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poem on ' Marius,' who was the ideal hero of his
youth. Perhaps the very fact, however, of none of his
poems having been preserved, is some argument that
such poetic gift as he had was rather facility than
genius. He wrote, besides this poem on ' Marius,' a
' History of my Consulship,' and a ' History of my Own
Times,' in verse, and some translations from Homer.

He had no notion of what other men called relaxation :
he found his own relaxation in a change of work. He
excuses himself in one of his orations for this strange
taste, as it would seem to the indolent and luxurious
Eoman nobles with whom he was so unequally yoked.

" Who after all shall blame me, or who has any
right to be angry with me, if the time which is not
grudged to others for managing their private business,
for attending public games and festivals, for pleasures
of any other kind, nay, even for very rest of mind
and body, the time which others give to convivial
meetings, to the gaming-table, to the tennis-court,
this much I take for myself, for the resumption of my
favourite studies]"

In this indefatigable appetite for work of all kinds,
he reminds us of no modern politician so much as of
Sir George Cornewall Lewis ; yet he would not have
altogether agreed with him in thinking that life would


be very tolerable if it were not for its amusements.
He was, as we have seen, of a naturally social disposi-
tion. " I like a dinner-party," he says in a letter to
one of his friends, " where I can say just what comes
uppermost, and turn my sighs and sorrows into a hearty
laugh. I doubt whether you are much better yourself,
when you can laugh as you did even at a philosopher.
When the man asked ' Whether anybody wanted to
know anything ? ' you said you had been wanting to
know all day when it would be dinner-time. The
fellow expected you to say you wanted to know
how many worlds there were, or something of that

He is said to have been a great laugher. Indeed, he
confesses honestly that the sense of humour was very
powerful with him "I am wonderfully taken by
anything comic," he writes to one of his friends. He
reckons humour also as a useful ally to the orator.
" A happy jest or facetious turn is not only pleasant,
but also highly useful occasionally;" but he adds that
this is an accomplishment which must come naturally,
and cannot be taught under any possible system.t
There is at least sufficient evidence that he was much
given to making jokes, and some of them which have
come down to us would imply that a Roman audience
was not very critical on this point. There is an air
of gravity about all courts of justice which probably

* These professional philosophers, at literary dinner-parties,
offered to discuss and answer any question propounded by the

t De Orat. II. 54.


makes a very faint amount of jocularity hailed as a
relief. Even in an English law-court, a joke from the
bar, much more from the bench, does not need to be
of any remarkable brilliancy in order to be secure of,
raising a laugh ; and we may fairly suppose that the
same was the case at Eome. Cicero's jokes were fre-
quently nothing more than puns, which it would be
impossible, even if it were worth while, to reproduce
to an English ear. Perhaps the best, or at all events
the most intelligible, is his retort to Hortensius during
the trial of Verres. The latter was said to have feed
his counsel out of his Sicilian spoils especially, there
was a figure of a sphinx, of some artistic value, which
had found its way from the house of the ex-governor
into that of Hortensius. Cicero was putting a witness
through a cross-examination of which his opponent
could not see the bearing. " I do not understand all
this," said Hortensius ; " I am no hand at solving rid-
dles." "That is strange, too," rejoined Cicero, "when
you have a sphinx at home." In the same trial
he condescended, in the midst of that burning elo-
quence of which we have spoken, to make two puns on
the defendant's name. The word " Verres " had two
meanings in the old Latin tongue : it signified a " boar-
pig," and also a " broom " or " sweeping-brush." One
of Verres's friends, who either was or had the reputa-
tion of being a Jew, had tried to get the management
of the prosecution out of Cicero's hands. " What has
a Jew to do with pork ? " asked the orator. Speaking,
in the course of the same trial, of the way in which
the governor had made " requisitions " of all the most


valuable works of art throughout the island, " the
broom" said he, " swept clean." He did not disdain
the comic element in poetry more than in prose; for
we fmd in Quintilian* a quotation from a punning
epigram in some collection of such trifles which in his
time bore Cicero's name. Tiro is said to have collected
and published three volumes of his master's good
things after his death; but if they were not better than
those which have come down to us, as contained in his
other writings, there has been no great loss to literature
in Tiro's ' Ciceroniana.' He knew one secret at least
of a successful humourist in society : for it is to
him that we owe the first authoritative enunciation of
a rule which is universally admitted "that a jest
never has so good an effect as when it is uttered with
a serious countenance."

Cicero had a wonderful admiration for the Greeks.
" I am not ashamed to confess," he writes to his
brother, " especially since my life and career have been
such that no suspicion of indolence or want of energy
can rest upon me, that all my own attainments are due
to those studies and those accomplishments which have
been handed down to us in the literary treasures and
the philosophical systems of the Greeks." It was no
mere rhetorical outburst, when in his defence of
Valerius Flaccus, accused like Verres, whether truly or
falsely, of corrupt administration in his province, he
thus introduced the deputation from Athens and Lace-
dsemon who appeared as witnesses to the character of
his client.

* 'Libellus Jocularis,' Quint, viii. G.


" Athenians are here to-day, amongst whom civilisa-
tion, learning, religion, agriculture, public law and jus-
tice, had their birth, and whence they have been dis-
seminated over all the world : for the possession of
whose city, on account of its exceeding beauty, even
gods are said to have contended : which is of such an-
tiquity, that she is said to have bred her citizens within
herself, and the same soil is termed at once their mo-
ther, their nurse, and their country : whose importance
and influence is such that the name of Greece, though
it has lost much of its weight and power, still holds
its place by virtue of the renown of this single city."

He had forgotten, perhaps, as an orator is allowed to
forget, that in the very same speech, when his object was
to discredit the accusers of his client, he had said, what
was very commonly said of the Greeks at Eome, that
they were a nation of liars. There were excellent men
among them, he allowed thinking at the moment of the
counter-evidence which he had ready for the defendant
but he goes on to make this sweeping declaration :

" I will say this of the whole race of the Greeks : I
grant them literary genius, I grant them skill in vari-
ous accomplishments, I do not deny them elegance in
conversation, acuteness of intellect, fluent oratory;
to any other high qualities they may claim I make no
objection : but the sacred obligation that lies upon a
witness to speak the truth is what that nation has
never regarded." *

There was a certain proverb, he went on to say,
" Lend me your evidence," implying " and you shall

* Defence of Val. Flaccus, c. 4.
A. c. vol. ix. H


have mine when you want it ;" a Greek proverb, of
course, and men knew these three words of Greek who
knew no Greek besides. What he loved in the Greeks,
then, was rather the grandeur of their literature and
the charm of their social qualities (a strict regard for
truth is, unhappily, no indispensable ingredient in this
last) ; he had no respect whatever for their national
character. The orator was influenced, perhaps, most
of all by his intense reverence for the Athenian De-
mosthenes, whom, as a master in his art, he imitated
and wellnigh worshipped. The appreciation of his
own powers which every able man has, and of which
Cicero had at least his share, fades into humility when
he comes to speak of his great model. " Absolutely
perfect," he calls him in one place ; and again in an-
other, "What I have attempted, Demosthenes has
achieved." Yet he felt also at times, when the fervour
of genius was strong within him, that there was an
ideal of eloquence enshrined in his own inmost mind,
" which I can feel," he says, " but which I never knew
to exist in any man."

He could not only write Greek as a scholar, but
seems to have spoken it with considerable ease and
fluency; for on one occasion he made a speech in that
language, a condescension which some of his friends
thought derogatory to the dignity of a Roman.

From the Greeks he learnt to appreciate art. How
far his taste was really cultivated in this respect is
difficult for us to judge. Some passages in his letters
to Atticus might lead us to suspect that, as Disraeli
concludes, he was rather a collector than a real lover


of art. His appeals to his friend to buy up for him
everything and anything, and his surrender of himself
entirely to Atticus's judgment in such purchases, do
not bespeak a highly critical taste. In a letter to an-
other friend, he seems to say that he only bought
statuary as " furniture " for the gymnasium at his
country-seat; and he complains that four figures of
Bacchanals, which this friend had just bought for him,
had cost more than he would care to give for all the
statues that ever were made. On the other hand,
when he comes to deal with Verres's wholesale plunder
of paintings and statues in Sicily, he talks about the
several works with considerable enthusiasm. Either
he really understood his subject, or, like an able advo-
cate, he had thoroughly got up his brief. But the
art-notices which are scattered through his works show
a considerable acquaintance with the artist-world of
his day. He tells us, in his own admirable style, the
story of Zeuxis, and the selection which he made from
all the beauties of Crotona, in order to combine their
several points of perfection in his portrait of Helen ;
he refers more than once, and always in language
which implies an appreciation of the artist, to the
works of Phidias, especially that which is said to have
cost him his life the shield of Minerva; and he dis-
cusses, though it is but by way of illustration, the
comparative points of merit in the statues of Calamis,
and Myron, and Polycletus, and in the paintings of the
earlier schools of Zeuxis, Polygnotus, and Timanthes,
with their four primitive colours, as compared with
the more finished schools of Protogenes and Apelles.


IT seems wonderful how, in the midst of all his work,
Cicero found time to keep up such a voluminous
correspondence. Something like eight hundred of his
letters still remain to us, and there were whole volumes
of them long preserved which are now lost,* to say
nothing of the very many which may never have
been thought worth preserving. The secret lay in his
wonderful energy and activity. We find him writing
letters before day -break, during the service of his
meals, on his journeys, and dictating them to an
amanuensis as he walked up and down to take needful

His correspondents were of almost all varieties of
position and character, from Caesar and Pompey, the
great men of the day, down to his domestic servant

* Collections of his letters to Caesar, Brutus, Cornelius Nepos
the historian, Hirtius, Pansa, and to his son, are known to have


and secretary, Tiro. Amongst them were rich and
ease -loving Epicureans like Atticus and Psetus, and
even men of pleasure like Cselius : grave Stoics like
Cato, eager patriots like Brutus and Cassius, authors
such as Cornelius Nepos and Lucceius the historians,
Varro the grammarian, and Metius the poet ; men who
dabbled with literature in a gentleman-like way, like
Hirtius and Appius, and the accomplished literary
critic and patron of the day himself of no mean
reputation as poet, orator, and historian Caius Asinius
Pollio. Cicero's versatile powers found no difficulty
in suiting the contents of his own letters to the various
tastes and interests of his friends. Sometimes he
sends to his correspondent what was in fact a political
journal of the day rather one-sided, it must be con-
tessed, as all political journals are, but furnishing us
with items of intelligence which throw light, as nothing
else can, on the history of those latter days of the
Eepublic. Sometimes he jots down the mere gossip
of his last dinner-party; sometimes he notices the
speculations of the last new theorist in philosophy, or
discusses with a literary friend some philological ques-
tion the latter being a study in which he was very
fond of dabbling, though with little success, for the
science of language was as yet unknown.

His chief correspondent, as has been said, was his
old school-fellow and constant friend through life,
Pomponius Atticus. The letters addressed to him
which still remain to us cover a period of twenty-four
years, with a few occasional interruptions, and the
correspondence only ceased with Cicero's death. The


Athenianised Eoman, though he had deliberately with-
drawn himself from the distracting factions of his
native city, which he seldom revisited, kept on the
best terms with the leaders of all parties, and seems
to have taken a very lively interest, though merely in
the character of a looker-on, in the political events
which crowded so fast upon each other during the fifty
years of his voluntary expatriation. Cicero's letters
were to him what an English newspaper would be
now to an English gentleman who for his own reasons
preferred to reside in Paris, without forswearing his
national interests and sympathies. At times, when
Cicero was more at leisure, and when messengers were
handy (for we have to remember that there was nothing
like our modern post), Cicero would despatch one of
these letters to Atticus daily. We have nearly four
hundred of them in all. They are continually gar-
nished, even to the point of affectation, with Greek
quotations and phrases, partly perhaps in compliment
to his friend's Athenian tastes, and partly from the
writer's own passion for the language.

So much reference has been made to them through-
out the previous biographical sketch, for they supply
us with some of the most important materials for
Cicero's life and times, that it may be sufficient to
give in this place two or three of the shorter as speci-
mens of the collection. One which describes a visit
which he received from Julius Caesar, already dictator,
in his country-house near Puteoli, is interesting, as
affording a glimpse behind the scenes in those mo-
mentous days when no one knew exactly whether the


great captain was to turn out a patriot or a conspirator
against the liberties of Rome.

" To think that I should have had such a tremen-
dous visitor ! But never mind ; for all went off very
pleasantly. But when he arrived at Philippus's house*
on the evening of the second day of the Saturnalia,
the place was so full of soldiers that they could hardly
find a spare table for Csesar himself to dine at. There
were two thousand men. Eeally I was in a state of
perplexity as to what was to be done next day : but
Barba Cassius came to my aid, he supplied me with
a guard. They pitched their tents in the grounds, and
the house was protected. He stayed with Philippus
until one o'clock on the third day of the Saturnalia,
and would see no one. Going over accounts, I suppose,
with Balbus. Then he walked on the sea-shore. After
two he had a bath : then he listened to some verses on
Mamurra, without moving a muscle of his countenance :
then dressed,t and sat down to dinner. He had taken
a precautionary emetic, and therefore ate and drank
heartily and unrestrainedly. We had, I assure you, a
very good dinner, and well served ; and not only that,

' The feast of reason and the flow of soul' J

besides. His suite were abundantly supplied at three
other tables : the freedmen of lower rank, and even

* This was close to Cicero's villa, on the coast.

t Literally, ' ' he got himself oiled. " The emetic was a disgust-
ing practice of Roman lion vivants who were afraid of indigestion.

t The yerse which Cicero quotes from Lucilius is fairly equiva-
lent to this.


the slaves, were well taken care of. The higher class
had really an elegant entertainment. Well, no need to
make a long story; we found we were both 'flesh and
blood.' Still he is not the kind of guest to whom you
would say ' Now do, pray, take us in your way on
your return.' Once is enough. "We had no conversa-
tion on business, but a good deal of literary talk. In
short, he seemed to be much pleased, and to enjoy
himself. He said he should stay one day at Puteoli,
and another at Baise. So here you have an account of
this visit, or rather quartering of troops upon me,
which I disliked the thoughts of, but which really, as
I have said, gave me no annoyance. I shall stay here
a little longer, then go to my house at Tusculum.
When Caesar passed Dolabella's villa, all the troops
formed up on the right and left of his horse, which
they did nowhere else.* I heard that from Nicias."

In the following, he is anticipating a visit from his
friend, and from the lady to whom he is betrothed.

" I had a delightful visit from Cincius on the 30th
of January, before daylight. For he told me that you
were in Italy, and that he was going to send off some
messengers to you, and would not let them go without
a letter from me. Not that I have much to write
about (especially when you are all but here), except
to assure you that I am anticipating your arrival with
the greatest delight. Therefore fly to me, to show your
own affection, and to see what affection I bear you.
Other matters when we meet I have written this in
a hurry. As soon as ever you arrive, bring all your

* Probably by way of salute ; or possibly as a precaution.


people to my house. You will gratify me very much
by coming. You will see how wonderfully well Tyr-
rannio has arranged my books, the remains of which
are much better than I had thought. And I should
be very glad if you could send me a couple of your
library clerks whom Tyrrannio could make use of as
binders, and to help him in other ways ; and tell them
to bring some parchment to make indices syllabuses,
I believe you Greeks call them. But this only if quite
convenient to you. But, at any rate, be sure you come
yourself, if you can make any stay in our parts, and
bring Pilia with you, for that is but fair, and Tullia
wishes it much. Upon my word you have bought
a very fine place. I hear that your gladiators fight
capitally. If you had cared to hire them out, you
might have cleared your expenses at these two last
public shows. But we can talk about this hereafter.
Be sure to come : and do your best about the clerks,
if you love me."

The Eoman gentleman of elegant and accomplished
tastes, keeping a troop of private gladiators, and think-
ing of hiring them out, to our notions, is a curious
combination of character ; but the taste was not essen-
tially more brutal than the prize-ring and the cock-
fights of the last century.


Another of Cicero's favourite correspondents was
Papirius Psetus, who seems to have lived at home at
ease, and taken little part in the political tumults of


his day. Like Atticus, he was an Epicurean, and
thought more of the pleasures of life than of its cares
and duties. Yet Cicero evidently took great pleasure
in his society, and his letters to him are written in the
same familiar and genial tone as those to his old school-
fellow. Some of them throw a pleasant light upon
the social habits of the day. Cicero had had some
friends staying with him at his country-seat at Tus-
culum, to whom, he says, he had been giving lessons
in oratory. Dolabella, his son-in-law, and Hirtius, the
future consul, were among them. " They are my
scholars in declamation, and I am theirs in dinner-
eating ; for I conclude you have heard (you seem to
hear everything) that they come to me to declaim, and
I go to them for dinners. Tis all very well for you
to swear that you cannot entertain me in such grand
fashion as I am used to, but it is of use. . . . Better
be victimised by your friend than by your debtors, as
you have been. After all, I don't require such a ban-
quet as leaves a great waste behind it ; a little will do,
only handsomely served and well cooked. I remember
your telling me about a dinner of Phamea's well, it
need not be such a late affair as that, nor so grand in
other respects ; nay, if you persist in giving me one of
your mother's old family dinners, I can stand even
that. My new reputation for good living has reached
you, I find, before my arrival, and you are alarmed at
it; but, pray, put no trust in your ante-courses I
have given up that altogether. I used to spoil my
appetite, I remember, upon your oil and sliced sausages.
. . . One expense I really shall put you to ; I must


have my warm bath. My other habits, I assure you,
are quite unaltered ; all the rest is joke."

Psetus seems to answer him with the same good-
humoured badinage. Balbus, the governor of Africa,
had been to see him, he says, and he had been content
with such humble fare as he feared Cicero might
despise. So much, at least, we may gather from
Cicero's answer.

" Satirical as ever, I see. You say Balbus was con-
tent with very modest fare. You seem to insinuate
that when grandees are so moderate, much more ought
a poor ex-consul like myself so to be. You don't
know that I fished it all out of your visitor himself,
for he came straight to my house on his landing. The
very first words I said to him were, ' How did you
get on with our friend Psetus?' He swore he had
never been better entertained. If this referred to the
charms of your conversation, remember, I shall be
quite as appreciative a listener as Balbus ; but if it
meant the good things on the table, I must beg you
will not treat us men of eloquence worse than you do
a ' Lisper.' " *

They carry on this banter through several letters.
Cicero regrets that he has been unable as yet to pay
his threatened visit, when his friend would have seen
what advances he had made in gastronomic science.
He was able now to eat through the whole bill of fare
" from the eggs to the roti"

" I [Stoic that used to be] have gone over with my
whole forces into the camp of Epicurus. You will
* One of Cicero's puns. Balbus means ' Lisper.'


have to do with a man who can eat, and who knows
what's what. You know how conceited we late
learners are, as the proverb says. You will have to
unlearn those little ' plain dinners ' and makeshifts of
yours. We have made such advances in the art, that
we have been venturing to invite, more than once,
your friends Verrius and Camillus (what elegant and
fastidious gentlemen they are !). But see how auda-
cious we are getting ! I have even given Hirtius a
dinner but without a peacock. My cook could imi-
tate nothing in his entertainments except the hot

Then he hears that his friend is in bed with the

"I am extremely sorry to hear it, as in duty bound;
still, I am quite determined to come, that I may see
you, and pay my visit, yes, and have my dinner : for
I suppose your cook has not got the gout as well."

Such were the playful epistles of a busy man. But
even in some of these lightest effusions we see the
cares of the statesman showing through. Here is a
portion of a later letter to the same friend.

" I am very much concerned to hear you have given
up going out to dinner ; for it is depriving yourself of
a great source of enjoyment and gratification. Then,
again, I am afraid for it is as well to speak honestly
lest you should unlearn certain old habits of yours,
and forget to give your own little dinners. For if for-

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