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the generosity of Socrates, who spake to all consenting to hear,21 but with greater liberality than any other heart under declining heathenism could, perhaps, have conceived.22
The view embraced by Cicero of philosophy, as the highest law for mankind, has not yet been described in its completeness. At the head of all other principles he would have set the religion he received from his ancestors, reformed from some of its errors,23 and lifted to an atmosphere in which the clouds upon some of its concealed realities appeared to be breaking away. It was permitted him to see that virtue might be its own reward ; 24 it was even granted to his striving spirit to behold the evidences of a Creator or a Ruler of the universe. 25 But these were glimpses too often lost in tempestuous darkness to convince him of the truth that would have brightened his entire life. He fell back again upon his philosophy, and rested at last, if rest it could be called, upon the human mind, as the source alike of knowledge, of obligation, and of obedience.
“ Thus anxious thoughts in endless circles roll,
Without a centre where to fix the soul :
21. Vol. I. p. 213.
24 De Fin., II. 14. Cf. V. 24. 2 See De Divin., II. 1; Tuscul. 25 Tuscul. Quæst., I. 28. Cf. Quæst., II. 2 ; De Fin., I. 2, 3. 29 ; De Nat. Deor., III. 15; De
23 De Rep., II. 14. De Legg., Fin., IV. 11. II. 7. But especially the words he 20 Dryden. ascribes to Cotta, De Nat. Deor., III. 2. Then see Ibid., 15, and De Divin., II. 3.
The law of philosophy, like that of state or of religion, could have no other issue than was inevitable to every work of man shut out from sight of Heaven.
About the same time that Cicero, in retirement from the cares and struggles of public life, was devoted to this vain but striking search after a guidance he could trust, a poem appeared, aiming at the very heart of the faith to which he still adhered. It was the work of an ardent man, Lucretius Carus, 27 of whom it is the only actual history. He had seen the emptiness of mortal labors,28 and the utter inability of mortal aspirations after communion with a higher nature and initiation in superior knowledge. The doctrine of Epicurus concerning the inaction and the impassibility of the gods, who left the world to independence, loneliness, and infirmity, was the inspiration of the bard in times when the soundness of the philosopher seemed tried on all sides and indisputably established.30 But though Lucretius had the courage to chant the desolation of the earth, he died by his own hand, as if he were himself the victim of the wretchedness he had portrayed.
Another poet, not yet, perhaps, so well known, as he flourished a few years later,31 was formed under
27 Born in A. C. 95; died at See, further, his detestation of reabout the age of forty years. ligion in I. 81 et seq., and his ideal
28 De Rer. Nat., II. 14 et seq. of wisdom, II. I et seq.
29 Ibid., V. 1159 et seq., VI. 49 31 Born of good parentage at et seq., 67.
Verona, A. C. 87, Catullus came to 30 “Primum quod magnis doceo de rebus, Rome at an early age, and lived et arctis
until at least the year 47. Carm. Religionum animos nodis exsolvere pergo."
Ibid., I. 930, 931.
LII. "Mania mundi Discedunt, lotum video per inane geri res."
III. 16, 17.
the influences of the profligacy which had long before prevailed. Valerius Catullus wrote, like almost all his countrymen, after the models of Grecian literature; but his poems, in nearly every instance, are direct testimonies to the dispositions and the habits of his own people. Voluptuous and shameless though they be, they bear no mark of having been such as would leave a stain upon him by whom they were written, or as would imply an offence to those by whom they were perused and heard. The immodesty, the effeminacy, and the pollution of a race who were losing their liberty, their faith, and their virtue were beyond the power of imagery or melody to conceal. Catullus feared nothing and respected no man. One of his coarsest songs was addressed to Porcius Cato ; 32 and some of his most bitter lines were aimed at Cæsar.33 But it was his doom to live with few whom he could respect for virtue, and, as is still more sad to remember, with none whom he could fear for vice; so that neither his impurity nor his effrontery deserves to be registered against him personally.
Another phase of this waning period is manifest in the histories which Sallust 34 composed concerning the war with Jugurtha and the conspiracy of Catiline. If he wrote as the partisan of Cæsar, to whose favor he owed his own fortune, he could not have selected more appropriate subjects than the achievements of
32 Carm. LVI. That directed C. 86, joined the party of Cæsar, to Cicero (XLIX.) seems entirely enriched himself by the plunder of ironical.
Numidia, and lived in great luxury 33 Carm. LIV., LVII., XCIII. at Rome until the year 34. 34 C. Sallustius Crispus, born A.
Marius in the war, and of Cæsar himself, who alone resisted the sentence of death upon the conspirators, during their insurrection. Or if the historian turned of his own accord to memories like those connected with Jugurtha and Catiline, his preference was that likewise of his contemporaries. The voyager upon roaring seas will listen to the stories of shipwreck with greedier ear than to the tales which would bring before him the home, the paths, or the flowers he has forsaken. The history of wrongs was more congenial to the later Romans than that of virtues ; and in the enormities which Sallust painted as though he had really hated them, the vices of his own life and of all his generation seemed to be excused. His pages, of which the literary merit is not within our province, are colored by the times in which they were written as much as by those to which they refer; and the attitude he assumes, however studied or disguised, exhibits the historian of a debased and broken age.
The history, the poems, and the philosophy bear the same general testimony to the prostrate virtues of the later years of the Commonwealth. Where laws were so feeble and duties were so violated, or, to say the truth, so altered, there could be but little liberty in existence. The people of Rome may not have known how sorely they were stricken; but whether they despaired or resisted, the hopefulness of their occupations, their thoughts, and their lives was departed.
PERIOD OF OVERTHROW.
A. C. 59 - A. D. 14.
"The Romans had reason to dread that the disjointed members would soon be reduced by a civil war under the dominion of one master." -GIBBON, Decline and Fall, Ch. 6.
“ Ed ecco innanzi a' pensieri aprirsi volume vasto, immenso, scritto col sangue romano." -VERRI, Notti Romane, Coll. III.