Page:Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) - Volume 1.djvu/733

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

CICERO. 715

and overawe Clodius, who was now no longer disposed to be a mere instrument in their hands, but, breaking loose from all restraint, had already given symptoms of open rebellion. Their original purpose was fully accomplished. Although the return of Cicero was glorious, so glorious that he and others may for a moment have dreamed that he was once more all that he had ever been, yet he himself and those around him soon became sensible that his position was entirely changed, that his spirit was broken, and his self-respect destroyed. After a few feeble ineffectual struggles, he was forced quietly to yield to a power which he no longer dared to resist, and was unable to modify or guide. Nor were his masters content with simple acquiescence in their transactions; they demanded positive demonstrations on their behalf. To this degradation he was weak enough to submit, consenting to praise in his writings those proceedings which he had once openly and loudly condemned (ad Att. iv. 5), uttering sentiments in public totally inconsistent with his principles (ad Att. iv. 6), professing friendship for those whom he hated and despised (ad Fam. i. 9), and defending in the senate and at the bar men who had not only distinguished themselves as his bitter foes, but on whom he had previously lavished every term of abuse which an imagination fertile in invective could suggest. (Ad Fam. vii. 1, v. 8.)

Such was the course of his life for five years (в. с. 57-52), a period during the whole of which he kept up warm social intercourse with the members of the triumvirate, especially Pompey, who remained constantly at Rome, and received all outward marks of high consideration. A large portion of his time was occupied by the business of pleading; but being latterly in a great measure released from all concern or anxiety regarding public affairs, he lived much in the country, and found leisure to compose his two great political works, the De Republica and the De Legibus.

After the death of Crassus (в. с. 53) he was admitted a member of the college of augurs, and towards the end of в. с. 52, at the very moment when his presence might have been of importance in preventing an open rupture between Pompey and Caesar, he was withdrawn altogether from Italy, and a new field opened up for the exercise of his talents, an office having been thrust upon him which he had hitherto earnestly avoided. In order to put a stop in some degree to the bribery, intrigues, and corruption of every description, for which the Roman magistrates had become so notorious in their anxiety to procure some wealthy government, a law was enacted during the third consulship of Pompey (в. с. 52) ordaining, that no consul or praetor should be permitted to hold a province until five years should have elapsed from the expiration of his office, and that in the meantime governors should be selected by lot from those persons of consular and praetorian rank who had never held any foreign command. To this number Cicero belonged: his name was thrown into the urn, and fortune assigned to him Cilicia, to which were annexed Pisidia, Pamphylia, some districts (of Cappadocia) to the north of mount Taurus, and the island of Cyprus. His feelings and conduct on this occasion present a most striking contrast to those exhibited by his countrymen under like circumstances. Never was an honourable and lucrative appointment bestowed on one less willing to accept it. His appetite for praise seems to have become more craving just in proportion as his real merits had become less and the dignity of his position lowered; but Rome was the only theatre on which he desired to perform a part. From the moment that he quitted the metropolis, his letters are filled with expressions of regret for what he had left behind, and of disgust with the occupations in which he was engaged; every friend and acquaintance is solicited and importuned in turn to use every exertion to prevent the period of his absence from being extended beyond the regular and ordinary space of a single year. It must be confessed that, in addition to the vexatious interruption of all his pursuits and pleasures, the condition of the East was by no means encouraging to a man of peace. The Parthians, emboldened by their signal triumph over Crassus, had invaded Syria; their cavalry was scouring the country up to the very walls of Antioch, and it was generally believed that they intended to force the passes of mount Amanus, and to burst into Asia through Cilicia, which was defended by two weak legions only, a force utterly inadequate to meet the emergency. Happily, the apprehensions thus excited were not realized: the Parthians received a check from Cassius which compelled them in the mean time to retire beyond the Euphrates, and Cicero was left at liberty to make the circuit of his province, and to follow out that system of impartiality, moderation, and self-control which he was resolved should regulate not only his own conduct but that of every member of his retinue. And nobly did he redeem the pledge which he had voluntarily given to his friend Atticus on this head — strictly did he realise in practice the precepts which he had so well laid down in former years for the guidance of his brother. Nothing could be more pure and upright than his administration in every department; and his staff, who at first murmured loudly at a style of procedure which most grievously curtailed their emoluments, were at length shamed into silence. The astonished Greeks, finding themselves listened to with kindness, and justice dispensed with an even hand, breathed nothing but love and gratitude, while the confidence thus inspired enabled Cicero to keep the publicans in good-humour by settling to their satisfaction many complicated disputes, and redressing many grievances which had sprung out of the wretched and oppressive arrangements for the collection of the revenue. Not content with the fame thus acquired in cultivating the arts of peace, Cicero began to thirst after military renown, and, turning to account the preparations made against the Parthians, undertook an expedition against the lawless robber tribes who, dwelling among the mountain fastnesses of the Syrian frontier, were wont to descend whenever an opportunity offered and plunder the surrounding districts. The operations, which were carried on chiefly by his brother Quintus, who was an experienced soldier and one of his legati, were attended with complete success. The barbarians, taken by surprise, could neither escape nor offer any effectual resistance; various clans were forced to submit; many villages of the more obstinate were destroyed; Pindenissus, a strong hill fort of the Eleutherocilices, was stormed on the Saturnalia (в. с. 51), after a protracted siege; many prisoners and much plunder were secured; the general was saluted as imperator by his troops; a despatch was transmitted