Page:Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) - Volume 1.djvu/732

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

714 CICERO.

Greece, and taking up his residence at Thessalonica, where he was hospitably received by Plancius, quaestor of Macedonia, remained at that place until the end of November, when he removed to Dyrrachium. His correspondence during the whole of this period presents the melancholy picture of a mind crushed and paralyzed by a sudden reverse of fortune. Never did divine philosophy fail more signally in procuring comfort or consolation to her votary. The letters addressed to Terentia, to Atticus, and others, are filled with unmanly wailing, groans, sobs, and tears. He evinces all the desire but wants the physical courage necessary to become a suicide. Even when brighter prospects begin to dawn, when his friends were straining every nerve in his behalf, we find them receiving no judicious counsel from the object of their solicitude, nought save renewed complaints, captious and querulous repinings. For a time indeed his prospects were sufficiently gloomy. Clodius felt no compassion for his fallen foe. The instant that the departure of Cicero became known, a law was presented to and accepted by the tribes, formally pronouncing the banishment of the fugitive, forbidding any one to entertain or harbour him, and denouncing as a public enemy whosoever should take any steps towards procuring his recall. His magnificent mansion on the Palatine, and his elaborately decorated villas at Tusculum and Formiae were at the same time given over to plunder and destruction. But the extravagant and outrageous violence of these measures tended quickly to produce a strong reaction. As early as the beginning of June, in defiance of the laws of Clodius, a movement was made in the senate for the restoration of the exile; and, although this and other subsequent efforts in the same year were frustrated by the unfriendly tribunes, still the party of the good waxed daily stronger, and the general feeling became more decided. The new consuls (в. с. 57) and the whole of the new college of tribunes, led on by Milo, took up the cause; but great delay was occasioned by formidable riots attended with fearful loss of life, until at length the senate, with the full approbation of Pompey, who, to give greater weight to his words, read a speech which he had prepared and written out for the occasion, determined to invite the voters from the different parts of Italy to repair to Rome and assist in carrying a law for the recall of him who had saved his country from ruin, passing at the same time the strongest resolutions against those who should venture under any pretext to interrupt or embarrass the holding of the assembly. Accordingly, on the 4th of August, the bill was submitted to the comitia centuriata, and carried by an overwhelming majority. On the same day Cicero quitted Dyrrachium, and crossed over to Brundisium, where he was met by his wife and daughter. Travelling slowly, he received deputations and congratulatory addresses from all the towns on the line of the Appian way, and having arrived at the city on the 4th of September, a vast multitude poured forth to meet and escort him, forming a sort of triumphal procession as he entered the gates, while the crowd collected in groups on the steps of the temples rent the air with acclamations when he passed through the forum and ascended the capitol, there to render homage and thanks to Jupiter Maximus.

Nothing at first sight can appear more strange and inexplicable than the abrupt downfal of Cicero, when suddenly hurled from a commanding cminence he found himself a helpless and almost friendless outcast; and again, on the other hand, the boundless enthusiasm with which he was greeted on his return by the selfsame populace who had exulted so furiously in his disgrace. A little consideration will enable us, however, to fathom the mystery. From the moment that Cicero laid down his consulship he began to lose ground with all parties. The senate were disgusted by the arrogant assumption of superiority in an upstart stranger ; the equites were displeased because he would not cordially assent to their most unreasonable and unjust demands; the people, whom he had never attempted to flatter or cajole, were by degrees lashed into fury against one who was unceasingly held up before their eyes as the violator of their most sacred privileges. Moreover, the triumvirs, who were the active though secret movers in the whole affair, considered it essential to their designs that he should be humbled and taught the risk and folly of playing an independent part, of seeking to mediate between the conflicting factions, and thus in his own person regulating and controlling all. They therefore gladly availed themselves of the energetic malignity of Clodius, each dealing with their common victim in a manner highly characteristic of the individual. Caesar, who at all times, even under the greatest provocation, entertained a warm regard and even respect for Cicero, with his natural goodness of heart endeavored to withdraw him from the scene of danger, and at the same time to lay him under personal obligations; with this intent he pressed him to become one of his legates: this being declined, he then urged him to accept the post of commissioner for dividing the public lands in Campania; and it was not until he found all his proposals steadfastly rejected that he consented to leave him to his fate. Crassus gave him up at once, without compunction or regret: they had never been cordial friends, had repeatedly quarrelled openly, and their reconciliations had been utterly hollow. The conduct of Pompey, as might have been expected, was a tissue of selfish, cautious, calculating, cold-blooded dissimulation; in spite of the affection and unwavering confidence ever exhibited towards him by Cicero, in spite of the most unequivocal assurances both in public and private of protection and assistance, he quietly deserted him, without a pang, in the moment of greatest need, because it suited his own plans and his own convenience. But soon after the departure of Cicero matters assumed a very different aspect; his value began once more to be felt and his absence to be deplored. The senate could ill afford to lose the most able champion of the aristocracy, who possessed the greater weight from not properly belongings to the order; the knights were touched with remorse on account of their ingratitude towards one whom they identified with themselves, who had often served them well, and might again be often useful; the populace, when the first fervour of angry passion had passed away, began to long for that oratory to which they had been wont to listen with such delight, and to remember the debt they owed to him who had saved their temples, dwellings, and property from destruction; while the triumviri, trusting that the high tone of their adversary would be brought low by this severe lesson, and that he would henceforth be passive, if not a subservient tool, were either to check