecution or the defence, have been preserved to us.
Some of them have more attraction for the English
reader than others, either from the facts of the case
being more interesting or more easily understood, or
from their affording more opportunity for the display
of the speaker's powers.

Mr Fox had an intense admiration for the speech
in defence of Cselius. The opinion of one who was
no mean orator himself, on his great Roman predeces-
sor, may be worth quoting :

" Argumentative contention is not what he excels in ;
and lie is never, I think, so happy as when he has an op-
portunity of exhibiting a mixture of philosophy and pleas-
antry, and especially when he can interpose anecdotes and
references to the authority of the eminent characters in the
history of his own country. No man appears, indeed, to
have had such a real respect for authority as he ; and there-
fore when he speaks on that subject he is always natural
and earnest." *

to Ealeigh at his trial "Thou viper!" comes quite up to
Cicero's. Perhaps the Irish House of Parliament, while it ex-
isted, furnished the choicest modern specimens of this style of
oratory. Mr O'Flanagan, in his ' Lives of the Lord Chancellors
of Ireland,' tells us that a member for Galway, attacking an
opponent when he knew that his sister was present during the
debate, denounced the whole family " from the toothless old
hag that is now grinning in the gallery, to the white-livered
scoundrel that is shivering on the floor."

* Letter to G. "Wakefield Correspondence, p. 35.


There is anecdote and pleasantry enough in this
particular oration ; but the scandals of Koman society
of that day, into which the defence of Cselius was
obliged to enter, are not the most edifying subject
for any readers. Cselius was a young man of " eques-
trian " rank, who had been a kind of ward of Cicero's,
and must have given him a good deal of trouble by
his profligate habits, if the guardianship was anything
more than nominal. But in this particular case the
accusation brought against him of trying to murder
an ambassador from Egypt by means of hired assassins,
and then to poison the lady who had lent him the
money to bribe them with was probably untrue.
Clodia, the lady in question, was the worthy sister of the
notorious Clodius, and bore as evil a reputation as it
was possible for a woman to bear in the corrupt society
of Eome which is saying a great deal. She is the
real mover in the case, though another enemy of
Caelius, the son of a man whom he had himself brought
to trial for bribery, was the ostensible prosecutor.
Cicero, therefore, throughout the whole of his speech,
aims the bitter shafts of his wit and eloquence at
Clodia. His brilliant invectives against this lady, who
was, as he pointedly said, " not only noble but notori-
ous," are not desirable to quote. But the opening of
the speech is in the advocate's best style. The trial,
it seems, took place on a public holiday, when it was
not usual to take any cause unless it were of pressing
importance. ^

" If any spectator be here present, gentlemen, who
knows nothing of our laws, our courts of justice, or


our national customs, he will not fail to wonder what
can be the atrocious nature of this case, that on a day
of national festival and public holiday like this, when
all other business in the Forum is suspended, this
single trial should be going on ; and he will entertain
no doubt but that the accused is charged with a crime
of such enormity, that if it were not at once taken
cognisance of, the constitution itself would be in peril.
And if he heard that there was a law which enjoined
that in the case of seditious and disloyal citizens who
should take up arms to attack the Senate-house, or use
violence against the magistrates, or levy war against
the commonwealth, inquisition into the matter should
be made at once, on the very day ; he would not find
fault with such a law : he would only ask the nature
of the charge. But when he heard that it was no such
atrocious crime, no treasonable attempt, no violent out-
rage, which formed the subject of this trial, but that a
young man of brilliant abilities, hard-working in pub-
lic life, and of popular character, was here accused by
the son of a man whom he had himself once prosecuted,
and was still prosecuting, and that all a bad woman's
wealth and influence was being used against him,
he might take no exception to the filial zeal of Atra-
tinus ; but he would surely say that woman's infamous
revenge should be baffled and punished. ... I can
excuse Atratinus ; as to the other parties, they deserve
neither excuse nor forbearance."

It was a strange story, the case for the prosecution,
especially as regarded the alleged attempt to poison
Clodia. The poison was given to a friend of Cselius,


he was to give it to some slaves of Clodia whom he
was to meet at certain baths frequented "by her, and
they were in some way to administer it. But the slaves
betrayed the secret; and the lady employed certain
gay and profligate young men, who were hangers-on
of her own, to conceal themselves somewhere in the
baths, and pounce upon Cselius's emissary with the
poison in his possession. But this scheme was said
to have failed. Clodia's detectives had rushed from
their place of concealment too soon, and the bearer of
the poison escaped. The counsel for the prisoner
makes a great point of this.

" Why, 'tis the catastrophe of a stage-play nay, of
a burlesque; when no more artistic solution of the
plot can be invented, the hero escapes, the bell rings,
and the curtain falls ! For I ask why, when Licinius
was there trembling, hesitating, retreating, trying to
escape why that lady's body-guard let him go out of
their hands ? Were they afraid lest, so many against
one, such stout champions against a single helpless
man, frightened as he was and fierce as they were,
they could not master him ? I should like exceedingly
to see them, those curled and scented youths, the
bosom-friends of this rich and noble lady ; those stout
men-at-arms who were posted by their she- captain in
this ambuscade in the baths. And I should like to
ask them how they hid themselves, and where ? A
bath 1 why, it must rather have been a Trojan horse,
which bore within its womb this band of invincible
heroes who went to war for a woman ! I would make
them answer this question, why they, being so many


and so brave, did not either seize this slight stripling,
whom you see before you, where he stood, or overtake
him when he fled ? They will hardly be able to ex-
plain themselves, I fancy, if they get into that witness-
box, however clever and witty they may be at the
banquet, nay, even eloquent occasionally, no doubt,
over then- wine. But the air of a court of justice is
somewhat different from that of the banquet-hall ; the
benches of this court are not like the couches of a
supper-table ; the array of this jury presents a differ-
ent spectacle from a company of revellers ; nay, the
broad glare of sunshine is harder to face than the
glitter of the lamps. If they venture into it, I shall
have to strip them of their pretty conceits and fools'
gear. But, if they will be ruled by me, they will be-
take themselves to another trade, win favour in another
quarter, flaunt themselves elsewhere than in this court.
Let them carry their brave looks to their lady there ;
let them lord it at her expense, cling to her, lie at her
feet, be her slaves ; only let them make no attempt
upon the life and honour of an innocent man."

The satellites of Clodia could scarcely have felt com-
fortable under this withering fire of sarcasm. The
speaker concluded with an apology much required
for his client's faults, as those of a young man, and a
promise on his behalf on the faith of an advocate
that he would behave better for the future. He
wound up the whole with a point of sensational
rhetoric which was common, as has been said, to
the Roman bar as to our own an appeal to the
jurymen as fathers. He pointed to the aged father of


the defendant, leaning in the most approved attitude
upon the shoulder of his son. Either this, or the want
of evidence, or the eloquence of the pleader, had its
due effect. Cselius was triumphantly acquitted ; and
it is a proof that the young man was not wholly grace-
less, that he rose afterwards to high public office, and
never forgot his obligations to his eloquent counsel, to
whom he continued a stanch friend. He must have
had good abilities, for he was honoured with frequent
letters from Cicero when the latter was governor of
Cilicia. He kept up some of his extravagant tastes ;
for when he was ^dile (which involved the taking
upon him the expense of certain gladiatorial and wild-
beast exhibitions), he wrote to beg his friend to send
him. out of his province some panthers for his show.
Cicero complied with the request, and took the oppor-
tunity, so characteristic of him, of lauding his own ad-
ministration of Cilicia, and making a kind of pun at
the same time. " I have given orders to the hunters
to see about the panthers ; but panthers are very scarce,
and the few there are complain, people say, that in the
whole province there are no traps laid for anybody but
for them." Catching and skinning the unfortunate
provincials, which had been a favourite sport with
governors like Verres, had been quite done away with
in Cilicia, we are to understand, under Cicero's rule.

His defence of Ligarius, who was impeached of trea-
son against the state in the person of Caesar, as having
borne arms against him in his African campaign, has
also been deservedly admired. There was some courage
in Cicero's undertaking his defence ; as a known parti-


san of Pompey, he was treading on dangerous and
delicate ground. Csesar was dictator at the time ; and
the case seems to have been tried before him as the
sole judicial authority, without pretence of the inter-
vention of anything like a jury. The defence if de-
fence it may be called is a remarkable instance of the
common appeal, not to the merits of the case, but to
the feelings of the court. After making out what case
he could for his client, the advocate as it were throws
up his brief, and rests upon the clemency of the judge.
Csesar himself, it must be remembered, had begun
public life, like Cicero, as a pleader : and, in the opin-
ion of some competent judges, such as Tacitus and
Quintilian, had bid fair to be a close rival.

" I have pleaded many causes, Csesar some, in-
deed, in association with yourself, while your public
career spared you to the courts ; but surely I never
yet used language of this sort, ' Pardon him, sirs, he
has offended : he has made a false step : he did not
think to do it ; he never will again.' This is language
we use to a father. To the court it must be, ' He
did not do it : he never contemplated it : the evidence
is false ; the charge is fabricated.' If you tell me you
sit but as the judge of the fact in this case, Caesar, if
you ask me where and when he served against you, I
am silent ; I will not now dwell on the extenuating cir-
cumstances, which even before a judicial tribunal might
have their weight. "We take this course before a judge,
but I am here pleading to a father. ' I have erred I
have done wrong, I am sorry : I take refuge in your
clemency ; I ask forgiveness for my fault ; I pray you,


pardon me.' . . . There is nothing so popular, believe
me, sir, as kindness ; of all your many virtues none
wins men's admiration and their love like mercy. In
nothing do men reach so near the gods, as when they
can give life and safety to mankind. Fortune has
given you nothing more glorious than the power, your
own nature can supply nothing more noble than the
will, to spare and pardon wherever you can. The case
perhaps demands a longer advocacy your gracious
disposition feels it too long already. So I make an
end, preferring for my cause that you should argue
with your own heart, than that I or any other should
argue with you. I will urge nothing more than this,
the grace which you shall extend to my client in his
absence, will be felt as a boon by all here present."

The great conqueror was, it is said, visibly affected
by the appeal, and Ligarius was pardoned.



content with his triumphs in prose, Cicero had
always an ambition to be a poet. Of his attempts in
this way we have only some imperfect fragments,
scattered here and there through his other works,
too scanty to form any judgment upon. His poetical
ability is apt to be unfairly measured by two lines
which his opponents were very fond of quoting and
laughing at, and which for that reason have become
the best known. But it is obvious that if Wordsworth
or Tennyson were to be judged solely by a line or two
picked out by an unfavourable reviewer say from
' Peter Bell' or from the early version of the ' Miller's
Daughter' posterity would have a very mistaken
appreciation of their merits. Plutarch and the younger
Pliny, who had seen more of Cicero's poetry than we
have, thought highly of it. So he did himself; but
so it was his nature to think of most of his own per-
formances ; and such an estimate is common to other
authors besides Cicero, though few announce it so
openly. Montaigne takes him to task for this, with


more wit, perhaps, than fairness. " It is no great
fault to write poor verses ; but it is a fault not to be
able to see how unworthy such poor verses were of his
reputation." Voltaire, on the other hand, who was
perhaps as goojd a judge, thought there was " nothing
more beautiful" than some of the fragments of his

Online LibraryW. Lucas (William Lucas) CollinsCicero → online text (page 7 of 24)