Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER V I.

CICERO:

RESORT TO UNION.

" There is in man's nature a secret inclination and motion towards love of others, which, if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable." - BACON, Essays, X.

Obsecro, abjiciamus ista, et semiliberi saltem simus." – CICERO, Epist. ad Atticum, XIII. 31.

While Cicero was in Greece, pursuing the studies in which he delighted far more than in the wars or the factions of Rome, he went, without much faith, to ask the oracle at Delphi how he might win the highest fame. The answer was returned, that he must follow his own nature rather than the opinions of the multitude. It was at once the advantage and the disadvantage of Cicero, that the injunction of the oracle, whether it were really given, or merely imagined as a tradition of after years, was necessarily his only inspiration.

He lived in an age when human virtues were no longer generally trusted, and when human laws were no longer generally reverenced. The result of errors and crimes innumerable had been to leave men with

1 Plut., Cic., 5. Middleton discredits the story. Life of Cicero, Sect. I. p. 15.

out commandments to make them humble, and without examples whereby they could be consoled. Each individual became to himself, as it were, the origin of precepts, duties, and mortal hopes; and in this condition it depended upon the disposition innate in every man, whether he were to lead a life of comparative excellence or of downright villany. If it were Cicero's misfortune that he was compelled to doubt the virtues and the laws of Rome, so that he stood alone in sight of men he knew to be evil, and of deities whom he could not believe to be good, it was his happiness to have received from the God whom he would have rejoicingly adored a mind so able and a heart so warm, that it would have been well for him to have obeyed the voice at Delphi.

The love of humanity glimmered within him too feebly, indeed, to dissipate the obscurity of the relations between man and man, yet too fervently to leave him in the deep, unbroken darkness which encompassed his contemporaries. It was in their pursuits that he engaged; but with peculiar purposes, that year by year expanded, until, at the present time, when he was entering upon middle life, he stood resolved to bind up the broken limbs of his country, and to disarm the hands still clenched and raised amongst his countrymen. It has been confessed beforehand, that we shall meet with failings, of which, however, the blame need not be imputed, as it often is, to him alone. And if another word be prefaced in exculpation of a life more frequently misjudged than any other in ancient history, let it remind the reader of the nervous temperament and the physical infirmities under which Cicero suffered from youth to age. The thin figure, the small head, and the fiery eyes, all speak of morbid as well as eager feelings within.

The change from disorder to despotism in Rome is still the principal point for our attention. It has seemed, alike with Sulla and with Pompey, that the day was not far distant when the supremacy which, in their hands, was irregular and temporary, would become the more lasting possession of other men, and the more decisive ruin of the Commonwealth. A pause ensues with Cicero. Instead of a single ruler, occupying the foreground, there are masses, comparatively speaking, of citizens portrayed on one side or another, with whom the immediate cause at stake does not appear to have been submission or independence in respect to any individual, but rather the defence or the invasion of ancient laws, before the utter overthrow of which there could be no continuing despotism. This is, in fact, the crisis of our history. And in endeavouring to estimate it correctly, the uncertainties to which the minds of the leading men were exposed and the evils with which the whole society of Rome was infected are constantly to be remembered, though they have been but partially described.

Some, then, there were who, in the midst of fears and wrongs, still hoped, like Porcius Cato, that the free institutions of their progenitors would endure. He was the great-grandson of the Censor, whom he

ess

resembled in his admiration of traditionary virtues, without his ancestor's bitterness against all the later changes in cultivation and wider knowledge. He served in various campaigns, the first being against Spartacus; he pleaded in various suits ;? and he sustained the office of Quæstory with great repute for zeal and honesty in all these undertakings; through which, besides, he might be tracked, as it were, by his ardent professions respecting the duties and the energies of former days. The love of the past in Cato was heightened by his want of attachment to those with whom he lived. The spirit which in the boy instinctively resisted Pompædius the Marsian, and afterwards condemned the tyranny of Sulla, expanded in the man, now thirty years of age, to a distrust of his fellow-beings; and though he was not unkind, he was unconfiding, and, to a great degree, isolated. He would walk in the streets with head and feet uncovered, as if he liked to provoke remark; and it was from the same disposition that he was a severe officer to the soldiers he commanded and a rigid magistrate amongst the citizens he governed. But it had often been proved in Rome, before Cato's birth, that justice and public order were not to be maintained by harsh principles or repulsive manners.

The only one, besides his brother, who for a moment aroused the confidence of Cato was Cicero. To this humaner citizen, indeed, the eyes of many who clung to the laws of their forefathers were now in

2 Plut., Cat., 5, 16.
3 Ibid., 16. A. C. 65.

4 Ibid., 5, 6.

tently turned; and though a new, or, as the phrase went, an ignoble man, he was elected, three years after Pompey's departure, to the consulship, on his first canvass, yet in the face of many difficulties and over six competitors, at the age of forty-three.

The colleague chosen with him was Caius Antonius, an associate of Sergius Catiline, who likewise stood, or rather fought, for the office, endeavouring at all hazards to prevent the election of Cicero. Instead, therefore, of being able to count upon any aid, Cicero was obliged to guard against the enmity of Antonius, in carrying out his policy, clear from the moment of the election, if it had not been understood before. There was no delay in Cicero's movements, notwithstanding the obstacles of which his colleague's hostility formed but a comparatively trifling part. At the same time that he turned a glance upon Pompey, as if to plead for the favor 8 that then seemed indispensable to his success, he bent all his powers to accomplish a union between the various classes of citizens, on such terms and with such bonds as should insure the Commonwealth against individual supremacy and general corruptness. There was no great reason to count upon the people at large, although he sought their good-will in his desire to seem and

5 A. C. 64 for 63. Sall., Cat., ? The list of them is in Asco23. Plut., Cic., 10 et seq. nius's Argument. Orat. in Tog.

6 See his own account in his Cand. letters to Atticus, or, with more pe- 8 As in the oration De Leg. Agr., culiar reference to his position as II. 19, 36. one of the Ignobles, in De Leg. Agr., II. 1, 2.

« НазадПродовжити »