W. Lucas (William Lucas) Collins.

Cicero online

. (page 9 of 24)
Online LibraryW. Lucas (William Lucas) CollinsCicero → online text (page 9 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

merly, when you had good examples to imitate, you
were still not much of a proficient in that way, how
can I .suppose you will get on now? Spurina, indeed,


when I mentioned the thing to him, and explained
your previous habits, proved to demonstration that
there would he danger to the highest interests of the
state if you did not return to your old ways in the
spring. But indeed, my good Psetus, I advise you,
joking apart, to associate with good fellows, and pleas-
ant fellows, and men who are fond of you. There is
nothing hetter worth having in life, nothing that makes
life more happy. . . . See how I employ philo-
sophy to reconcile you to dinner-parties. Take care
of your health ; and that you will best do by going
out to dinner. . . . But don't imagine, as you
love me, that because I write jestingly I have thrown
off all anxiety about public affairs. Be assured, my
dear Psetus, that I seek nothing and care for nothing,
night or day, but how my country may be kept
safe and free. I omit no opportunity of advising,
planning, or acting. I feel in my heart that if in
securing this I have to lay down my life, I shall have
ended it well and honourablv."


Between Marcus Cicero and his younger brother
Quintus there existed a very sincere and cordial affec-
tion somewhat warmer, perhaps, on the side of the
elder, inasmuch as his wealth and position enabled
him rather to confer than to receive kindnesses ; the
rule in such cases being (so cynical philosophers tell
us) that the affection is lessened rather than increased
by the feeling of obligation. He almost adopted the


younger Quiutus, his nephew, and had him educated
with his own son ; and the two cousins received their
earlier training together in one or other of Marcus
Cicero's country-houses under a clever Greek freedman
of his, who was an excellent scholar, and what was
less usual amongst his countrymen, unless Cicero's
estimate of them does them great injustice a very
honest man, but, as the two boys complained, terribly
passionate. Cicero himself, however, was the head
tutor an office for which, as he modestly writes, his
Greek studies fully qualified him. Quintus Cicero
behaved ill to his brother after the battle of Pharsalia,
making what seem to have been very unjust accusa-
tions against him in order to pay court to Caesar ; but
they soon became friends again.

Twenty-nine of the elder Cicero's letters to his
brother remain, written in terms of remarkable kind-
ness and affection, which go far to vindicate the Roman
character from a charge which has sometimes been
brought against it of coldness in these family relation-
ships. Few modern brothers, probably, would write to
each other in such terms as these :

" Afraid lest your letters bother me ? I wish you
would bother me, and re-bother me, and talk to me
and at me ; for what can give me more pleasure ? I
swear that no muse-stricken rhymester ever reads his
own last poem with more delight than I do what you
write to me about matters public or private, town or
country. Here now is a letter from you full of pleas-
ant matter, but with this dash of the disagreeable in
it, that you have been afraid nay, are even now


afraid of being troublesome to me. I could quarrel
with you about it, if that were not a sin. But if I
have reason to suspect anything of that sort again, I
can only say that I shall always be afraid lest, when
we are together, I may be troublesome to you."

Or take, again, the pathetic apology which he makes
for having avoided an interview with Quintus in those
first days of his exile when he was so thoroughly
unmanned :

" My brother, my brother, my brother ! Did you
really fear that I was angry, because I sent off the
slaves without any letter to you ? And did you even
think that I was unwilling to see you ? I angry with
you ? Could I possibly be angry with you ? . . .
When I miss you, it is not a brother only that I miss.
To me you have always been the pleasantest of com-
panions, a son in dutiful affection, a father in counsel.
What pleasure ever had I without you, or you with-
out me?"

Quintus had accompanied Caesar on his expedition
into Britain as one of his lieutenants, and seems to
have written home to his brother some notices of the
country ; to which the latter, towards the end of his
reply, makes this allusion :

"How delighted I was to get your letter from
Britain ! I had been afraid of the voyage across,
afraid of the rock-bound coast of the island. The
other dangers of such a campaign I do not mean to de-
spise, but in these there is more to hope than to fear,
and I have been rather anxiously expecting the result
than in any real alarm about it. I see you have a


capital subject to write about. What novel scenery,
what natural curiosities and remarkable places, what
strange tribes and strange customs, what a campaign,
and what a commander you have to describe ! I will
willingly help you in the points you request ; and I
will send you the verses you ask for though it is
sending ' an owl to Athens,' * I know."

In another letter he says, " Only give me Britain to
paint with your colours and my own pencil." But
either the Britons of those days did not, after all,
seem to afford sufficient interest for poem or history,
or for some other reason this joint literary undertaking,
which seems once to have been contemplated, was
never carried out, and we have missed what would
beyond doubt have been a highly interesting volume
of Sketches in Britain by the brothers Cicero.

Quintus was a poet, as well as his brother nay, a
better poet, in the latter's estimation, or at least he
was polite enough to say so more than once. In quan-
tity, at least, if not in quality, the younger must have
been a formidable rival, for he wrote, as appears from
one of these letters, four tragedies in fifteen days
possibly translations only from the Greek.

One of the most remarkable of all Cicero's letters,
and perhaps that which does him most credit both as
a man and a statesman, is one which he wrote to his
brother, who was at the time governor of Asia. In-
deed, it is much more than a letter; it is rather a grave
and carefully weighed paper of instructions on the
duties of such a position. It is full of sound practical

* A Greek proverb, equivalent to our 'coals to Newcastle.'


sense, and lofty principles of statesmanship very
different from the principles which too commonly ruled
the conduct of Roman governors abroad. The province
which had fallen to the lot of Quintus Cicero was one
of the richest belonging to the Empire, and which pre-
sented the greatest temptations and the greatest facil-
ities for the abuse of power to selfish purposes. Though
called Asia, it consisted only of the late kingdom of
Pergamus, and had come under the dominion of Rome,
not by conquest, as was the case with most of the
provinces, but by way of legacy from Attalus, the last
of its kings ; who, after murdering most of his
own relations, had named the Roman people as his
heirs. The seat of government was at Ephesus. The
population was of a very mixed character, consisting
partly of true Asiatics, and partly of Asiatic Greeks,
the descendants of the old colonists, and containing
also a large Roman element merchants who were
there for purposes of trade, many of them bankers
and money-lenders, and speculators who farmed the
imperial taxes, and were by no means scrupulous in
the matter of fleecing the provincials. These latter
the ' Publicani,' as they were termed might prove
very dangerous enemies to any too zealous reformer.
If the Roman governor there really wished to do his
duty, what with the combined servility and double-
dealing of the Orientals, the proverbial lying of the
Greeks, and the grasping injustice of the Roman
officials, he had a very difficult part to play. How
Quintus had been playing it is not quite clear. His
brother, in this admirable letter, assumes that he had
A. c. vol. ix. I


done all that was right, and urges him to maintain the
same course. But the advice would hardly have been
needed if all had gone well hitherto.

" You will find little trouble in holding your subor-
dinates in check, if you can but keep a check upon
yourself. So long as you resist gain, and pleasure, and
all other temptations, as I am sure you do, I cannot
fancy there will be any danger of your not being able
to check a dishonest merchant or an extortionate col-
lector. For even the Greeks, when they see you living
thus, will look upon you as some hero from their old
annals, or some supernatural being from heaven, come
down into their province.

" I write thus, not to urge you so to act, but that you
may congratulate yourself upon having so acted, now
and heretofore. For it is a glorious thing for a man to
have held a government for three years in Asia, in such
sort that neither statue, nor painting, nor work of art
of any kind, nor any temptations of wealth or beauty
(in all which temptations your province abounds) could
draw you from the strictest integrity and self-control :
that your official progresses should have been no cause
of dread to the inhabitants, that none should be im-
poverished by your requisitions, none terrified at the
news of your approach ; but that you should have
brought with you, wherever you came, the most hearty
rejoicings, public and private, inasmuch as every town
saw in you a protector and not a tyrant every family
received you as a guest, not as a plunderer.

" But in these points, as experience has by this time
taught you> it is not enough for you to have these


virtues yourself, but you must look to it carefully, that
in this guardianship of the province not you alone,
but every officer under you, discharges his duty to our
subjects, to our fellow-citizens, and to the state. . . .
If any of your subordinates seem grasping for his
own interest, you may venture to bear with him so
long as he merely neglects the rules by which he ought
to be personally bound; never so far as to allow him to
abuse for his own gain the power with which you have
intrusted him to maintain the dignity of his office.
For I do not think it well, especially since the cus-
toms of official life incline so much of late to laxity
and corrupt influence, that you should scrutinise too
closely every abuse, or criticise too strictly every one
of your officers, but rather place trust in each in pro-
portion as you feel confidence in his integrity.

" For those whom the state has assigned you as com-
panions and assistants in public business, you are answer-
able only within the limits I have just laid down ; but
for those whom you have chosen to associate with
yourself as members of your private establishment and
personal suite, you will be held responsible not only for
all they do, but for all they say.

" Your ears should be supposed to hear only what you
publicly listen to, not to be open to every secret and
false whisper for the sake of private gain. Your official
seal should be not as a mere common tool, but as
though it were yourself; not the instrument of other
men's wills, but the evidence of your own. Your offi-
cers should be the agents of your clemency, not of their
own caprice ; and the rods and axes which they bear


should be the emblems of your dignity, not merely of
your power. In short, the whole province should feel
that the persons, the families, the reputation, and the
fortunes of all over whom you rule, are held by you
very precious. Let it be well understood that you will
hold that man as much your enemy who gives a bribe,
if it comes to your knowledge, as the man who receives
it. But no one will offer bribes, if this be once made
clear, that those who pretend to have influence of this
kind with you have no power, after all, to gain any
favour for others at your hands.

"Let such, then, be the foundations of your dignity;
first, integrity and self-control on your own part ; a
becoming behaviour on the part of all about you ; a
very careful and circumspect selection of your intimates,
whether Greeks or provincials ; a grave and firm disci-
pline maintained throughout your household. For if
such conduct befits us in. our private and everyday
relations, it becomes wellnigh godlike in a govern-
ment of such extent, in a state of morals so depraved,
and in a province which presents so many temptations.
Such a line of conduct and such rules will alone enable
you to uphold that severity in your decisions and de-
crees which you have employed in some cases, and by
which we have incurred (and I cannot regret it) the jeal-
ousy of certain interested parties. . . . You may
safely use the utmost strictness in the administration
of justice, so long as it is not capricious or partial, but
maintained at the same level for all Yet it will be of
little use that your own decisions be just and carefully

TIRO. 133

weighed, unless tlie same course be pursued by all to
whom you delegate any portion of your judicial autho-
rity. Such firmness and dignity must be employed
as may not only be above partiality, but above the
suspicion of it. To this must be added readiness to
give audience, calmness in deciding, care in weighing
the merits of the case and in satisfying the claims of
the parties."

Yet he advises that justice should be tempered with

"If such moderation be popular at Eome, where
there is so much self-assertion, such unbridled freedom,
so much licence allowed to all men ; where there are
so many courts of appeal open, so many means of help,
where the people have so much power and the Senate
so much authority; how grateful beyond measure will
moderation be in the governor of Asia, a province
where all that vast number of our fellow-citizens and
subjects, all those numerous states and cities, hang upon
one man's nod ! where there is no appeal to the tri-
bune, no remedy at law, no Senate, no popular assembly.
Wherefore it should be the aim of a great man, and
one noble by nature and trained by education and
liberal studies, so to behave himself in the exercise of
that absolute power, as that they over whom he pre-
sides should never have cause to wish for any authority
other than his."

Of all Cicero's correspondence, his letters to Tiro
supply the most convincing evidence of his natural


kindness of heart. Tiro was a slave ; but this must
be taken with some explanation. The slaves in a
household like Cicero's would vary in position from
the lowest menial to the important major-domo and
the confidential secretary. Tiro was of this higher
class. He had probably been born and brought up in
the service, like Eliezer in the household of Abraham,
and had become, like him, the trusted agent of his
master and the friend of the whole family. He was
evidently a person of considerable ability and accom-
plishments, acting as literary amanuensis, and indeed
in some sort as a domestic critic, to his busy master.
He had accompanied him to his government in Cilicia,
and on the return home had been taken ill, and obliged
to be left behind at Patrse. And this is Cicero's affec-
tionate letter to him, written from Leucas (Santa
Maura) the day afterwards :

" I thought I could have borne the separation from
you better, but it is plainly impossible ; and although
it is of great importance to the honours which I am
expecting * that I should get to Eome as soon as pos-
sible, yet I feel I made a great mistake in leaving
you behind. But as it seemed to be your wish not
to make the voyage until your health was restored,
I approved your decision. Nor do I think otherwise
now, if you are still of the same opinion. But if here-
after, when you are able to eat as usual, you think
you can follow me here, it is for you to decide. I sent

* The triumph for the victory gained under his nominal com-
mand over the hill-tribes in Cilicia, during his governorship of
that province (p. 68).

TIRO. 135

Mario to you, telling him either to join me with you
as soon as possible, or, if you are delayed, to come
back here at once. But be assured of this, that if it
can be so without risk to your health, there is nothing
I wish so much as to have you with me. Only, if you
feel it necessary for your recovery to stay a little
longer at Patrse, there is nothing I wish so much as
for you to get well. If you sail at once, you will
catch us at Leucas. But if you want to get well first,
take care to secure pleasant companions, fine weather,
and a good ship. Mind this, my good Tiro, if you
love me let neither Mario's visit nor this letter hurry
you. By doing what is best for your own health, you
will be best obeying my directions. Consider these
points with your usual good sense. I miss you very
much ; but then I love you, and my affection makes
me wish to see you well, just as my want of you
makes me long to see you as soon as possible. But
the first point is the most important. Above all,
therefore, take care to get well : of all your innumer-
able services to me, this will be the most acceptable."
Cicero writes to him continually during his own
journey homewards with the most thoughtful kind-
ness, begs that he will be cautious as to what vessel
he sails in, and recommends specially one very careful
captain. He has left a horse and a mule ready for
him when he lands at Brundusium. Then he hears
that Tiro had been foolish enough to go to a concert,
or something of the kind, before he was strong, for
which he mildly reproves him. He has written to the
physician to spare no care or pains, and .to charge,


apparently, what he pleases. Several of his letters to
his friend Atticus, at this date, speak in the most
anxious and affectionate terms of the serious illness of
this faithful servant. Just as he and his party are
starting from Leucas, they send a note " from Cicero
and his son, and Quintus the elder and younger, to
their best and kindest Tiro." Then from Rome comes
a letter in the name of the whole family, wife* and
daughter included :

" Marcus Tullius Cicero, and Cicero the younger, and
Terentia, and Tullia, and Brother Quintus, and
Quintus's Son, to Tiro send greeting.

"Although I miss your able and willing service
every moment, still it is not on my own account so much
as yours that I am sorry you are not well. But
as your illness has now taken the form of a quartan
fever (for so Curius writes), I hope, if you take care of
yourself, you will soon be stronger. Only be sure, if
you have any kindness for me, not to trouble yourself
about anything else just now, except how to get well
as soon as may be. I am quite aware how much you
regret not being with me ; but everything will go
right if you get well. I would not have you hurry,
or undergo the annoyance of sea-sickness while you
are weak, or risk a sea-voyage in winter." Then he
tells him all the news from Eome ; how there had
been quite an ovation on his arrival there ; how Caesar
was (he thought) growing dangerous to the state ; and
how his own coveted " triumph " was still postponed.
"All this," he says, "I thought you would like to


know." Then he concludes: "Over and over again,
I beg you to take care to get well, and to send me a
letter whenever you have an opportunity. Farewell,
again and again."

Tiro got well, and outlived his kind master, who,
very soon after this, presented him with his freedom.
It is to him that we are said to be indebted for the
preservation and publication of Cicero's correspond-
ence. He wrote, also, a biography of him, which
Plutarch had seen, and of which he probably made
use in his own ' Life of Cicero,' but which has not
come down to us.

There was another of his household for whom
Cicero had the same affection. This was Sositheus,
also a slave, but a man, like Tiro, of some considerable
education, whom he employed as his reader. His
death affected Cicero quite as the loss of a friend.
Indeed, his anxiety is such, that his Eoman dignity
is almost ashamed of it. "I grieve," he says, "more
than I ought for a mere slave." Just as one might
now apologise for making too much fuss about a
favourite dog ; for the slave was looked upon in
scarcely a higher light in civilised Rome. They spoke
of him in the neuter gender, as a chattel ; and it was
gravely discussed, in case of danger in a storm at sea,
which it would be right first to cast overboard to
lighten the ship, a valuable horse or an indifferent
slave. Hortensius, the rival advocate who has been
mentioned, a man of more luxurious habits and less
kindly spirit than Cicero, who was said to feed the
pet lampreys in his stews much better than he did his


slaves, and to have shed tears at the death of one of
these ugly favourites, would have probably laughed at
Cicero's concern for Sositheus and Tiro.

But indeed every glimpse of this kind which Cicero's
correspondence affords us gives token of a kindly heart,
.and makes us long to know something more. Some
have suspected him of a want of filial affection, owing
to a somewhat abrupt and curt announcement in a
letter to Atticus of his father's death ; and his stanch
defenders propose to adopt, with Madvig, the reading,
discessit "left us," instead of decessit " died."
There really seems no occasion. Unless Atticus knew
the father intimately, there was no need to dilate upon
the old man's death ; and Cicero mentions subsequently,
in terms quite as brief, the marriage of his daughter
and the birth of his son events in which we are
assured he felt deeply interested. If any further ex-
planation of this seeming coldness be required, the fol-
lowing remarks of Mr Forsyth are apposite and true :

" The truth is, that what we call sentiment was almost
unknown to the ancient Romans, in whose writings it
would be as vain to look for it as to look for traces of
Gothic architecture amongst classic ruins. And this is
something more than a mere illustration. It suggests a
reason for the absence. Eomance and sentiment came
from the dark forests of the North, when Scandinavia and
Germany poured forth their hordes to subdue and people
the Roman Empire. The life of a citizen of the Republic
of Rome was essentially a public life. The love of country
was there carried to an extravagant length, and was para-
mount to, and almost swallowed up, the private and social
affections. The state was everything, the individual com-


paratively nothing. In one of the letters of the Emperor
Marcus Aurelius to Fronto, there is a passage in which he
says that the Roman language had no word corresponding
with the Greek ptXoon-opyta, the affectionate love for
parents and children. Upon this Niebuhr remarks that the
feeling was ' not a Roman one ; but Cicero possessed it in
a degree which few Romans could comprehend, and hence
he was laughed at for the grief which lie felt at the death
of his daughter Tullia.' "



THE treatise on ' Old Age,' which is thrown into the
form of a dialogue, is said to have "been suggested by
the opening of Plato's ' Republic,' in which Cephalus
touches so pleasantly on the enjoyments peculiar to
that time of life. So far as light and graceful treat-
ment of his subject goes, the Roman essayist at least
does not fall short of his model. Montaigne said of
it, that " it made one long to grow old;" * but Mon-
taigne was a Frenchman, and such sentiment was
quite in his way. The dialogue, whether it produce this
effect on many readers or not, is very pleasant read-
ing: and when we remember that the author wrote
it when he was exactly in his grand climacteric, and
addressed it to his friend Atticus, who was within a
year of the same age, we get that element of personal
interest which makes all writings of the kind more
attractive. The argument in defence of the paradox
that it is a good thing to grow old, proceeds upon the
only possible ground, the theory of compensations. It
* " II donne 1'appetit de vieiller."


is put into the mouth of Cato the Censor, who had
died about a century before, and who is introduced as
giving a kind of lecture on the subject to his young
friends Scipio and Loelius, in his eighty-fourth year.

Online LibraryW. Lucas (William Lucas) CollinsCicero → online text (page 9 of 24)