Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

reviews the opposing counsels which had been given, and professes the devotedness of the speaker to assume the whole obloquy of the sentence of death. He could have made no greater sacrifice to what he thought the good of his country. The alarm of Cato, and his resolution to take the same course, 54 leave no room for doubting the perils which Cicero is often supposed to have exaggerated.55 On the other hand, the evidence is clearer to the point we long ago remarked, that the heathen law of Rome, like a foundering bark, could be saved from sudden and total destruction only by parting with its stoutest masts or its most precious wares.

As soon as the conspirators, condemned by the Senate, lay lifeless in the dungeons of the Capitol, the Consul came forth with many of the principal Senators to the Forum. It was in the dusk; but the crowd of the day-time still lingered, anxious to hear the fate of their leaders, or to learn the safety of their better countrymen and themselves. As Cicero proceeded, he passed a group of men whom he knew to have been concerned in the conspiracy. “ They are dead !” said he to them, in a loud and significant tone, which was understood by those to whom it was addressed, and soon repeated through the Forum and along the adjoining streets. The enthusiastic people, touched, if they had not before been of the same mind, thronged about the Consul, declaring him to be their preserver; while at the doors, on either side, and from the roofs above, there suddenly shone the light of lamps and torches,56 with which the way he pursued homewards was bright as when he walked to the Senate in the morning. Nor did the reward which Cicero well deserved for his defence of the constitution, not merely against Catiline, but against Cæsar, in spite of the changing supports on which alone he could rely, end with the illumination of a single night. Catulus, at the head of the Senate, by whom a public thanksgiving in Cicero's name had been previously decreed, now saluted him as the Father of his Country ; 57 and Cato persuaded the people to confirm the glorious title in the Forum.58 His highest hopes were satisfied. “Ye have,” he told the Senate in his last oration concerning the fate of the conspirators, “ ye have all ranks, all men, the whole Roman people, of one and the same opinion; and it is the first instance of such a concord in a civil cause. ..... The Knights are with us. This day and this cause recall them, after dissensions of many years, to the association of the Senate. If the connection cemented in my consulship be made perpetual, I promise that no domestic injuries shall hereafter befall any part of the Commonwealth.” In almost the next breath he denied that the work he had reason to call his own could by any possibility be destroyed. “No violence,” he exclaimed, “ shall ever be so deadly as to break through and under

54 Sall., Cat., 52.

55 See his own allusions, Ad Att., I. 14 ; Ad Div., V. 2. VOL. II.

53

un

56 Plut., Cic., 22. 57 Cic., In Pis., 3.

[ocr errors]

mine the union between you, the unanimity of all good men !" 59

The promise was scarcely made before it began to fail. On the last day of the year in which Cicero had done so much to save the liberty of Rome, he appeared upon the rostra to render the customary account of his consulship, and to swear before the people that he had obeyed the laws. The tribunal above him was already occupied by two of the magistrates for the following year. One was the Tribune Metellus Nepos, elected in Pompey's interest. The other was the Prætor Cæsar, elected before the suppression of the conspiracy, and who, since the sentence against the conspirators, had hardly been seen, except amongst the populace, whom he sought in opposition to the Senate.60 When Cicero rose on the rostra, Metellus rose on his tribunal, and by virtue of his authority forbade the Consul to do more than pronounce the oath of fidelity in its simplest form. Scarcely prepared for this undeserved aggression, Cicero nevertheless advanced without faltering 61 to the front, and swore aloud and solemnly, that the Commonwealth had been preserved through his devotion. “Such and so great an oath as it was,” he said a few years afterwards, “it was approved by the shouts and the consent of all the people.” 62 The crowd that waited on him home left the Forum empty to the Tribune and the Prætor, shamed by

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the enthusiasm they could not then hinder. But the fervor of a larger multitude than Rome contained was but a weak security against the faction which Metellus Nepos represented, still more against the ambition which Cæsar possessed and urged untired.

During all these events in Rome, Pompey had been pursuing a series of marches rather than campaigns against the exhausted nations in the East. Mithridates had fallen in despair by the sword of one of his mercenaries; and the kingdom of Pontus, which he had ruled for half a century, became a province of the enemy against whom it had been for nearly a quarter of a century defended.63 The adjoining countries, Galatia, Cappadocia, Lesser Armenia, and the Bosporus, taken from the Armenian kingdom of Tigranes, the son-in-law and the ally of Mithridates, were severally constituted dependent monarchies ; while Cilicia and Syria were both reduced to provinces, and Palestine, subdued to the very Holy of Holies in the temple at Jerusalem, received its government from Rome, to which, in return, its amount of tribute was determined. These vast vicissitudes 64 completed the prostration of the Eastern countries of the Mediterranean; but the rapidity with which they fell before Pompey betrays at once their own exhaus

TP

10

63 A. C. 63. App., Bell. Mithr., 64 A. C. 66 - 63. App., Bell. 111. Dion Cass., XXXVII. 10. Mithr., 105 et seq., 114. Plut., At Cicero's proposal, a thanks- Pomp., 32 - 43. Vell. Pat., II. giving of ten days was decreed in 37, 40. Pompey's name, on the arrival of the news that Mithridates was dead. De Prov. Cons., 11.

tion, and, humanly speaking, the profitless extension of the Roman realms. Egypt, alone, on the southeast corner, was left a little longer to its corrupted monarchs, its weary scholars, and its sunken people.

Meanwhile, the fears excited by the victor at Rome were even greater than those he spread amongst the wretched victims of his conquests; and when, soon after the retirement of Cicero, it was proposed by Metellus Nepos, and seconded by Cæsar, that Pompey with his army should be recalled, the opposition of Cato — then, as will be remembered, in his tribuneship — and his supporters was so vehement as to provoke the wildest riots, during which Metellus and · Cæsar were both declared deposed from their magistracies.65 Such resistance was as vain as it was contrary to all the laws which Cato intended to uphold. Metellus fled to Pompey; but Cæsar was immediately reinstated in the prætorship, and allowed to prepare his plans for greater issues. He alone appears to have comprehended the character of Pompey; and while others looked forward with dread to his seizure of the supremacy he had formerly exercised, Cæsar trusted in obtaining the ascendency over Pompey, especially if he could unite their interests upon an apparently common ground. In the year succeeding to Cicero's consulship, the conqueror of the East arrived at Brundusium, where he disbanded his army; but several months elapsed ere he entered the city, just before his forty-fifth birth-day, 66 in the most mag

65 Plut., Cat., 26 - 29. Cic., 23. Suet., Cæs., 16.

66 The triumph was celebrated on the 28th and 29th Sept., A. C.

« НазадПродовжити »