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The Letters 4, Cicero
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Translated by Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (1843 – 1906)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. Details on this licence and the usage of this text can be found at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/.
B. C. 44 (Continued)25
B.C. 43, aet. 63. Coss., C. Vibius Pansa, occis., A. Hirtius, occis. C. Iulius Caesar Octavianus, abd. C. Carinas, Q. Pedius, mort., P. Ventidius. Triumviri, r. p. c., M. Aemilius Lepidus, M. Antonius, C. Iulius Caesar Octavianus.149
THE letters in this volume bring us to the end of the correspondence and to the last period of Cicero's life. They naturally fall into two divisions, those following the assassination of Caesar to September, B.C.44—five months of hesitation and doubt—and those which begin after Cicero's return to Rome from his abortive start for Greece (31st August), and bring him before us once more active and eager, all doubt and hesitation thrown to the winds. He is straining every nerve to organize opposition to Antony, whom he has now made up his mind to be the enemy of the constitution and of liberty—a weaker and a worse Caesar, trading on his great patron's name, intoxicated with the wealth that has fallen into his hands, and stained with every private and public vice.
The first period is one of disenchantment, the second of desperate strife. The disenchantment indeed begins at once: The volume opens with a note, scarcely more than a line in length, addressed to one of the assassins, of almost hysterical exultation. Cicero had been in the senate when the assassination took place:1 he tells us of the "joy with which he feasted his eyes on the just execution of a tyrant."2 He and again declares that the Ides of March consoled him for all his troubles and disappointments.3 The assassins he calls "heroes" or almost divinities.4 But the uselessness of this treacherous crime was at once made evident, and became more and more conspicuous every day that followed it. Within a month Cicero saw that "the constitution had not been recovered along with liberty," 5 and was discussing with Atticus whose fault it was. At the meeting of the senate, summoned by Antony on the 17th of March, the acta of Caesar had been confirmed, and a public funeral voted.6 The revulsion of popular feeling, caused by Antony's funeral oration and the publication of Caesar's will, had encouraged Antony to make the fullest use of the confirmation of the acta, until Cicero indignantly exclaimed that the concession made to the exigencies of the time was "being abused without moderation or gratitude,"7 that "measures which Caesar would never have taken nor sanctioned are now produced from his forged minutes," and that "we, who could not endure being his slaves, are the humble servants of his memorandum books."8
Added to this was the increasing difficulty of the position of the leaders in the assassination. Decimus Brutus indeed, in spite of Antony's protest, went to his province of Gallia Cisalpina and took over the command of the troops there; while Trebonius started for his province of Asia, having a secret understanding with the Ciceronian party that he was to concert measures and collect forces in view of future contingencies. But M. Brutus and C. Cassius, though praetors, could not venture to Rome, and Antony was eventually able to force the senate to name others to the provinces of Macedonia and Syria, to which they had been respectively nominated by Caesar: while Trebonius could only leave Italy for his province by travelling almost in disguise by by-roads to the coast.9 Every day that passed seemed to shew that they would have to fight for their position or even their lives. Antony was gathering a considerable force in Rome, under the pretence of a bodyguard, and against an alleged intention of Brutus and Cassius to resort to force. This bodyguard was partly at least formed by inducing Caesar's veterans to rejoin, and was continually increasing.10 Even those veterans who did not actually rejoin the colours were persuaded to hold themselves in readiness for a summons, with their proper arms provided, and at any rate to be prepared to come to Rome to vote in favour of Antony's proposals.11 Besides this Antony extorted from the senate early in June, if not before, the command of the legions which had been stationed in the province of Macedonia with a view to the Getic and Parthian expeditions, and presently sent over his brother Gaius to bring them to Italy. Brutus and Cassius on their part were collecting ships and men, resolved to possess themselves of the provinces originally assigned to them (Macedonia and Syria) at the end of their praetorship; Decimus Brutus by engaging his forces against the Alpine tribes was training troops which he might use against any "intending successor,"12 and all things pointed to a coming struggle. "In my opinion," says Cicero on the 15th of June, "the state of affairs points to bloodshed and that at an early date. You see what the men are, you see how they are arming."13
Matters had been farther complicated by the appearance of the young Octavian on the scene. He had been sent by his uncle for the winter to Apollonia, where he might with less interruption than at Rome pursue his studies and perfect his military education. But immediately he received from his mother the news of the Dictator's assassination, he started with a small retinue of friends for Italy. On the 11th of April Cicero writes that he has heard of his arrival and is anxious to know how he has been received.14 On the 18th he came to Naples, saw Balbus, and declared his acceptance of his great-uncle's inheritance, which was sure to cause, Balbus thinks, much bad blood between him and Antony, who had laid hands on much which Octavian would claim, on the ground that it was public money.15 In a letter of the 22nd Cicero decribes a meeting with him at the villa of his stepfather Philippus near Puteoli. He watched to see how he was addressed by his friends. They all called him Caesar, in virtue of his adoption in the will of his great-uncle. But Philippus—who wished him to refuse the inheritance—did not do so. Cicero therefore also refrained, but anxiously observed his disposition towards the party of Antony. The young man appears to have been characteristically cautious, speaking of the existing state of things indeed as "intolerable," but not suggesting his views as to their remedy or committing himself to anything. Cicero was doubtful. He mistrusted the friends surrounding him, who would make it "impossible for him to be a good citizen," and he felt indignant at his being able to go safely to the city from which Brutus and Cassius and the other "heroes" were excluded. Still he could not but acknowledge that Octavian treated him personally with respect,16 and he presently began to cherish a hope that he might use his grievances against Antony to draw him into closer union with the party of the Optimates. But this hope was a good deal dashed early in May by the report of a speech delivered in Rome by Octavian, in which he spoke in glowing terms of his great-uncle, declared his intention of paying the legacies to the citizens, and celebrating the games which he had promised.17 However, Cicero did not give up hope of him, and his final verdict at this period is distinctly rather favourable: “In Octavianus, as I have perceived, there is no little ability and spirit, and he seems likely to be as well disposed to our heroes as I could wish. But what confidence one can feel in a man of his age, name, inheritance, and upbringing may well give us pause. His stepfather, whom I have seen at Astura, thinks none at all. However, we must foster him, and, if nothing else, keep him apart from Antony. Marcellus will be doing admirable service if he gives him good advice. Octavian seemed to me to be devoted to him: but he has no great confidence in Pansa and Hirtius. His disposition is good if it does but last.18 ”
It will be observed that Cicero now speaks of the young man as Octavianus, thus acknowledging his adoption. He also seems now or soon after to have begun a correspondence with him, unfortunately lost, which later on became almost more continuous than he quite relished. For the present he was only one of the agents whom he hoped to use against Antony. Like so many of his hopes, this too was doomed to disappointment. Octavian was determined to maintain his rights against Antony, but in his heart was no thought of permanent friendship with the clique which had murdered his uncle and adoptive father, and was anxious above all things to retain the direction of the state and the wealth of the provinces in its hands.
Another cause of anxiety which Cicero had in this first half of the year was the uncertainty of the line likely to be taken by Pansa and Hirtius, who were consuls-designate and would come into office on the 1st of January, B.C. 43. Of Hirtius especially, who had been Caesar's intimate friend and trusted officer, he was more than doubtful. It was true that he had been on good social terms with Cicero, had taken lessons in rhetoric from him, and in return had initiated him in the art of dining. But at the end of a visit of Hirtius at his villa at Puteoli, Cicero writes to Atticus (17th May): “When Hirtius was leaving my house at Puteoll on the 16th of May, I had a clear view of his whole mind. Fo I took him aside and exhorted him earnestly to preserve the peace. He could not of course say that he did not wish for peace: but he indicated that he was no less afraid of our side appealing to arms than of Antony doing so: and that, after all, both sides had reason to be on their guard, but that he feared the arms of both. I needn't go on: there is nothing sound about him.19 ”
This mistrust of Hirtius was not much relieved by a letter which he wrote to Cicero a few days later, begging him to warn Brutus and Cassius to keep quiet.20 Pansa, though using more satisfactory language, did not appear to Cicero to be much more trustworthy.21 A severe illness put Hirtius aside for some time from active intervention in politics, but the future tenure of the consulship by these two men did not in the first half of the year inspire Cicero with much hope. Still, it was not likely to be as bad as the policy of Antony; and when the meeting of the senate of the 1st of June, so far from producing a compromise which would satisfy Brutus and Cassius, actually irritated them farther by offering them for the rest of the year the inferior office of curatores annonae, and changing their praetorian provinces for the next year, Cicero could only look forward to the 1st of January as the time when it might be proper for him once more to attend the senate and take part in politics. Meanwhile he was meditating a tour to Athens, both for the sake of withdrawing himself from possible collisions with Antony, and in order to visit his son, whose first year as a student there had given Cicero much anxiety, but who was now shewing signs of iniprovement, and might be confirmed in better ways by the personal influence of an indulgent father.
But, as usual with Cicero, this step caused him much searching of heart and many weeks of hesitation and irresolution. As usual also, all his doubts and difficulties are imparted to Atticus, whose advice is constantly asked, and somewhat querulously criticised when given. Cicero was torn different ways by the refiexion that a departure from Italy at this time might be regarded as a desertion of his party and his country: that in his absence some blow might be struck for liberty, the credit of which he should be sorry not to share. On the other hand, as long as Antony was consul things would most likely remain as they were, and he would be personally safer out of the country, and would be doing his duty in visiting his son. But he was a wretched sailor, the long voyage was odious to him, and especially one that would have to be taken late in the year, if he was to be back in Rome before the beginning of the new consulate. Again, he would have liked to sail with Brutus; but Brutus was delaying indefinitely, and besides, did not receive the suggestion very warmly. After one abortive start (1st August), on which he got as far as Syracuse, he again set sail from Leucopetra on the 6th of August. But the south wind was too strong and the ship put back to Rhegium.22 There Cicero stayed in a friend's villa for the night and heard next day what he thought was good news.23 There was to be a full meeting of the senate on the 1st of September, for Brutus and Cassius—still in Italy—had issued an edict urging the attendance of their partisans, and it was believed that they had come to some understanding with Antony, whereby they would be able to resume their position at Rome and take up their provinces at the end of their year's praetorship. The men who gave Cicero his intelligence also told him that he was wanted, and that his absence was being unfavourably criticised.24
This was precisely what Cicero wished to hear, and we may be sure that he did not make very curious inquiries as to the authenticity of the report, or the means of knowing the truth possessed by his informants. He regarded himself as "recalled by the voice of the Republic," and blessed the south winds for having saved him from deserting his country in its need. He visited Brutus at Velia on his way to Rome, and no doubt heard from him what somewhat cooled his ardour. He determined, however, to continue his return to Tusculum, though with no definite intention of taking as yet any leading part in politics, or indeed of attending the senate at all. But the state of affairs which he found existing at Rome on his arrival on the 31st of August soon dispelled any ideas of repose, and drew him into the final storm and stress of political contest, from which he was not free when the correspondence ceases, and which brought him finally to the grave.
The meeting of the senate on the 1st of September, for the sake of which Cicero professed to have come to Rome, was not attended by him. Among the agenda at that meeting he found that there was included a motion of Antony's for a supplicatio in honour of Caesar's memory. To this, of ourse, Cicero objected on political grounds; but he also advanced the technical objection that it was mixing up funeral rites with divine worship (parentalia with supplicationes), and he was at any rate determined not to vote for it, and did not wish to exasperate Antony by voting against it.25 There was to be also some farther confirmation of Caesar's acta, which would be equally objectionable in Cicero's eyes,because it meant the production of more of Caesar's memoranda and notes, which he believed to be falsified or altogether invented by Antony himself. He therefore abstained from attending the senate, but did not thereby avoid exasperating Antony. His arrival in Rome was of course known to Antony, who regarded his excuse of fatigue after his journey as a mere pretext (which it was), and threatened openly in the senate not only to use his consular power of compelling his attendance, but to send a gang of workmen to demolish his house.
On the 2nd of September therefore Cicero attended and made a statement of his position and views, which has come down to us as the first Philippic. It is a dignified and comparatively gentle statement of his case against Antony. But it puts clearly his belief as to the abuse by him of the confirmation of Caesar's acta, passed by the senate on the 17th of March. It recalls Antony's own measures of which Cicero approved—especially the abolition of the dictatorship and the suppression of the riots round the memorial column—and appeals to him to keep within the lines of the constitution, and to trust to the affection rather than the fears of his fellow citizens. There is an absence of personal invective and insult, which shews that Cicero was not yet prepared to throw away the scabbard in his contest with Antony, though he had long seen that his existence made the murder of Caesar vain and useless. The tyrant was dead, not the tyranny; the assassins had acted with the courage of heroes, but the folly of children, and left the heir to the tyranny alive.26 Yet he remained on tolerably courteous terms with Antony, and even requested a legatio from him.27 But that was to be over for ever.
Antony's reply to the first Philippic, delivered after much preparation on the 19th of September, and containing every kind of invective against Cicero's life, policy, and public conduct, drew from Cicero the terrible second Philippic, which, though never delivered, was handed about among all kinds of people who cared to read it. It made all reconciliation, however formal or official, for ever impossible. From that time forward the letters shew us Cicero in determined and unhesitating opposition to Antony. For some weeks still he is doubtful as to what practical steps he is to take, but he has no more hesitation as to what his political object is to be: it is to crush Antony by any and every means within his power. The letters henceforth are more and more exclusively political. Though references to private affairs and to literary questions, connected with the de Officiis, still occur in the letters to Atticus, even they are almost monopolized by the one absorbing subject. He still expresses gratitude to philosophy, "which not only diverts me from anxious thoughts, but also arms me against all assaults of fortune"28—but literature and philosophy in the old sense are over for him: and when for a nioment he touches on lighter subjects to Paetus,29 he hastens to excuse himself: "Don't suppose because I write jestingly I have cast off all care for the state. Be assured, my dear Paetus, that I work for nothing, care for nothing all day and night except the safety and freedom of my fellow citizens."
The final step on Antony's part which made war inevitable in Cicero's view was connected with the six Macedonian legions. He had—as I have said—earlier in the year obtained from the senate the command of these legions on the plea that the Getae were threatening Macedonia. One of them he gave over to his colleague Dolabella, one was to be left to guard Macedonia, which he intended should be governed by his brother Gaius at the end of his praetorship. The other four he regarded as being at his own disposal for his provincial governorship, to begin in January, B.C. 43. This he now resolved should be Cisalpine Gaul. The senate refused to assign him this province, but he got it by a lex carried in spite of the senate; and Gaius was sent to bring over the legions. On the 9th of October he started to meet them at Brundisium.30 There he found them in a mutinous state, and had recourse to great severity in order to reduce them to obedience. Two of them, the Martia and the fourth legion, were ordered to march up the coast road to Ariminum in readiness to enter Gallia Cisalpina with him; the rest he led himself towards Rome, and encamped at Tibur.
In answer to this measure Octavian, now in constant communication with Cicero, began on his own authority, and at his own cost, raising troops among the veterans in Campania. He was very successful, "and no wonder," says Cicero, "for he gives a bounty of 500 denarii apiece."31 Cicero, then at Puteoli, was at first in grave doubts as to the effects of this step. He did not feel sure of Octavian's real aims, he mistrusted his youth and his name; and yet was inclined to accept his aid, and help him to get senatorial sanction:32 and soon afterwards—having finished his de Officiis—he began a leisurely journey to Arpinum, and thence to Tusculum. He agrees with the suggestion of Atticus that, "if Octavian gets much power, the acta of Caesar will be confirmed more decisively than they were in the temple of Tellus," but yet he sees that "if he is beaten, Antony becomes intolerable."33 But events were soon to leave Cicero no choice. The fourth legion and the Martia, instead of going as ordered to Ariminum, turned off to Alba Fucentia and closed its gates. Antony, who had meanwhile arrived at Rome and summoned a meeting of the senate for the 23rd of November, heard of this and hurried off to Alba Fucentia to recover the loyalty of the legions, but was repelled from the walls of the town by a shower of stones. He therefore returned to Rome, hurriedly held the postponed meeting of the senate, at which a sortitio was accomplished assigning Macedonia to Gains Antonius, and then joined his own camp at Tibur. The Martia and the fourth legion presently declared their adhesion to Octavian, who, thus reinforced, marched at Antony's heels northwards in the direction of Ariminum.
Cicero arrived at Rome on the 9th of December,34 the day before the new tribunes, one of whom was the tyrannicide Casca, entered office. The state of the Empire in regard to the government of the provinces was this. Southern Spain (Baetica) was in the hands of Pollio, Gallia Narbonensis and Hispania Citerior were held by Lepidus, the rest of Gallia Transalpina by Plancus. It was uncertain which side these three men would take, and Cicero was in constant correspondence with them, urging them to be loyal to the senate. Africa was in the hands of Cornificius, whose loyalty was certain. Gaius Antonius was on his way to take over Macedonia. Trebonius, a strong Ciceronian, was in possession of Asia; Dolabella—whose sentiments were not certainly known—was on his way to Syria; while Marcus Brutus and Cassius were also on their way, the former to Greece, with the intention of disputing the possession of Macedonia with Gaius Antonius, the latter to Syria, where he meant to supersede Dolabella.
But the immediate point at which war seemed certain was Gallia Cisalpina. There Decimus Brutus had been governor since April, and it remained to be seen whether he would acknowledge the validity of the law which named Antony as his successor. This question was set at rest by the publication of his edict in Rome on the 19th of December, in which he forbade anyone with imperium to enter his province.35 But by this time Antony was on the point of investing him in Mutina, and Octavian on his way to relieve him. Such was the state of things when the tribunes summoned a meeting of the senate on the 20th, at which the state of the Republic was referred to the senators by Casca. A motion was proposed and carried by Cicero, giving the consuls-elect authority to protect the senate at its meeting on the 1st of January, and ordering all holders of provinces to continue in office until successors were appointed by the senate; approving of the edict of Decimus Brutus; and formally commending the actions of Octavian and of the fourth legion and the Martia. Cicero's speech is that now called the third Philippic and the decree of the senate was explained to the people in a contio now called the fourth Philippic.
The reader of the letters, taken in combination with the remaining Philippics, will now be able to follow the course of events almost step by step: the futile negotiations with Antony, the authority and rank bestowed on Octavian, the defeat of Antony at Mutina, and his masterly retreat across the Maritime Alps to Vada, the vain pursuit of him by Decimus Brutus, his reinforcement by Ventidius Bassus, and the treason of Lepidus, who after a few weeks' hesitation united his forces with him. There, too, he will see foreshadowed, though not completed, the similar treason of Plancus and of Pollio, the coming destruction of Decimus Brutus, and the unfolding of Octavian's real policy in regard to the Optimates. In the East he will find M. Brutus master of Macedonia, with Gaius Antonius a prisoner in his camp: Trebonius put to death in his province of Asia by Dolabella, and Dolabella being slowly but surely brought to bay by Cassius. The defeat of Antony at Forum Gallorum and Mutina (April 13th and 15th) was the prelude to a series of bitter disappointments to Cicero. When the report reached Rome he and his party confidently believed that the war was over, that Antony was entirely crushed, that the old liberty was restored. This exultation was very little damped by the subsequent intelligence that both consuls had fallen. Decent expressions of regret and complimentary votes in their honour seemed all that was necessary. But despatch after despatch from Decimus Brutus revealed the fact of how little had been accomplished, and how strong Antony still was. Cicero, whose energy was still unabated, turned with frantic eagerness to the task of inducing Lepidus and Plancus to remain loyal to the senate; and, as a last hope, to persuade Brutus and Cassius that it was their duty to return to Italy with their victorious armies and protect Rome from Antony. The correspondence leaves Cicero still hopeful and eager, before Plancus had declared for Antony, or Decimus Brutus had been finally ruined; and before it had become evident that Octavian meant to turn upon the senate, under whose authority he had been acting.
But within a month from the date at which the correspondence stops Cicero knew that his last chance was gone. The inaction of Octavian after the victory of Forum Gallorum puzzled Decimus Brutus, Plancus, and Cicero almost equally. He declined to hand over any legions to Decimus Brutus, or to join him in the pursuit of Antony; but he did not commit any act of positive hostility against him. There were, however, sinister rumours. An epigram of Cicero's, to the effect that the young man was to be "complimented, promoted, and—got rid of;" was said to have been retailed to Octavian, and he had replied that he had no intention of being got rid of. Other reports asserted that Pansa's wound had been poisoned by his physician at Octavian's suggestion. Others, again, that he was negotiating with Cicero, with a view to holding the consulship as his colleague.36 All that was certainly known was that he was keeping his whole force in hand, and shewed no sign of intending to lay down his command. Successive decrees of the senate had invested him with imperium, the praetorian, and then the consular rank, and had given him the privilege of standing for the consulship long before the legal age. But after the victory at Forum Gallorum the tone of the senate towards him altered. His name was ostentatiously omitted in the complimentary vote of thanks to the army, and when presently some of his officers appeared in the senate with a formal demand to be allowed to stand for the consulship at once, the demand was rejected. The senate trusted for protection to two legions which were being sent from Africa by Cornificius; but Octavian at once started for Rome in person at the head of his army. There were no troops between him and Rome, or in Rome itself; to withstand him. The legions from Africa arrived indeed about the same time as he did, but their officers almost immediately surrendered them to him. Cornutus, the praetor urbanus, committed suicide in despair, and the senate and city were alike at his disposal. Cicero, among the rest, had to make a somewhat pitiful submission, and after one attempt to organize an opposition, on a false report that the Martia and fourth legion had deserted Octavian, he retired to Tusculum and disappeared from public life.
The only question for him and his brother now was whether they would be allowed to live unmolested in a private station. Octavian soon made it evident that he meant relentlessly to punish his uncle's murderers. He was elected consul on the 19th of August with his cousin Q. Pedius. By his direction Pedius brought in a law condemning all the assassins of Caesar, and the tribune Casca was the first victim under it. The law did not touch Cicero personally, but events quickly followed that made his death certain. What Octavian had now to deal with was the force collected in Gaul. By this time Antony had been joined not only by Lepidus, but by Plancus from Celtic Gaul, and by Pollio from Baetica. He had therefore a formidable force. Decimus Brutus was now a condemned man, and was besides entirely powerless; for when Plancus joined Antony nearly all the troops of Decimus Brutus did the same. He was almost alone, and was making desperate efforts to find his way to Marcus Brutus in Macedonia. So that when Octavian, leaving the care of the city to Pedius, started once more for the north, though his object was nominally to crush Decimus Brutus, he had nothing to do but to prevent his reaching Ravenna, and force him back to Gaul, where he was arrested and put to death by Antony's order. The real question for Octavian was how to deal with Antony. He had resolved on coming to terms with him, and after a certain amount of negotiation, he met him and Lepidus on a small island in one of the tributaries of the P0, not far from Bononia, and agreed to share the Empire as "triumvirs for the reconstitution of the state." They were to be appointed for five years, and as a preliminary were to draw up a list mutually agreed upon of men who were to be declared outside the law, and liable to be put to death at at once. The obedient people of Rome accordingly voted the appointment on the 27th of November, and the first exercise of their dictatorial powers was the publication of an edict and a provisional list of men to be thus "proscribed." The first list had been forwarded to Pedius before the actual publication of the edict,37 and Cicero, who was at Tusculum, soon learnt that his own name, and those of his brother and nephew, were on it. The last scene shall be told in the words of Plutarch.
"While the conference between the triumvirs was going on Cicero was in his villa at Tusculum with his brother. When they heard of the proscription they resolved to remove to his seaside villa at Astura, and thence to take ship and join Brutus in Macedonia: for there were great reports of his success there. They travelled in litters overpowered by distress; and whenever there was a halt in the journey, the two litters were placed side by side and the brothers mingled their lamentations. Quintus was the more cast down of the two and was haunted with the idea of their want of money, for he had brought nothing, he said, with him, and Cicero himself was poorly provided for a journey. It would be better, therefore, he thought, for Cicero to precede him in his flight, while he went home, collected what was necessary, and hurried after him. This course was resolved up on, and the brothers parted with embraces and tears. Not many days after this Quintus was betrayed by his slaves and was put to death with his son. But Cicero reached Astura, found a vessel, embarked, and sailed with a favourable wind as far as Circeii. The pilots wished to put out to sea from that place at once: but whether it was that he feared the sea or had not yet given up all trust in the promise of Octavian, he disembarked and travelled a hundred furlongs upon the road to Rome. But once more, almost beside himself with distress and indecision, he returned to the sea-coast at Astura and there spent the night in terrified and hopeless reflexions. One of his ideas was to go to Octavian's house in disguise and kill himself at the hearth-altar and thus bring a curse upon it. But from undertaking this journey also he was deterred by a dread of being put to torture; and with his mind still dazed with confused and contradictory designs, he put himself in the hands of his servants to be conveyed by sea to Caieta, as he had property there and an agreeable summer retreat, when the Etesian winds are at their pleasantest. In this spot there stands a temple of Apollo just above the sea: from it a flock of ravens rose and flew towards Cicero's ship as it was being rowed to land, and settling down upon the yard-arm on both sides of the mast, some of them began uttering loud cries and others pecking at the ends of the ropes. Everybody thought this a bad omen. Cicero, however, disembarked and went to the lodge and lay down to get some rest. But most of the ravens lighted down about the window uttering cries of distress, and one of them settling on the bed, where Cicero was lying with his head covered, gradually drew off the covering from his face with its beak. The servants, seeing this, thought that they would be base indeed if they endured to be spectators of their master's murder, and did nothing to protect him, while even animals were helping him and sympathizing in his undeserved misfortune, and so, partly by entreaties and partly by compulsion, they got him again into his litter and began carrying him down to the sea.
"Meanwhile the executioners arrived, Herennius the centurion and Popillus the military tribune (whom he once defended on a charge of parricide) with their attendants. Finding the doors locked, they broke into the house; but when Cicero was not to be seen, and those indoors denied knowing anything about him, it is said that a young man named Philologus—a freedman of Quintus, whom Cicero had educated in polite learning and philosophy—told the tribune about the litter which was being carried through woodland and over-shadowed paths towards the sea. So the tribune, taking a small party with him, ran round to the entrance to the grounds, while Herennius ran down the pathway. Cicero perceived him coming and ordered his servants to set down the litter. Cicero himself, with his left hand as usual on his chin, sat gazing steadfastly on the executioners, unwashed, with streaming locks, his brow contracted with his anxieties. It was more than those present could endure, and they covered their faces while Herennius was killing him, as he thrust out his head from the litter and received the stroke. He was in his sixty-fourth year. By the command of Antony the man cut off his head and the hands with which he had written the Philippics!"38
The character and aims of Cicero will have been abundantly illustrated for the reader of these letters. That controversies should rage round his memory is only what must always be the case with a man who takes an active share in political life. Enmities and their expression in invective are more interesting to many than praise, and therefore more lasting. It is an easy task, moreover, to find faults in a character so impulsive, so many-sided, and so complex as that of Cicero. But the one view which I think inadmissible is the Mommsenian one of sheer contempt. Perhaps Cicero was not so important a figure in Roman politics as he thought himself: that he was of no importance is disproved both by the warmth of his friends and the rancour of his enemies. If he lacked originality as a writer or philosopher, neither did he pretend to any. He wished to interpret the Greek philosophers to his countrymen: he did it imperfectly, but he did it as no one else could or did. The magic of style has found its way to the intelligence and taste of mankind, as many a more learned and accurate man would have failed and has failed to do. He composed speeches which are often unfair, overstrained, and disingenuous, but they remain among the first in the world. He wrote letters incessantly: they are sometimes insincere, sometimes weak and tiresome, but taken as a whole they are scarcely surpassed by any existing collection. Signor E. Masè-Dari has lately written a volume tending to throw a doubt on his financial purity, especially in his administration of Cilicia. The attempt is, I think, a failure; and though Cicero was a man habitually embarrassed in regard to ready money, it seems that the Roman system of investment—of short loans and accommodation money—is more accountable for this than personal extravagance or reckless contraction of debt. In politics, he doubtless made the mistake of putting confidence in the leaders of the losing side. But it was really because he believed their side to be the side of right and justice. He had no personal aim in the choice, beyond the advantages which he would share with all his fellow citizens, and the primary desire to be allowed to live and enjoy the position to which his talents had raised him. His vacillation is never in his conviction as to right and wrong: but that which arose from his innate faculty of seeing every side of a question and all possible contingencies. To a nervous temperament such as his it was impossible that the dangers to himself and his family should not loom large before his eyes. But when the time came to act, he usually shewed far more resolution than his own language allows us to expect. If we had as much self-revelation from the other men of his days as we have from him, we should probably find no less vacillation, and certainly no greater conscientiousness. His almost savage expressions of joy at the murder of Caesar do not present his character in an amiable light. But then in his eyes Caesar had ruined the state. The constitution needed reform: Caesar had destroyed it. Social and political life needed purifying: Caesar had used some of the most reprobate members of society to put an end to all political and social freedom. That may not be the true state of the case as we see it, but it is what Cicero saw and believed. Caesar was a tyrannus. Even when he did well, he did it in the wrong way, and could give no security that it would not be wholly undone by a successor. The only security for justice was law-abiding and constitutional government, and that Caesar had made for ever impossible. By a convention as old as the Republic, " lynching" was the proper punishment of a man who set himself up as rex, and that Caesar practically, and almost even in name, had done.
The last months of Cicero's life are not marred by the vacillations of former periods. From the 1st of September, B.C. 44, his aim is single and continuous. He was resolved to resist to the death the attempt to perpetuate Caesarism after Caesar's death, and to use all his powers of eloquetice and persuasion to rouse the loyalist party to make a stand for liberty. And when one after the other his hopes failed and his supports fell away, he met death with a courage which did not belie his life and his philosophy.
Besides Atticus, who still claims a considerable share of the correspondence, the majority of letters in these last months are addressed to Plancus, Decimus Brutus, Lepidus, Cassius, and M. Brutus. There is one to Antony, afterwards quoted by him against Cicero in the senate, and some few to Dolabella.
This is hardly the time at which a final review of ANTONY's character should be made, for the test of his real worth as a statesman and ruler came in the period following Cicero's death. Yet in spite of personal prejudice Cicero does not seem to have made a mistaken estimate of him. In B.C. 51 he had foreseen that he and his brothers were likely to be important personages in the Caesarian era, and had warned his friend Thermus not to offend them.39 Marcus had been through the regular official round. He had served with Gabinius in Syria and Egypt (B.C. 57-56), had beeji quaestor and legatus to Iulius Caesar in Gaul (B.C. 54-52), and was one of the tribunes of B.C. 50-49 who vetoed the fatal motion in January, B.C. 49, for his recall. His greatness then began. After Pompey's flight and Caesar's departure for Spain, he was left in charge of Italy with the rank of propraetor. In B.C. 48 he joined Caesar in Epirus with reinforcements, fought at Pharsalia, and was sent back after the victory to take over again the management of Rome and Italy; and when Caesar was named Dictator in B.C. 47 Antony was named his Master of the. Horse. Thus far his energy and courage had put him in the front rank of Caesar's younger officers. But from this time his weaknesses as well as his strength began to shew themselves. He was not successful in his government at Rome during Caesar's absence in Alexandria, and the disorders which grew to a dangerous height under his administration, both in the city and among the veteran legions, were only suppressed by the return of the Dictator. His wild debaucheries seem to have contributed to weaken his influence, and his financial embarrassments, partly at least to be attributed to them, caused him to attempt their relief by dealing with confiscated properties in a way which brought him into collision with Caesar. A coldness appears to have arisen between them, and Lepidus took his place as Master of the Horse. But this coldness, whatever its nature and cause, disappeared upon Caesar's return from Spain in B.C. 45, and Antony was named consul as Caesar's colleague for B.C. 44. In spite of Cicero's invectives against him in the last months of the orator's life, Antony does not seem to have treated him with personal disrespect or harshness: and this Cicero often acknowledges, scandalized as he was by his conduct whilst in charge of Italy. He was in fact not unkindly by nature, capable of genuine affection and even passion (he ended, we all know, in throwing away the world for a woman's smile), good-natured, and florid in person as well as in style of speech and writing. But with some amiable qualities, he was without virtues. In a ruler good-natured indulgence to followers means often suffering to the ruled. In a competitor for empire, reckless gallantry is by itself no match for self-control and astuteness. In the end the unimpassioned youth, whom we find him here treating with some disdain, out-manoeuvred him and outbid him for popular favour, and finally even beat him in war. In these letters, in spite of their hostility, we learn of what was perhaps his greatest military achievement, his masterly retreat from Mutina and his rally in Gallia Narbonensis.
DOLABELLA is on a much lower plane than Antony, and would not be much worth our attention were it not for his peculiar connexion with Cicero. He was one of the wildest and most extravagant of the young nobles of the day, but was apparently possessed of some oratorical ability. As was the fashion of the time, he trusted to this ability to bring him office and means to escape from his embarrassments, and in order to make himself a name as an orator and man of affairs commenced a prosecution of a man of high rank for malversation in his province. The person he selected was Appius Claudius, Cicero's predecessor in Cilicia. This happened to be particularly inconvenient to Cicero, who, besides wishing to stand well with Claudius, found that just about the time the prosecution was to begin (early in B.C. 50) his wife had consented to Dolabella's marriage with Tullia. It is not quite clear what Cicero's views on the subject were. He had been consulted, and wrote to Terentia leaving the matter in her hands. Yet when he found it an accomplished fact, he felt much annoyed, especially as in the meanwhile he had been visited by Tiberius Nero with a proposal for Tullia's hand, and would have preferred him. The marriage, however, had taken place, and he was obliged to make the best of it, and consoled himself in B.C. 50-49 with the reflexion that, as Dolabella took Caesar's side in the Civil War, he might prove a protection to his wife's family, which perhaps turned out to be the case. But neither was the marriage a happy one, owing to Dolabella's gross misbehaviour, nor had Cicero any reason to approve his son-in-law's public conduct. He was tribune in B.C. 47, whilst Caesar was in Alexandria, and produced much uproar in Rome by proposing a law for the abolition of debts. Though his conduct was condoned by Caesar, who took him on his campaigns in Africa and Spain (B.C.. 46-45), he never shewed any qualities fitting him for public life. However, his behaviour in the field may be supposed to have earned Caesar's regard, for he promised him the consulship for half the year B.C. 44, when he himself should have gone on the Getic and Parthian expeditions. Antony objected to such a colleague and went so far as to attempt to invalidate the election—as he had threatened to do—by announcing bad omens. The decision of the augurs on the point was not given when Caesar was assassinated, and in the confusion that followed Dolabella assumed the insignia of the consulship. Two years before this his conduct had been so outrageous that Cicero had induced Tullia—somewhat unwillingly, it seems—to divorce him. But the strangest part of the business to our feelings is the cordial and almost affectionate manner in which Cicero continues to address him. This is raised to absolute adulation—in spite of a private grievance as to the failure to repay Tullia's dowry—by his belief that after Caesar's death Dolabella meant to take the constitutional side. He had at first openly shewn his sympathy with the assassins, and a few weeks later had suppressed the riots which took place round the column and altar placed over the spot where Caesar's body had been burnt, by executing—in what appears a most arbitrary manner—a number of citizens and slaves. But this show of republican ardour soon disappeared. He shared with Antony in the plunder of the temple of Ops, obtained a nomination to the province of Syria, left Rome while still consul to take possession before Cassius could get there, and on his way through Asia barbarously murdered the governor of Asia, Trebonius (February, B.C. 43). Trebonius was in Asia with the express understanding that he was to collect forces and money for the republican party; and this act of Dolabella's was a declaration of hostility to it. The senate declared him a hostis and Cassius was commissioned to crush him. Rumour of his fall (he committed suicide while blockaded in Laodicea) reached Rome before the correspondence closes, but no official confirmation of it. Dolabella's private character was bad, and there is nothing in his public conduct to make up for it.
But the chief figures in the last stage of the correspondence are the two Bruti, Marcus and Decimus, Gaius Cassius, Plancus and Lepidus.40 With CASSIUS Cicero's intimacy seems to have begun in B.C. 46, when they were both living in Rome by Caesar's indulgence, and both of them with feelings of very doubtful loyalty to his régime. Cassius had distinguished himself after the fall of Crassus—whose quaestor he was—by successfully getting the remains of the Roman army back to Antioch, and repelling an attack of the Parthians on that town in the following year (B.C. 52). His success made Cicero's year in Cilicia (B.C. 51-50) safe as far as the Parthians were concerned. But he does not speak with much cordiality about it, or as if he knew Cassius at all intimately. Cassius was in command of a fleet off Sicoly when the battle of Pharsalia took place. When he heard of it he sailed towards the Hellespont; apparently with a view of intercepting Caesar, but almost immediately surrendered to him. After the Alexandrian War he seems to have returned to Rome and turned his attention to philosophy, adopting the doctrines of the Epicurean School. His letter (vol. iii., p.194) shews the zeal of a late convert, as Cicero implies that he was (vol. iii., p.174). He was never a hearty Caesarian, though, like others, he submitted. In B.C. 46-45, when Caesar was going to Spain to attack the sons of Pompey, he seems to have excused himself from fighting against old friends, and consequently to have received a hint that he had better go on a tour that would keep him from Rome during Caesar's absence. On Caesar's return, however, in the middle of B.C. 45, he appears to have been treated respectfully and nominated as praetor for B.C. 44, though he was annoyed at the preference being given to his brother-in-law M. Brutus, who was praetor urbanus. They were also to be consuls in B.C. 41, their proper year. To assign his personal annoyance as to the urban praetorship as the motive for his promotion of the conspiracy does not seem reasonable, in face of the evidence of his profound discontent at the Caesarian régime. He of course accepted office by Caesar's favour, but he probably regarded that office as no more than his due, and the influence which gave it him as an unconstitutional exercise of prerogative, with which he could have dispensed if the state of the Republic had been normal. On the whole his share in the crime of the Ides of March is not aggravated by the additional stigma of ingratitude to the same extent as some of the others. His letters from Syria are short and soldierlike. Without being a man of great ability, he evidently possessed energy and military Capacity.
PLANCUS was only accidentally of interest to Cicero. He was one of Caesar's legati in Gaul who stood by him in the Civil War. He fought with success at Ilerda in B.C. 49 (Caes. B. C. i. 40) and in the African Campaign of B.C. 46 (Caes. Afr. iv.), and was to be rewarded by the governorship of Celtic Gaul in B.C. 44-43, and the consulship in B.C. 42. His connexion with Antony afterwards, his long residence with him in Egypt, and his ultimate betrayal of his secrets to Augustus made the court historian Paterculus particularly fierce in denouncing him as inflicted with a kind of disease of treason, and as the most shifty of men. His letters to Cicero do not do much to relieve his character, clever and graphic as they are. He was influenced, it seems, almost entirely by personal considerations. If he did not resist Antony, he feared he should lose his province; if he did so unsuccessfully, he feared he might lose the consulship of B.C. 42. He therefore is vehement in his professions of loyalty to the senate, as long as it seemed that their generals were winning. He allowed Decimus Brutus to join forces with him, and was urgent that Octavian should do the same. But when he found that Antony had been joined by Lepidus and Pollio, he accepted the compromise offered him, and saved his consulship, if not his honour.
LEPIDUS was another man whom the chances of civil war had brought to a higher position than he had strength or character to maintain. He happened to be praetor in B.C. 49, and to do Caesar some service in securing his nomination as Dictator to hold the consular election. He was rewarded by the governorship of Hispania Citerior in B.C. 48-47, and the consulship of B.C. 46 as colleague of Caesar himself. Caesar does not seem to have employed him in a military capacity, but to have left him at home to keep order in Rome: and when Caesar was again appointed Dictator after Thapsus, and again for life after Munda, Lepidus was named his second in command or Master of the Horse. Though he still held that office in B.C. 44, he was not to accompany Caesar in the Parthian War, but was to hold the combined provinces of Narbonensis and Hispania Citerior. He used the troops collected for those provinces to keep order in Rome after the assassination. He did not, however, stay long in Rome. Having secured his own election as Pontifex Maximus in succession to Caesar, he went to his province. Whether he had any understanding with Antony or not, he seems at first to have been engaged in negotiations with Sext. Pompeius ostensibly in the interests of the senatorial party. From the proceedings of Antony in B.C. 44, and his ultimate determination to oust Decimus Brutus from Gallia, he stood aloof. When the siege of Mutina began he seems to have sent officers nominally to communicate with Brutus, but with secret orders not to take part in the struggle; and when Antony entered Narbonensis, after his retreat from Mutina, his officers at the frontier made no resistance, and though he feigned to be displeased and to punish them, they evidently were acting with his connivance. He was—says Decimus Brutus—"the shiftiest of men" (homo ventosissimus41), and his letters to Cicero and the senate professing loyalty, when on the eve of joining forces with Antony, are curious for their laboured treason.42 Like turncoats generally, he was little valued by the side which he thus joined. Antony and Octavian found it convenient to admit him to the triumvirate, but he was always treated with contempt by his two colleagues, and after his futile attempt in B.C. 36 to undermine Octavian's authority in Sicily, he was compelled to live in ignominious retirement till his death in B.C. 13. Cicero did his best by flattery and exhortation to keep him loyal, but never thought highly of him.43
Of all those who joined in the murder of Caesar, DECIMUS BRUTUS seems to have had the least personal motive and the least excuse. Caesar evidently thought highly of him, and regarded him with personal affection. He had served with some distinction in Gaul. He commanded the fleet against the Veneti in B.C. 56, was left in charge of troops in Auvergne, and fought at Alesia in B.C. 52. Caesar always calls him adulescens on these occasions: he probably therefore was under thirty, and had not held the quaestorship. When the Civil War broke out he was placed in command of the fleet built by Caesar's orders to blockade Marseilles (B.C. 49), and seems to have shewn himself efficient. We have no information as to the years in which he held office; but he was in Rome in B.C. 50,44 and may have been quaestor. He does not seem to have been in any of the other battles of the Civil War. Soon after B.C. 49 he was named governor of Farther Gaul, and fought successfully with the Bellovaci. There he seems to have remained for about three years, and on his return to Rome, about the same time that Caesar Came back from Spain (B.C. 45). was received by Caesar with great honour and affection, being admitted to ride in a carriage with Octavius and Antony, behind that of the Dictator, when he entered Rome.45 He was also named for the province of Cisalpine Gaul for B.C. 44-43, and to the consulship for B.C. 42 with Plancus. Finally, as it transpired after Caesar's death, he was named "second heir" in the Dictator's will. There seems no explanation of his having joined in the conspiracy except possibly his marriage with Paulla Valeria, the sister of a strong Pompeian. His known influence with Caesar enabled him to play a particularly treacherous part. When the usual honorary procession of senators called at Caesar's house on the fatal Ides of March they found him disinclined to go to the Curia, owing to various warnings, dreams, and omens. To Dec. Brutus was therefore assigned the task of persuading him to alter his resolution. The letter written by Decimus immediately afterwards shews no sign of remorse or regret.46 He was therefore fully persuaded in his own mind that he was doing a public duty. He gained nothing by it, and could hardly have hoped to do so. At first it seemed likely that he would be prevented from taking over his province. But Antony appears to have found it impossible to prevent his going there; and as the regular complement of men were already awaiting him, as soon as he entered the province he was able to act in all respects as a lawfully appointed governor.47 But he was also resolved to hold the province through B.C. 43, to the eve of his consulship, and refused to acknowledge the lex obtained by Antony authorizing him to succeed Brutus in January of that year. This was the origin of the war of Mutina, which fills so large a part in the letters of this volume. Cicero's letters to him in B.C. 44 will illustrate his position before Antony's open war against him, and his own despatches after his relief at Mutina (April, B.C. 43) take us step by step along the road in that vain pursuit of Antony, which finally brought Decimus himself to destruction.
The most notable figure in this last section of the correspondence is MARCUS BRUTUS. He has long enjoyed a unique reputation, founded partly on his name and imaginary descent from the expeller of kings, partly on the supposed loftiness of his motives and his stoical purity. He was the preux chevalier of the conspiracy, a Bayard or a Sidney, who acted only as a gentleman, a patriot, and a Stoic was bound to act. Even Antony acknowledged that he alone of the assassins was without selfish aims; and Shakespeare faithfully caught the spirit of his authorities when he made him the hero of his Julius Caesar. There have not, of course, been wanting critics to take a different view of the character and career of Brutus. He is, for instance, an object of positive aversion to the editors of the great Dublin edition of the letters, who not only refer to his stiff and ungracious manners, of which Cicero himself seems to complain, and to his shallow pedantry, but accuse him of gross oppression and usury in Asia and Cyprus, of betraying to Caesar Pompey's intention of going to Egypt after Pharsalia, of mean motives and gross ingratitude in the assassination of Caesar, and, while trying to make terms with the Antonians, of failing his party at their direst need by not coming over from Macedonia with his army. There is thus nothing left of the heroic about him, or even of what is decently honourable. If whitewashing the villains of history is an unsatisfactory employment, a still less satisfactory one is that of dispelling our illusions as to its heroes. His contemporaries admired Brutus, even his opponents admitted his high qualities, an almost constant tradition agreed in exalting his character. If Dante placed him in his lowest hell, it was from the stern condemnation of murder, whatever might be pleaded for the murderer. There was no more pardon for him than for Francesca's adultery, in spite of infinite pity. It is, of course, impossible to acquit Brutus of sinking to the level of his age and belying his philosophy in the usurious proceedings in Cyprus,48 and of at least ]indifference as to the harshness with which his agents exacted the money. It was, however, too common a custom among the Roman nobility to shock his contemporaries, or to surprise moderns who know how often practice does not square with theory. In the government of Gallia Cisalpina (B.C. 56) he seems to have been blameless in regard to money, and to have shewn considerable ability. The alleged betrayal of Pompey's intention of going to Egypt is not really substantiated by Plutarch, and seems to be rendered nearly impossible from the fact that Pompey had not made up his mind himself when he escaped from Pharsalia; and Brutus, who left the camp after him, could scarcely have known it, if he had. In the matter of Caesar's murder he was as guilty as the rest—neither more nor less. He probably felt no special gratitude to Caesar, who could hardly have done other than spare him after Pharsalia, in view of his own relations with his mother Servilia. The rumour that Brutus was in reality Caesar's son is in the highest degree improbable, though perhaps not absolutely impossible. He had no reason to love Pompey, who had treacherously killed his father, but he did love his uncle Cato, whose death was at Caesar's door. His coming over to Italy in B.C. 43, as Cicero urged him to do, even if it had been possible with such transport as he had, would hardly have been wise. His opponents were then in great strength; there is no reason to believe that Italy was—as Cicero alleged—ready to rise in his support, and an unsuccessful battle with Antony, Lepidus and Octavian, who would assuredly have united to oppose him, would have not only entailed the final loss of the cause, but have given the excuse for a massacre worse than the proscriptions. The charge of dallying with the Antonians rests on his leniency in the matter of Gaius Antonius, whom he had taken prisoner. On the 13th of April, just before the result of the battles of Mutina was known, a despatch arrived from Brutus, accompanied by one from Gaius Antonius himself, which began Gaius Antonius Proconsul.49