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Marcus Tullius Cicero, [1] the greatest name in Roman literature, was born on his father's estate near Arpinum, 3d Jan. 106 B.C. Arpinum had received the citizenship some time before, but his family though old and of equestrian position had never held any office in Rome. Cicero was therefore a novus homo, a parvenu, as we should say, and this made the struggle for honours which occupied the greater part of his career, both unusual and arduous. For this struggle, in which his extraordinary talent seemed to predict success, his father determined to prepare the boy by an education under his own eye in Rome. Marcus lived there for some years with his brother Quintus, studying under the best masters (among whom was the poet Archias), learning the principles of grammar and rhetoric, and storing his mind with the great works of Greek literature. He now made the acquaintance of the three celebrated men to whom he so often refers in his writings, the Augur Mucius Scaevola, and the orators Crassus and Antonius, with whom he often conversed, and asked them such questions as his boyish modesty permitted. At this time too he made his first essays in verse, the poem called Pontius Glaucus, and perhaps the Phaenomenaand Prognostics [2] of Aratus. On assuming the manly gown he at once attached himself to Scaevola for the purpose of learning law, attending him not only in his private consultations, but also to the courts when he pleaded, and to the assembly when he harangued the people. His industry was untiring. As he tells us himself, he renounced dissipation, pleasure, exercise, even society; his whole spare time was spent in reading, writing, and declaiming, besides daily attendance at the forum, where he drank in with eager zeal the fervid eloquence of the great speakers. Naturally keen to observe, he quickened his faculties by assiduous attention; not a tone, not a gesture, not a turn of speech ever escaped him; all were noted down in his ready memory to be turned to good account when his own day should come. Meanwhile he prepared himself by deeper studies for rising to oratorical eminence. He attended the subtle lectures of Philo the Academic, and practised the minute dialectic of the Stoics under Diodotus, and tested his command over both philosophy and disputation by declaiming in Greek before the rhetorician Molo.

At the age of twenty-five he thought himself qualified to appear before the world. The speech for Quintius, [3] delivered 81 B.C. is not his first, but it is one of his earliest. In it he appears as the opponent of Hortensius. At this time Sulla was all-powerful at Rome. He had crushed with pitiless ferocity the remnants of the Marian party; he had reinstated the senate in its privileges, abased the tribunate, checked the power of the knights, and still swayed public opinion by a rule of terror. In his twenty-seventh year, Cicero, by defending S. Roscius Amerinus, [4] exposed himself to the dictator's wrath. Roscius, whose accuser was Sulla's powerful freedman Chrysogonus, was, though innocent, in imminent danger of conviction, but Cicero's staunch courage and irresistible eloquence procured his acquittal. The effect of this speech was instantaneous; the young aspirant was at once ranked among the great orators of the day.

In this speech we see Cicero espousing the popular side. The change which afterwards took place in his political conduct may perhaps be explained by his strong hatred on the one hand for personal domination, and by his enthusiasm on the other for the great traditions of the past. Averse by nature to all extremes, and ever disposed towards the weaker cause, he became a vacillating statesman, because his genius was literary not political, and because (being a scrupulously conscientious man, and without the inheritance of a family political creed to guide him) he found it hard to judge on which side right lay. The three crises of his life, his defence of Roscius, his contest with Catiline, and his resistance to Antony, were precisely the three occasions when no such doubts were possible, and on all these the conduct of Cicero, as well as his genius, shines with its brightest lustre. To the speech for Roscius, his first and therefore his boldest effort, he always looked back with justifiable pride, and drew from it perhaps in after life a spur to meet greater dangers, greater because experience enabled him to foresee them. [5]

About this time Cicero's health began to fail from too constant study and over severe exertions in pleading. The tremendous calls on a Roman orator's physique must have prevented any but robust men from attaining eminence. The place where he spoke, girt as it was with the proudest monuments of imperial dominion, the assembled multitudes, the magnitude of the political issues on which in reality nearly every criminal trial turned, all these roused the spirit of the speaker to its utmost tension, and awoke a corresponding vehemence of action and voice.

Cicero therefore retired to Athens, where he spent six months studying philosophy with Antiochus the Academic, and with Zeno and Phaedrus who were both Epicureans. His brother Quintus and his friend Atticus were fellow-students with him. He next travelled in Asia Minor, seeking the help and advice of all the celebrated rhetoricians he met, as Menippus of Stratonice, Dionysius of Magnesia, Aeschylus of Cnidos, Xenocles of Adramyttium. At Rhodes he again placed himself under Molo, whose wise counsel checked the Asiatic exuberance which to his latest years Cicero could never quite discard; and after an absence of over two years he returned home thoroughly restored in health, and steadily determined to win his place as the greatest orator of Rome (76 B.C.). Meanwhile Sulla had died, and Cicero no longer incurred danger by expressing his views. He soon after defended the great comedian Roscius [6] on a charge of fraud in a civil speech still extant, and apparently towards the end of the same year was married to Terentia, a lady of high birth, with whom he lived for upwards of thirty years.

In 75 B.C. Cicero was elected quaestor, and obtained the province of Sicily under the Praetor Sextus Peducaeus. While there he conciliated good will by his integrity and kindness, and on his departure was loaded with honours by the grateful provincials. But he saw the necessity of remaining in Rome for the future, if he wished to become known; consequently he took a house near the forum, and applied himself unremittingly to the calls of his profession. He was now placed on the list of senators, and in the year 70 appeared as a candidate for the aedileship. The only oration we know of during the intervening years is that for Tullius [7] (71 B.C.); but many cases of importance must have been pleaded by him, since in the preliminary speech by which he secured the conduct of the case against Verres, [8] he triumphantly brings himself forward as the only man whose tried capacity and unfailing success makes him a match for Hortensius, who is retained on the other side. This year is memorable for the impeachment of Verres, the only instance almost where Cicero acted as public prosecutor, his kindly nature being apter to defend than to accuse; but on this occasion he burned with righteous indignation, and spared no labour or expense to ransack Sicily for evidence of the infamous praetor's guilt.

Cicero was tied to the Sicilians, whom he called his clients, by acts of mutual kindness, and he now stood forth to avenge them with a good will. The friends of Verres tried to procure a Praevaricatio, or sham accusation, conducted by a friend of the defendant, but Cicero stopped this by his brilliant and withering invective on Caecilius, the unlucky candidate for this dishonourable office. The judges, who were all senators, could not but award the prosecution to Cicero, who, determined to obtain a conviction, conducted it with the utmost despatch. Waiving his right to speak, and bringing on the witnesses contrary to custom at the outset of the trial, he produced evidence so crushing that Verres absconded, and the splendid orations which remain [9] had no occasion to be, and never were, delivered. It was Cicero's justifiable boast that he obtained all the offices of state in the first year in which he could by law hold them. In 69 B.C. he was elected at the head of the poll as Curule Aedile, a post of no special dignity, something between that of a mayor and a commissioner of works, but admitting a liberal expenditure on the public shows, and so useful towards acquiring the popularity necessary for one who aspired to the consulship. To this year are to be referred the extant speeches for Fonteius [10] and Caecina, [11] and perhaps the lost ones for Matridius [12] and Oppius. [13] Cicero contrived without any great expenditure to make his aedileship a success. The people were well disposed to him, and regarded him as their most brilliant representative.

The next year (68 B.C.) is important for the historian as that in which begins Cicero's Correspondence—a mine of information more trustworthy than anything else in the whole range of antiquity, and of exquisite Latinity, and in style unsurpassed and unsurpassable. The wealth that had flowed in from various sources, such as bequests, presents from foreign potentates or grateful clients at home, loans probably from the same source, to which we must add his wife's considerable dowry, he proceeded to expend in erecting a villa at Tusculum. Such villas were the fairest ornaments of Italy, “ ocelli Italiae,” as Cicero calls them, and their splendour may be inferred from the descriptions of Varro and Pliny. Cicero's, however, though it contained choice works of art and many rare books, could not challenge comparison with those of great nobles such as Catulus, Lucullus, or Crassus, but it was tastefully laid out so as to resemble in miniature the Academy of Athens, where several of his happiest hours had been spent, and to which in thought he often returned. Later in life he purchased other country-seats at Antium, Asturia, Sinuessa, Arpinum, Formiae, Cumae, Puteoli, and Pompeii; but the Tusculan was always his favourite.

In the year 67 Cicero stood for the praetorship, the election to which was twice put off, owing to the disturbances connected with Gabinius' motion for giving the command of the Mediterranean to Pompey, and that of Otho for assigning separate seats in the theatre to the knights. But the third election ratified the results of the two previous ones, and brought in Cicero with a large majority as Praetor Urbanusover the heads of seven, some of them very distinguished, competitors. He entered on his office 66 B.C. and signalised himself by his high conduct as a judge; but this did not, however, prevent him from exercising his profession as an advocate, for in this year he defended Fundanius [14] in a speech now lost, and Cluentius [15] (who was accused of poisoning) in an extremely long and complicated argument, one of the most difficult, but from the light it throws on the depraved morals of the time one of the most important of all his speeches. Another oration belonging to this year, and the first political harangue which Cicero delivered, was that in favour of the Manilian law, [16] which conferred on Pompey the conduct of the war against Mithridates. The bill was highly popular; Caesar openly favoured it, and Cicero had no difficulty in carrying the entire assembly with him. It is a singularly happy effort of his eloquence, and contains a noble panegyric on Pompey, the more admirable because there was no personal motive behind it. At the expiration of his praetorian year he had the option of a province, which was a means of acquiring wealth eagerly coveted by the ambitious; but Cicero felt the necessity of remaining at Rome too strongly to be tempted by such a bribe. “Out of sight, out of mind,” was nowhere so true as at Rome. If he remained away a year, who could tell whether his chance for the Consulship might not be irretrievably compromised?

In the following year (65 B.C.) he announced himself as a candidate for this, the great object of his ambition, and received from his brother some most valuable suggestions in the essay or letter known as De Petitione Consulatus. This manual (for so it might be called) of electioneering tactics, gives a curious insight into the customs of the time, and in union with many shrewd and pertinent remarks, contains independent testimony to the evil characters of Antony and Catiline. But Cicero relied more on his eloquence than on the arts of canvassing. It was at this juncture that he defended the ex-tribune Cornelius, [17] who had been accused of maiestas, with such surpassing skill as to draw forth from Quintilian a special tribute of praise. This speech is unfortunately lost. His speech in the white gown, [18] of which a few fragments are preserved by Asconius, was delivered the following year, only a few days before the election, to support the senatorial measure for checking corrupt canvassing. When the comitia were held, Cicero was elected by a unanimous vote, a fact which reflects credit upon those who gave it. For the candidate to whom they did honour had no claims of birth, or wealth, or military glory; he had never flattered them, never bribed them; his sole title to their favour was his splendid genius, his unsullied character, and his defence of their rights whenever right was on their side. The only trial at which Cicero pleaded during this year was that of Q. Gellius, [19] in which he was successful.

The beginning of his consulship (63 B.C.) was signalised by three great oratorical displays, viz. the speeches against the agrarian law of Rullus [20] and the extempore speech delivered on behalf of Roscius Otho. The populace on seeing Otho enter the theatre, rose in a body and greeted him with hisses: a tumult ensued; Cicero was sent for; he summoned the people into an adjoining temple, and rebuked them with such sparkling wit as to restore completely their good humour. It is to this triumph of eloquence that Virgil is thought to refer in the magnificent simile (Aen. i. 148):

  “Ac veluti magno in populo cum saepe coorta est 
  Seditio, saevitque animis ignobile volgus; 
  Iamque faces et saxa volant, furor arma ministrat; 
  Tum pietate gravem ac meritis si forte virum quem 
  Aspexere silent arrectisque auribus adstant; 
  Ille regit dictis animos et pectora mulcet.”

The next speech, which still remains to us, is a defence of the senator Rabirius; [21] that on behalf of Calpurnius Piso is lost. [22] But the efforts which make this year forever memorable are the four orations against Catiline. [23] These were almost extemporaneous, and in their trenchant vigour and terrible mastery of invective are unsurpassed except by the second Philippic. In the very heat of the crisis, however, Cicero found time to defend his friend Muraena [2] in a brilliant and jocose speech, which shows the marvellous versatility of the man. That warm Italian nature, open to every gust of feeling, over which impressions came and went like summer clouds, could turn at a moment's notice from the hand-to-hand grapple of a deadly duel to the lightest and most delicate rapier practice of the fencing school.

As soon as Cicero retired from office (62 B.C.) he found enemies ready to accuse him. Metellus the Tribune declared that he had violated the Constitution. Cicero replied to him in a spirited speech, which he alludes to under the name Oratio Metellina, but he felt himself on insecure ground. Catiline was indeed crushed, but the ramifications of the conspiracy extended far and wide. Autronius and Sulla were implicated in it; the former Cicero refused to aid, the latter he defended in a speech which is lost to us. [25] The only other speech of this year is that on behalf of the poet Archias, [26] who had been accused of usurping the rights of a Roman citizen. In the following year (61 B.C.) occurred the scandal about Clodius. This profligate demagogue would have been acquitted on an alibi, had it not been for Cicero's damaging evidence; he nevertheless contrived to procure a final acquittal by the most abominable means, but determined to wreak his vengeance by working Cicero's ruin. To this resolution the personal taunts of the great orator no doubt contributed. We have an account from Cicero's pen of the scenes that took place in the senate during the trial—the invectives poured forth by Clodius and the no less fiery retorts of his opponent. We must not imagine our orator's talent as always finding vent in the lofty strain which we are accustomed to associate with him. On the contrary, his attacks at times were pitched in another key, and he would frequently exchange sarcastic jests in a way that we should regard as incompatible with decency, and almost with self-respect. On one occasion, for instance, he had a skirmish of wit, which was vociferously applauded by an admiring senate: “You have bought a house,” says Clodius. (We quote from Forsyth.) “One would think,” rejoins Cicero, “that you said I had bought a jury.” “They did not believe you on your oath!” exclaims Clodius. “Yes,” retorted Cicero, “twenty-five of the jury did believe me, but thirty-one did not believe you, for they took care to get their money beforehand!” These and similar pleasantries, however they may have tickled the ears of the senate, awoke in Clodius an implacable hatred, which could only be satisfied with Cicero's fall; and the better to strike at him he made an attempt (unsuccessful at first, but carried out somewhat later) to be made a plebeian and elected tribune of the people (60 B.C.).

Meanwhile Cicero had returned to his profession, and defended Scipio Nasica; [27] he had also composed a history of his consulship in Greek, on which (to use his own expression) he had emptied all the scent-boxes of Isocrates, and touched it lightly with the brush of Aristotle; moreover, he collected into one volume the speeches he had delivered as consul under the title of Consular Orations. [28] At this time the coalition known as the First Triumvirate was formed, and Cicero, disgusted at its unscrupulous conduct, left Rome for his Tusculan villa, where he meditated writing a work on universal geography. Soon, however, impatient of retirement, he returned to Rome, defended A. Themius [29] twice, and both times successfully, and afterwards, aided by Hortensius (with whose party he had now allied himself), L. Valerius Flaccus (59 B.C.). [30]

But Clodius's vengeance was by this time imminent, and Pompey's assurances did not quiet Cicero's mind. He retired for some months to his Antian villa, and announced his intention of publishing a collection of anecdotes of contemporary statesmen, in the style of Theopompus, which would be, if we possessed it, an extremely valuable work. On his return to Rome (58 B.C.) he found the feeling strongly against him, and a bill of Clodius's was passed, interdicting him from fire and water, confiscating his property, and outlawing his person. The pusillanimity he shows in his exile exceeds even the measure of what we could have believed. It must be remembered that the love of country was a passion with the ancients, to a degree now difficult to realise; and exile from it, even for a time, was felt to be an intolerable evil. But Cicero's exile did not last long; in August of the following year (57 B.C.) he was recalled with no dissentient voice but that of Clodius, and at once hastened to Rome, where he addressed the senate and people in terms of extravagant compliment. These are the line speeches “on his return,” [31] in the first of which he thanks the senate, and in the second the people; in the third he addresses the pontiffs, trying to persuade them that he has a right to reclaim the site of his house, [32] in the fourth [33] which was delivered early the next year, he rings the changes on the same subject.

The next year (56 B.C.) is signalised by several important speeches. Whatever we may think of his political conduct during this trying period, his professional activity was most remarkable. He defended L. Bestia [34] (who was accused of electoral corruption when candidate for the praetorship) but unsuccessfully; and also P. Sextius, [35] on a charge of bribery and illegal violence, in which he was supported by Hortensius. Soon after we find him in the country in correspondence with Lucceius, on the subject of the history of his consulship; but he soon returned to Rome and before the year ended delivered his fine speech on the consular provinces, [36] in which he opposed the curtailment of Caesar's command in Gaul; and also that on behalf of Coelius, [37] a lively and elegant oration which has been quoted to prove that Cicero was indifferent to purity of morals, because he palliates as an advocate and a friend the youthful indiscretions of his client.

In 55 B.C. he pleaded the cause of Caninius Gallus, [38] in a successful speech now lost, and attacked the ex-consul Piso [39] (who had long roused his resentment) in terms of the most unmeasured and unworthy invective. Towards the close of the year he completed his great treatise, De Oratore, the most finished and faultless of all his compositions; and so active was his mind at this epoch, that he offered to write a treatise on Britain, if Quintus, who had been there with Caesar, would furnish him with the materials. His own poems, de Consulatu and de Temporibus suis had been completed before this, and, as we learn from the letters, were highly approved by Caesar. Next year (54 B.C.) he defended Plancius [40] and Scaurus, [41] the former of which orations is still extant; and later on, Rabirius Postumus, [42] who was accused, probably with justice, of extortion. This year had witnessed another change in Cicero's policy; he had transferred his allegiance from Pompey to Caesar. In 52 B.C. occurred the celebrated trial of Milo for the murder of Clodius, in which Cicero, who appeared for the defendant, was hampered by the presence of Pompey's armed retainers, and made but a poor speech; the magnificent and exhaustive oratorical display that we possess [43] having been written after Milo's condemnation and sent to him in his exile at Marseilles, where he received it with sarcastic praise. At the close of this year Cicero was appointed to the government of the province of Cilicia, where he conducted himself with an integrity and moderation little known to Roman pro-consuls, and returned in 50 B.C. scarcely richer than he had set out.

During the following years Cicero played a subordinate part. In the great convulsions that were shaking the state men of a different sort were required; men who possessed the first requisite for the statesman, the one thing that Cicero lacked, firmness. Had Cicero been as firm as he was clear-sighted, he might have headed the statesmanship of Rome. But while he saw the drift of affairs he had not courage to act upon his insight; he allowed himself to be made the tool, now of Pompey, now of Caesar, till both were tired of him. “I wish,” said Pompey, when Cicero joined him in Epirus, “that Cicero would go over to the other side; perhaps he would then be afraid of us.” The only speeches we possess of this period were delivered subsequently to the victorious entry of Caesar, and exhibit a prudent but most unworthy adulation. That for Marcellus [44] (46 B.C.) was uttered in the senate, and from its gross flattery of the dictator was long supposed to be spurious; the others on behalf of Ligarius [45] and King Deiotarus [46] are in a scarcely more elevated strain. Cicero was neither satisfied with himself nor with the world; he remained for the most time in retirement, and devoted his energies to other literary labours. But his absence had proved his value. No sooner is Caesar dead than he appears once more at the head of the state, and surpasses all his former efforts in the final contest waged with the brutal and unscrupulous Antony. On the history of this eventful period we shall not touch, but merely notice the fourteen glorious orations called Philippicae [47] (after those of Demosthenes), with which as by a bright halo he encircled the closing period of his life.

The first was delivered in the senate (2d September, 44 B.C.) and in it Cicero, who had been persuaded by Brutus, most fortunately for his glory, to return to Rome, excuses his long absence from affairs, and complains with great boldness of Antony's threatening attitude. This roused the anger of his opponent, who delivered a fierce invective upon Cicero, to which the latter replied by that tremendous outburst of mingled imprecation, abuse, self-justification, and exalted patriotism, which is known as the Second Philippic. This was not published until Antony had left Rome; but it is composed as if it had been delivered immediately after the speech which provoked it. Never in all the history of eloquence has a traitor been so terribly denounced, an enemy so mercilessly scourged. It has always been considered by critics as Cicero's crowning masterpiece. The other Philippics, some of which were uttered in the senate, while others were extempore harangues before the people, were delivered in quick succession between December 44 B.C. and April 43 B.C. They cost the orator his life. When Antony and Octavius entered Rome together, and each sacrificed his friends to the other's bloodthirsty vengeance, Cicero was surrendered by Octavius to Antony's minions. He was apprised of the danger, and for a while thought of escaping, but nobler thoughts prevailed, and he determined to meet his fate, and seal by death a life devoted to his country. The end is well-known; on the 7th of December he was murdered by Popillius Laenas, a man whom he had often befriended, and his head and hands sent to Antony, who nailed them to the rostra, in mockery of the immortal eloquence of which that spot had so often been the scene, and which was now for ever hushed, leaving to posterity the bitter reflection that Freedom had perished, and with her Eloquence, her legitimate and noblest child.

The works of this many-sided genius may be classed under three chief divisions, on each of which we shall offer a few critical remarks; his Orations, his Philosophical and Rhetorical Treatises, and his Correspondence.

Cicero was above all things an Orator. To be the greatest orator of Rome, the equal of Demosthenes, was his supreme desire, and to it all other studies were made subservient. Poetry, history, law, philosophy, were regarded by him only as so many qualifications without which an orator could not be perfect. He could not conceive a great orator except as a great man, nor a good orator except as a good man. The integrity of his public conduct, the purity of his private life, wonderful if contrasted with the standard of those around him, arose in no small degree from the proud consciousness that he who was at the head of Roman eloquence must lead in all respects a higher life than other men. The cherished theory of Quintilian, that a perfect orator would be the best man that earth could produce, is really but a restatement of Cicero's firm belief. His highest faculties, his entire nature, conspired to develop the powers of eloquence that glowed within him; and though to us his philosophical treatises or his letters may be more refreshing or full of richer interest than his speeches, yet it is by these that his great fame has been mainly acquired, and it is these which beyond comparison best display his genius.

Of the eighty or thereabouts which he is known to have composed, fifty- nine are in whole or in part preserved. They enable us to form a complete estimate of his excellences and defects, for they belong to almost every department of eloquence. Some, as we have seen, are deliberative, others judicial, others descriptive, others personal; and while in the two latter classes his talents are nobly conspicuous, the first is as ill-adapted as the second is pre-eminently suitable to his special gifts. As pleader for an accused person, Cicero cannot, we may say could not, be surpassed. It was this exercise of his talent that gave him the deepest pleasure, and sometimes, as he says with noble pride, seemed to lift him almost above the privileges of humanity; for to help the weak, to save the accused from death, is a work worthy of the gods. In invective, notwithstanding his splendid anger against Catiline, Antony, and Piso, he does not appear at his happiest; and the reason is not far to seek. It has often been laid to his reproach that he corresponded and even held friendly intercourse with men whom he holds up at another time to the execration of mankind. Catiline, Antony, Clodius, not to mention other less notorious criminals, had all had friendly relations with him. And even at the very time of his most indignant speeches, we know from his confidential correspondence that he often meditated advances towards the men concerned, which showed at least an indulgent attitude. The truth is, that his character was all sympathy, he had so many points of contact with every human being, he was so full of human feeling, that he could in a moment put himself into each man's position and draw out whatever plea or excuse his conduct admitted. It was not his nature to feel anger long; it evaporates almost in the speaking; he soon returns to the kind and charitable construction which, except for reasons of argument, he was always the foremost to assume. No man who lived was ever more forgiving. And it is this, and not moral blindness or indifference, which explains the glaring inconsistencies of his relations to others. It will follow from this that he was pre-eminently fitted for the oratory of panegyric. And beyond doubt he has succeeded in this difficult department better than any other orator, ancient or modern. Whether he praises his country, its religion, its laws, its citizens, its senate, or its individual magistrates, he does it with enthusiasm, a splendour, a geniality, and an inconceivable richness of felicitous expression which make us love the man as much as we admire his genius. [48]

And here we do not find that apparent want of conviction that so painfully jars on the impression of reality which is the first testimony to an orator's worth. When he praises, he praises with all his heart. When he raises the strain of moral indignation we can almost always beneath the orator's enthusiasm detect the rhetorician's art. We shall have occasion to notice in a future page the distressing loss of power which at a later period this affectation of moral sentiment involved. In Cicero it does not intrude upon the surface, it is only remotely present in the background, and to the Romans themselves no doubt appeared an excellence rather than a defect. Nevertheless, if we compare Cicero with Demosthenes in this respect, we shall at once acknowledge the decisive superiority of the latter, not only in his never pretending to take a lofty tone when he is simply abusing an enemy, but in his immeasurably deeper earnestness when a question of patriotism or moral right calls out his highest powers. Cicero has always an array of common-places ready for any subject; every case which he argues can be shown to involve such issues as the belief in a divine providence, the loyalty to patriotic tradition, the maintenance of the constitution, or the sanctity of family life; and on these well-worn themes he dilates with a magnificent prodigality of pathetic ornament which, while it lends splendour to his style, contrasts most unfavourably with the curt, business-like, and strictly relevant arguments of Demosthenes.

For deliberative eloquence it has been already said that Cicero was not well fitted, since on great questions of state it is not so much the orator's fire or even his arguments that move as the authority which attaches to his person. And in this lofty source of influence Cicero was deficient. It was not by his fiery invective, or his impressive pictures of the peril of the state, that the senate was persuaded to condemn the Catilinarian conspirators to death without a trial; it was the stern authoritative accents of Cato that settled their wavering resolution. Cicero was always applauded; men like Crassus, Pompey, or Caesar, were followed.

Even in his own special department of judicial eloquence Cicero's mind was not able to cope with the great principles of law. Such fundamental questions as “Whether law may be set aside for the purpose of saving the state?” “How far an illegal action which has had good results is justifiable?” questions which concern the statesman and philosopher as much as the jurist, he meets with a superficial and merely popular treatment. Without any firm basis of opinion, either philosophical like Cato's, personal like Caesar's, or traditional like that of the senate, he was compelled to judge questions by the results which he could foresee at the moment, and by the floating popular standard to which, as an advocate, he had naturally turned.

But while denying to Cicero the highest legal attributes, we must not forget that the jury before whom he pleaded demanded eloquence rather than profound knowledge. The orations to which they were accustomed were laid out according to a fixed rhetorical plan, the plan proposed in the treatise to Herennius and in Cicero's own youthful work, the De Inventione. There is the introduction, containing the preliminary statement of the case, and the ethical proof; the body of the speech, the argument, and the peroration addressing itself to the passions of the judge. No better instance is found of this systematic treatment than the speech for Milo, [49] declared by native critics to be faultless, and of which, for the sake of illustration, we give a succinct analysis. It must be remembered that he has a bad case. He commences with a few introductory remarks intended to recommend himself and conciliate his judges, dilating on the special causes which make his address less confident than usual, and claiming their indulgence for it. He then answers certain a priori objections likely to be offered, as that no homicide deserves to live, which is refuted by the legal permission to kill in self-defence; that Milo's act had already been condemned by the senate, which is refuted by the fact that a majority of senators praised it; that Pompey had decided the question of law, which is refuted by his permitting a trial at all, which he would not have done unless a legal defence could be entertained. The objections answered, and a special compliment having been judiciously paid to the presiding judge, he proceeds to the Expositio, or statement of facts. In this particular case they were by no means advantageous; consequently, Cicero shows his art by cloaking them in an involved narration which, while apparently plausible, is in reality based on a suppression of truth. Having rapidly disposed of these, he proceeds to sketch the line of defence with its several successive arguments. He declares himself about to prove that so far from being the aggressor, Milo did but defend himself against a plot laid by Clodius. As this was quite a new light to the jury, their minds must be prepared for it by persuasive grounds of probability. He first shows that Clodius had strong reasons for wishing to be rid of Milo, Milo on the contrary had still stronger ones for not wishing to be rid of Clodius; he next shows that Clodius's life and character had been such as to make assassination a natural act for him to commit, while Milo on the contrary had always refused to commit violence, though he had many times had the power to do so; next, that time and place and circumstances favoured Clodius, but were altogether against Milo, some plausible objections notwithstanding, which he states with consummate art, and then proceeds to demolish; next, that the indifference of the accused to the crimes laid to his charge is surely incompatible with guilt; and lastly, that even if his innocence could not be proved, as it most certainly can, still he might take credit to himself for having done the state a service by destroying one of its worst enemies. And then, in the peroration that follows, he rouses the passions of the judges by a glowing picture of Clodius's guilt, balanced by an equally glowing one of Milo's virtues; he shows that Providence itself had intervened to bring the sinful career of Clodius to an end, and sanctified Milo by making him its instrument, and he concludes with a brilliant avowal of love and admiration for his client, for whose loss, if he is to be condemned, nothing can ever console him. But the judges will not condemn him; they will follow in the path pointed out by heaven, and restore a faithful citizen to that country which longs for his service.—Had Cicero but had the courage to deliver this speech, there can be scarcely any doubt what the result would have been. Neither senate, nor judges, nor people, ever could resist, or ever tried to resist, the impassioned eloquence of their great orator.

In the above speech the argumentative and ethical portions are highly elaborated, but the descriptive and personal are, comparatively speaking, absent. Yet in nothing is Cicero more conspicuous than in his clear and lifelike descriptions. His portraits are photographic. Whether he describes the money-loving Chaerea with his shaven eye-brows and head reeking with cunning and malice; [50] or the insolent Verres, lolling on a litter with eight bearers, like an Asiatic despot, stretched on a bed of rose-leaves; [51] or Vatinius, darting forward to speak, his eyes starting from his head, his neck swollen, and his muscles rigid; [52] or the Gaulish and Greek witnesses, of whom the former swagger erect across the forum, [53] the latter chatter and gesticulate without ever looking up; [54] we see in each case the master's powerful hand. Other descriptions are longer and more ambitious; the confusion of the Catilinarian conspirators after detection; [55] the character of Catiline; [56] the debauchery of Antony in Varro's villa; [57] the scourging and crucifixion of Gavius; [58] the grim old Censor Appius frowning on Clodia his degenerate descendent; [59] the tissue of monstrous crime which fills page after page of theCluentius. [60] These are pictures for all time; they combine the poet's eye with the stern spirit of the moralist. His power of description is equalled by the readiness of his wit. Raillery, banter, sarcasm, jest, irony light and grave, the whole artillery of wit, is always at his command; and though to our taste many of his jokes are coarse, others dull, and others unfair or in bad taste, yet the Romans were never tired of extolling them. These are varied with digressions of a graver cast: philosophical sentiments, patriotic allusions, gentle moralisings, and rare gems of ancient legend, succeed each other in the kaleidoscope of his shifting fancy, whose combinations may appear irregular, but are generally bound together by chains of the most delicate art.

His chief faults are exaggeration, vanity, and an inordinate love of words. The former is at once a conscious rhetorical artifice, and an unconscious effect of his vehement and excitable temperament. It probably did not deceive his hearers any more than it deceives us. His vanity is more deplorable; and the only palliation it admits is the fact that it is a defect which rarely goes with a bad heart. Had Cicero been less vain, he might have been more ambitious; as it was, his ridiculous self-conceit injured no one but himself. His wordiness is of all his faults the most seductive and the most conspicuous, and procured for him even in his lifetime the epithet of Asiatic. He himself was sensible that his periods were overloaded. As has been well said, he leaves nothing to the imagination. [61] Later critics strongly censured him, and both Tacitus and Quintilian think it necessary to assert his pre-eminence. His wealth of illustration chokes the idea, as creepers choke the forest tree; both are beautiful and bright with flowers, but both injure what they adorn.

Nevertheless, if we are to judge his oratory by its effect on those for whom it was intended, and to whom it was addressed; as the vehement, gorgeous, impassioned utterance of an Italian speaking to Italians his countrymen, whom he knew, whom he charmed, whom he mastered; we shall not be able to refuse him a place as equal to the greatest of those whose eloquence has swayed the destinies of the world.

We now turn to consider Cicero as a Philosopher, in which character he was allowed to be the greatest teacher that Rome ever had, and has descended through the Middle Ages to our own time with his authority, indeed, shaken, but his popularity scarcely diminished. We must first observe that philosophy formed no part of his inner and real life. It was only when inactivity in public affairs was forced upon him that he devoted himself to its pursuit. During the agitation of the first triumvirate, he composed the De Republica and De Legibus, and during Caesar's dictatorship and the consulship of Antony, he matured the great works of his old age. But the moment he was able to return with honour to his post, he threw aside philosophy, and devoted himself to politics, thus clearly proving that he regarded it as a solace for leisure or a refuge from misfortune, rather than as the serious business of life. The system that would alone be suitable to such a character would be a sober scepticism, for scepticism in thought corresponds exactly to vacillation in conduct. But though his mind inclined to scepticism, he had aspirations far higher than his intellect or his conduct could attain; in his noblest moments he half rises to the grand Stoic ideal of a self-sufficient and all-wise virtue. But he cannot maintain himself at that height, and in general he takes the view of the Academy that all truth is but a question of more or less probability.

To understand the philosophy of Cicero, it is necessary to remember both his own mental training, and the condition of those for whom he wrote. He himself regarded philosophy as food for eloquence, as one of the chief ingredients of a perfect orator. And his own mind, which by nature and practice had been cast in the oratorical mould, naturally leaned to that system which best admitted of presenting truth under the form of two competing rhetorical demonstrations. His readers, too, would be most attracted by this form of truth. He did not write for the original thinkers, the Catos, the Varros, and the Scaevolas; [62] he wrote for the great mass of intelligent men, men of the world, whom he wished to interest in the lofty problems of which philosophy treats. He therefore above all things strove to make philosophy eloquent. He read for this purpose Plato, Aristotle, and almost all the great masters who ruled the schools in his day; but being on a level with his age and not above it, he naturally turned rather to the thinkers nearest his own time, whose clearer treatment also made them most easily understood. These were chiefly Epicureans, Stoics, and Academicians; and from the different placita of these schools he selected such views as harmonised with his own prepossessions, but neither chained himself down to any special doctrine, nor endeavoured to force any doctrine of his own upon others. In some of his more popular works, as those on political science and on moral duties, [63] he does not employ any strictness of method; but in his more systematic treatises he both recognises and strives to attain a regular process of investigation. We see this in the Topica, the De Finibus, and the Tusculanae Disputationes, in all of which he was greatly assisted by the Academic point of view which strove to reconcile philosophy with the dictates of common sense. A purely speculative ideal such as that of Aristotle or Plato had already ceased to be propounded even by the Greek systems; and Roman philosophy carried to a much more thorough development the practical tendency of the later Greek schools. In the Hortensius, a work unfortunately lost, which he intended to be the introduction to his great philosophical course, he removed the current objections to the study, and showed philosophy to be the only comforter in affliction and the true guide of life. The pursuit of virtue, therefore, being the proper end of wisdom, such speculations only should be pursued as are within the sphere of human knowledge. Nevertheless he is inconsistent with his own programme, for he extends his investigations far beyond the limits of ethics into the loftiest problems which can exercise the human mind. Carried away by the enthusiasm which he has caught from the great Greek sages, he asserts in one place [64] that the search for divine truth is preferable even to the duties of practical life; but that is an isolated statement. His strong Roman instinct calls him back to recognise the paramount claims of daily life; and he is nowhere more himself than when he declares that every one would leave philosophy to take care of herself at the first summons of duty. [65] This subordination of the theoretical to the practical led him to confuse in a rhetorical presentation the several parts of philosophy, and it seeks and finds its justification to a great extent in the endless disputes in which in every department of thought the three chief schools were involved. Physics (as the term was understood in his day) seemed to him the most mysterious and doubtful portion of the whole. A knowledge of the body and its properties is difficult enough; how much more unattainable is a knowledge of such entities as the Deity and the soul! Those who pronounce absolutely on points like these involve themselves in the most inextricable contradictions. While they declare as certainties things that obviously differ in the general credence they meet with, they forget that certainty does not admit of degrees, whereas probability does. How much more reasonable therefore to regard such questions as coming within the sphere of the probable, and varying between the highest and the lowest degrees of probability. [66]

In his moral theory Cicero shows greater decision. He is unwavering in his repudiation of the Epicurean view that virtue and pleasure are one, [67] and generally adheres to that of the other schools, who here agree in declaring that virtue consists in following nature. [68] But here occurs the difficulty as to what place is to be assigned to external goods. At one time he inclines to the lofty view of the Stoic that virtue is in itself sufficient for happiness; at another, struck by its inapplicability to practical life, he thinks this less true than the Peripatetic theory, which takes account of external circumstances, and though considering them as inappreciable when weighed in the balance against virtue, nevertheless admits that within certain limits they are necessary to a complete life. Thus it appears that both in physics and morals he doubted the reality of the great abstract conceptions of reason, and came back to the presentations of sense as at all events the most indisputably probable. This would lead us to infer that he rested upon the senses as the ultimate criterion of truth. But if he adopts them as a criterion at all, he does so with great reservations. He allows the senses indeed the power of judging between sweet and bitter, near and distant, and the like, but he never allows them to determine what is good and what is evil. [69] And similarly he allows the intellect the power of judgment on genera and species, but he does not deny that it sometimes spins out problems which it is wholly unable to solve. [70] Since therefore neither the senses nor the intellect are capable of supplying an infallible criterion, we must reject the Stoic doctrine that there are certain sensations so forcible as to produce an irresistible conviction of their truth. For these philosophers ascribe the full possession of this conviction to the sage alone, and he is not, nor can he be, one of the generality of mankind. Hence Cicero, who writes for these, gives his opinion that there are certain sensuous impressions in which from their permanence and force a man may safely trust, though he cannot assert them to be absolutely true. [71] This liberal and popular doctrine he is aware will be undermined by the absolute scepticism of the New Academy; [72] but he is willing to risk this, and to put his view forward as the best possible approximation to truth.

With these ultimate principles Cicero, in his De Natura Deorum, approaches the questions of the existence of God and of the human soul. The bias of his own nobler nature led him to hold fast these two vital truths, but he is fully aware that in attempting to prove them the Stoics have used arguments which are not convincing. In the Tusculan disputations [73] he acknowledges the necessity of assuming one supreme Creator or Ruler of all things, endued with eternal motion in himself; and he connects this view with the affinity which he everywhere assumes to subsist between the human and divine spirit. With regard to the essence of the human soul he has no clear views; but he strenuously asserts its existence and phenomenal manifestation analogous to those of the Deity, and is disposed to ascribe to it immortality also. [74] Free Will he considers to be a truth of peculiar importance, probably from the practical consideration that on it responsibility and, therefore, morality itself ultimately rest.

From this brief abstract it will be seen that Cicero's speculative beliefs were to a great extent determined by his moral convictions, and by his strong persuasion of the dignity of human nature. This leads him to combat with vigour, and satirise with merciless wit, the Epicurean theory of life; and while his strong common sense forbids him to accept the Stoic doctrine in all its defiant harshness, he strengthens the Peripatetic view, to which he on the whole leans, by introducing elements drawn from it. The peculiar combination which he thus strives to form takes its colour from his own character and from the terms of his native language. The Greeks declare that the beautiful (to kalon ) is good; Cicero declares that the honourable (honestum) alone is good. Where, therefore, the Greeks had spoken of to kalon, and we should speak of moral good, Cicero speaks of honestum, and founds precisely similar arguments upon it. This conception implies, besides self-regarding rectitude, the praise of others and the rewards of glory, and hence is eminently suited to the public-spirited men for whom he wrote. To it is opposed the base (turpe), that disgraceful evil which all good men would avoid. But as his whole moral theory is built on observation as much as on reading or reflection, he never stretches a rule too tight; he makes allowance for overpowering circumstances, for the temper and bent of the individual. Applicable to all who are engaged in an honourable career with the stimulus of success before them, his ethics were especially suited to the noble families of Rome to whom the approval of their conscience was indeed a necessity of happiness, but the approval of those whom they respected was at least equally so.

The list of his philosophical works is interesting and may well be given here. The Paradoxa (written 46 B.C.), [75] explains certain paradoxes of the Stoics. The Consolatio (45 B.C.) was written soon after the death of his daughter Tullia, whom he tenderly loved. It is lost with the exception of a few fragments. The same fate has befallen the Hortensius, which would have been an extremely interesting treatise. The De finibus bonorum et malorum, in five books, was composed in 45 B.C. In the first part M. Manlius Torquatus expounds the Epicurean views, which Cicero confutes (books i. ii.); in the second, Cato acts as champion of the Stoics, who are shown by Cicero to be by no means so exclusive as they profess (books iii. iv.); in the third and last Piso explains the theories of the Academy and the Lyceum. TheAcademica is divided into two editions; the first, called Lucullus, is still extant; the second, dedicated to Varro, exists in a considerable portion. The Tusculan Disputations, Timaeus (now lost), and the De Natura Deorum, were all composed in the same year (45 B.C.). The latter is in the form of a dialogue between Velleius the Epicurean, Balbus the Stoic, and Cotta the Academic, which is supposed to have been held in 77 B.C. The following year were produced Laelius or De Amicitia, De Divinatione, an important essay, De Fato, Cato Major or De Senectute, De Gloria (now lost), De Officiis, an excellent moral treatise addressed to his son, and De Virtutibus, which with the Oeconomics and Protagoras (translations from the Greek), and the De Auguriis (51 B.C.?) complete the list of his strictly philosophical works. Political science is treated by him in the De Republica, of which the first two books remain in a tolerably complete state, the other four only in fragments, [76] and in the De Legibus, of which three books only remain. The former was commenced in the year 54 B.C. but not published until two years later, at which time probably the latter treatise was written, but apparently never published. While in these works the form of dialogue is borrowed from the Greek, the argument is strongly coloured by his patriotic sympathies. He proves that the Roman polity, which fuses in a happy combination the three elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, is the best suited for organic development and external dominion; and he treats many constitutional and legal questions with eloquence and insight. Our loss of the complete text of these books is to be deplored rather on account of the interesting information and numerous allusions they contained, than from their value as an exposition of the principles of law or government. The style is highly elaborated, and its even flow is broken by beautiful quotations from the old poets, especially the Annals of Ennius.

The rhetorical works of Cicero are both numerous and important. A practical science, of which the principles were of a nature intelligible to all, and needed only a clear exposition and the authority of personal experience, was, of all literary subjects, the best suited to bring out the rich qualities of Cicero's mind. Accordingly we find that even in his early manhood he attempted to propound a theory of oratory in the unfinished work De Inventione, or Rhetorica, as it is sometimes called. This was compiled partly from the Greek authorities, partly from the treatise Ad Herennium, which we have noticed under the last period. But he himself was quite conscious of its deficiencies, and alludes to it more than once as an unripe and youthful work. The fruits of his mature judgment were preserved in the De Oratore, a dialogue between some of the great orators of former days, in three books, written 55 B.C. The chief speakers are Crassus and Antonius, and we infer from Cicero's identifying himself with the former's views that he regarded him on the whole as the higher orator. The next work in the series is the invaluable Brutus sive de claris Oratoribus, a vast mine of information on the history of the Roman bar, and the progress of oratorical excellence. The scene is laid in the Tusculan villa, where Cicero meets some of his younger friends shortly after the death of Hortensius. In his criticism of orators, past and present, he pays a touching tribute to the character and splendid talents of his late rival and at the same time intimate friend, and laments, what he foresaw too well, the speedy downfall of Roman eloquence. [77] All these works of his later years are tinged with a deep sadness which lends a special charm to their graceful periods; his political despondency drove him to seek solace in literary thought, but he could not so far lose himself even among his beloved worthies of the past as to throw off the cloud of gloom that softened but did not obscure his genius. The Orator ad M. Brutum is intended to give us his ideal of what a perfect orator should be; its treatment is brilliant but imperfect. The Partitiones Oratoriae, or Catechism of the Art of Oratory, in questions and answers, belongs to the educational sphere; and, after the example of Cato's books, is addressed to his son. The Topica, written in 44 B.C., contains an account of the invention of arguments, and belongs partly to logic, partly to rhetoric. The last work of this class is the De Optimo Genere Oratorum, which stands as a preface to the crown speeches of Demosthenes and Aeschines, which Cicero had translated. The chief interest consists in the discussion it raises on the comparative merits of the Attic and Asiatic styles.

In all these works there reigns throughout a magnificence of language and a calm grandeur of tone well befitting the literary representative of the “assembly of kings.” Nowhere perhaps in all literature can be found compositions in which so many sources of permanent attraction meet; dignity, sweetness, an inexpressible and majestic eloquence, drawing the reader along until he seems lost in a sea of grand language and lofty thoughts, and at the same time a sympathetic human feeling, a genial desire to persuade, a patient perseverance in illustration, an inimitable clearness of expression; admirable qualities, whose rich harmonious combination is perhaps incompatible with the profoundest philosophic wisdom, but which have raised Cicero to take the lead among those great popular teachers who have expressed, and by expressing furthered, the growing enlightenment of mankind.

The letters of Cicero are among the most interesting remains of antiquity. The ancients paid more attention to letter-writing than we do; they thought their friends as worthy as the public of well-weighed expressions and a careful style. But no other writer who has come down to us can be compared with Cicero, for the grace, the naturalness, and the unreserve of his communications. Seneca and Pliny, Walpole and Pope, wrote for the world, not for their correspondents. Among the moderns Mme. de Sevigne approaches most nearly to the excellences of Cicero.

In the days when newspapers were unknown a Roman provincial governor depended for information solely upon private letters. It was of the utmost importance that he should hear from the capital and be able to convey his own messages to it. Yet, unless he was able to maintain couriers of his own, it was almost impossible to send or receive news. In such cases he had to depend on the fidelity of chance messengers, a precarious ground of confidence. We find that all the great nobles retained in their service one or more of these tabellarii. Cicero was often disquieted by the thought that his letters might have miscarried; at times he dared not write at all, so great was the risk of accident or foul play.

Letters were sometimes written on parchment with a reed [78] dipped in ink, [79] but far more frequently on waxen tablets with the stilus. Wax was preferred to other material, as admitting a swifter hand and an easier erasure. When Cicero wrote, his ideas came so fast that his handwriting became illegible. His brother more than once complains of this defect. We hear of his writing three letters to Atticus in one day. Familiar missives like these were penned at any spare moment during the day's business, at the senate during a dull speech, at the forum when witnesses were being examined, at the bath, or oftener still between the courses at dinner. Thrown off in a moment while the impression that dictated them was still fresh, they bear witness to every changing mood, and lay bare the inmost soul of the writer. But, as a rule, few Romans were at the pains to write their letters with their own hand. They delegated this mechanical process to slaves. [80] It seems strange that nothing similar to our running hand should have been invented among them. Perhaps it was owing to the abundance of these humble aids to labour. From the constant use of amanuenses it often resulted that no direct evidence of authorship existed beyond the appended seal. When Antony read before the senate a private letter from Cicero, the orator replied, “What madness it is to bring forward as a witness against me a letter of which I might with perfect impunity deny the genuineness.” The seal, stamped with the signet-ring, was of wax, and laid over the fastening of the thread which bound the tablets together. Hence the many ingenious devices for obliterating, softening, or imitating the impression, which are so often alluded to by orators and satirists.

Many of the more important letters, such as Cicero's to Lentulus, that of Quintus to Cicero, &c. were political pamphlets, which, after they had done their work, were often published, and met with a ready sale. It is impossible to ascertain approximately the amount of copying that went on in Rome, but it was probably far less than is generally supposed. There is nothing so cramping to the inventive faculty as the existence of slave labour. How else can we account for the absence of any machinery for multiplying copies of documents, an inconvenience which, in the case of the acta diurna, as well as of important letters, must have been keenly felt? Even shorthand and cipher, though known, were rarely practised. Caesar, [81] however, used them; but in many points he was beyond his age. In America, where labour is refractory, mechanical substitutes for it are daily being invented. A calculating machine, and a writing machine, which not only multiplies but forms the original copy, are inventions so simple as to indicate that it was want of enterprise rather than of ingenuity which, made the Romans content with such an imperfect apparatus.

To write a letter well one must have the desire to please. This Cicero possessed to an almost feminine extent. He thirsted for the approbation of the good, and when he could not get that he put up with the applause of the many. And thus his letters are full of that heartiness and vigour which comes from the determination to do everything he tries to do well. They have besides the most perfect and unmistakable reality. Every foible is confessed; every passing thought, even such as one would rather not confess even to oneself, is revealed and recorded to his friend. It is from these letters to a great extent that Cicero has been so severely judged. He stands, say his critics, self-condemned. This is true; but it is equally true that the ingenuity which pieces together a mosaic out of these scattered fragments of evidence, and labels it the character of Cicero, is altogether misapplied. One man may reveal everything; another may reveal nothing; our opinion in either case must be based on the inferences of common sense and experience of the world, for neither of such persons is a witness to be trusted. Weakness and inconsistency are visible indeed in all Cicero's letters; but who can imagine Caesar or Crassus writing such letters at all? The perfect unreserve which gives them their charm and their value for us is also the highest possible testimony to the uprightness of their author.

The collection comprises a great variety of subjects and a considerable number of correspondents. The most important are those to Atticus, which were already published in the time of Nepos. Other large volumes existed, of which only one, that entitled ad Familiares has come down entire to us. Like the volume to Atticus, it consists of sixteen books, extending from the year after his consulship until that of his death. The collection was made by Tiro, Cicero's freedman, after his death, and was perhaps the earliest of the series. A small collection of letters to his brother (ad Quintum Fratrem), in six books, still remains, and a correspondence between Cicero and Brutus in two books. The former were written between the years 60 and 54 B.C. the latter in the period subsequent to the death of Caesar. The letters to Atticus give us information on all sorts of topics, political, pecuniary, personal, literary. Everything that occupied Cicero's mind is spoken of with freedom, for Atticus, though cold and prudent, had the rare gift of drawing others out. This quality, as well as his prudence, is attested by Cornelius Nepos; and we observe that when he advised Cicero his counsel was almost always wise and right. He sustained him in his adversity, when heart-broken and helpless he contemplated, but lacked courage to commit suicide; and he sympathised with his success, as well as aided him in a more tangible sense with the resources of his vast fortune. Among the many things discussed in the letters we are struck by the total absence of the philosophical and religious questions which in other places he describes as his greatest delight. Religion, as we understand it, had no place in his heart. If we did not possess the letters, if we judged only by his dialogues and his orations, we should have imagined him deeply interested in all that concerned the national faith; but we see that in his genuine moments he never gave it a thought. Politics, letters, art, his own fame, and the success of his party, such are the points on which he loves to dwell. But he is also most communicative on domestic matters, and shows the tenderest family feeling. To his wife, until the unhappy period of his divorce, to his brother, to his unworthy son, but above all to his daughter, his belovedTulliola, he pours forth, all the warmth of a deep affection; and even his freedman Tiro comes in for a share of kindly banter which shows the friendly footing on which the great man and his dependant stood. Cicero was of all men the most humane. While accepting slavery as an institution of his ancestors, he did all he could to make its burden lighter; he conversed with his slaves, assisted them, mourned their death, and, in a word, treated them as human beings. We learn from the letters that in this matter, and in another of equal importance, the gladiatorial shows, Cicero was far ahead of the feeling of his time. When he listened to his heart, it always led him right. And if it led him above all things to repose complete confidence on his one intimate friend, that only draws us to him the more; he felt like Bacon that a crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk is but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love.

It only remains very shortly to mention his poetry. He himself knew that he had not the poetic afflatus, but his immense facility of style which made it as easy for him to write in verse as in prose, and his desire to rival the Greeks in every department of composition, tempted him to essay his wings in various flights of song. We have mentioned his poem on Marius and those on his consulship and times, which pleased himself best and drew forth from others the greatest ridicule. He wrote also versions from the Iliad, of which he quotes several in various works; heroic poems called Halcyone and Cimon, an elegy calledTamelastis, [82] a Libellus iocularis, about which we have no certain information, and various epigrams to Tiro, Caninius, and others. It will he necessary to refer to some of these works on a future page. We shall therefore pass them by here, and conclude the chapter with a short notice of the principal orators who were younger contemporaries of Cicero.

COELIUS, with whom Cicero was often brought into relations, was a quick, polished, and sometimes lofty speaker; [83] CALIDIUS a delicate and harmonious one. On one occasion when Calidius was accusing a man of conspiring against his life, he pleaded with such smoothness and languor, that Cicero, who was for the defence, at once gained his cause by the argumentum ad hominem. Tu istuc M. Calidi nisi fingeres sic ageres? praesertim cum ista eloquentia alienorum hominum pericula defendere acerrime soleas, tuum negligeres? Ubi dolor? ubi ardor animi, qui etiam ex infantium ingeniis elicere voces et querelas solet? Nulla perturbatio animi, nulla corporis: frons non percussa, non femur; pedis, quod minimum est, nulla supplosio. Itaque tantum abfuit ut imflammares animos nostros, somnum isto loco vix tenebamus. [84] CURIO he describes as bold and flowing; CALVUS from affectation of Attic purity, as cold, cautious, and jejune. His dry, sententious style, to which BRUTUS also inclined, was a reaction from the splendour of Cicero, a splendour which men like these could never hope to reach; and perhaps it was better that they should reject all ornament rather than misapply it. It seems that after Cicero oratory had lost the fountain of its life; he responded so perfectly to the exigencies of the popular taste and the possibilities of the time, that after him no new theory of eloquence could be produced, while to improve upon his practice was evidently hopeless. Thus the reaction that comes after literary perfection conspired with the dawn of freedom to make Cicero the last as well as the greatest of those who deserved the name of orator; and we acknowledge the justice of the poet's epigram, [85] questioned as it was at the time.