Page:Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) - Volume 1.djvu/728

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710 CICERO.

composed, and well-regulated tone. Transcendant natural talents, developed by such elaborate and judicious training under the most celebrated masters, stimulated by burning zeal and sustained by indomitable perseverance, could scarcely fail to command success. His merits were soon discerned and appreciated, the prejudice at first entertained that he was a mere Greekling, an indolent man of letters, was quickly dissipated ; shyness and reserve were speedily dispelled by the warmth of public applause; he forthwith took his station in the foremost rank of judicial orators, and ere long stood alone in acknowledged pre-eminence ; his most formidable rivals, Hortensias, eight years his senior, and C. Aurelius Cotta, now (в. с. 76) canvassing for the consulship, who had long been kings of the bar, having been forced, after a short but sharp contest for supremacy, to yield.

Cicero had now reached the age (of 30) at which the laws permitted him to become candidate for the lowest of the great offices of state, and although comparatively speaking a stranger, and certainly unsupported by any powerful family interest, his reputation and popularity already stood so high, that he was elected (в. с. 76) quaestor by the votes of all the tribes. The lot decided that lie should serve in Sicily under Sex. Peducaeus, praetor of Lilybaeum. During his tenure of office (в. с. 75) he executed with great skill the difficult and delicate task of procuring large additional supplies of corn for the relief of the metropolis, then suffering from a severe dearth, and at the same time displayed so much liberality towards the farmers of the revenue and such courtesy towards private traders, that he excited no jealousy or discontent, while he maintained such strict integrity, rigid impartiality, and disinterested self-denial, in all branches of his administration, that the delighted provincials, little accustomed to the exhibition of these virtues in the person of a Roman magistrate, devised unheard-of honours to testify their gratitude. Some of the leading weaknesses in the character of Cicero, inordinate vanity and a propensity to exaggerate extravagantly the importance of his services, now began to shew themselves, but they had not yet acquired such a mastery over his mind as to prevent him from laughing at the disappointments he encountered. Thus we find him describing with considerable humour in one of his speeches (pro Planc. 26) the exalted idea lie had formed at this period of his own extraordinary merits, of the position which he occupied, and of the profound sensation which his proceedings must have caused at Rome. He imagined that the scene of his duties was, as it were, the stage of the world, and that the gaze of all mankind had been watching his performances ready to condemn or to applaud. Full of the consciousness of this celebrity he landed at Puteoli (в. с. 74), and intense was his mortification when he discovered that even his own acquaintances among the luxurious crowd who thronged that gay coast were absolutely ignorant, not only of what he had been doing, but even of where he had been, a lesson, he tells us, which though severe was most valuable, since it taught him that, while the eyes of his countrymen were bright and acute their ears were dull, and pointed out the necessity of mingling with the people and keeping constantly in their view, of frequenting assiduously all places of general resort, and of admitting visitors and clients to his presence, under any circumstances, and at all hours, however inconvenient or unseasonable.

For upwards of four years after his return to Rome in the beginning of в. с. 74, the life of Cicero presents an entire blank. That he was actively engaged in the courts of law is certain, for he himself informs us, that he was employed in a multitude of causes (Brut. 92), and that his powers had now attained to the full vigour of maturity ; but we know not even the name of one of these orations, except perhaps that, " Pro M. Tullio." some important fragments of which have been recently brought to light. Meanwhile, Lucullus had been pressing the war in the East against Mithridates with great energy and the happiest results; the power of Pompey and of Crassus at home had been steadily increasing, although a bad feeling had sprung up between them in consequence of the events connected with the final suppression of the servile war of Spartacus. They, however, discharged harmoniously the duties of their joint consulship (в. с. 70), and seem to have felt that it was necessary for their interests to control the high aristocratical faction, for by their united exertions the plebeian tribunes recovered the vital privileges of which they had been deprived by Sulla, and the equites were once more admitted to serve as judices on criminal trials, sharing this distinction with the senate and the tribuni aerarii. In this year Cicero became candidate for the aedileship, and the issue of the contest was if possible more triumphant than when he had formerly solicited the suffrage of the people, for he was chosen not only by a majority in every tribe, but carried a greater number of votes than any one of his competitors. A little while before this gratifying demonstration of public approbation, he undertook the management of the most important trial in which he had hitherto been engaged — the impeachment preferred against Verres, for misgovernment and complicated oppression, by the Sicilians, whom he had ruled as praetor of Syracuse for the space of three years. (73-71.) Cicero, who always felt much more inclined to appear in the character of a defender than in the invidious position of an accuser, was prevailed upon to conduct this cause by the earnest entreaties of his provincial friends, who reposed the most perfect confidence in his integrity and good-will, and at the same time were fully alive to the advantage that would be secured to their suit from the local knowledge of their advocate. The most strenuous exertions were now made by Verres, backed by all the interest of the Metelli and other powerful families, to wrest the case out of the hands of Cicero, who, however, defeated the attempt; and, having demanded and been allowed 110 days for the purpose of collecting evidence, instantly set out, accompanied by his cousin Lucius, for Sicily, where he exerted himself so vigorously, that he traversed the whole island in less than two months, and returned attended by all the necessary witnesses and loaded with documents. Another desperate effort was made by Hortensius, now consul-elect, who was counsel for the defendant, to raise up obstacles which might have the effect of delaying the trial until the commencement of the following year, when he counted upon a more favourable judge, a more corrupt jury, and the protection of the chief magistrates; but here again he was defeated by the promptitude