Page:Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) - Volume 1.djvu/734

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716 CICERO.

to the senate, in which these achievements were detailed with great pomp; every engine was set to work to procure a flattering decree and supplications in honour of the victory; and Cicero had now the weakness to set his whole heart upon a triumph — a vision which he long cherished with a degree of childish obstinacy which must have exposed him to the mingled pity and derision of all who were spectators of his folly. The following spring (в. с. 50) he again made a progress through the different towns of his province, and as soon as the year of his command was concluded, having received no orders to the contrary, delegated his authority to his quaestor, C. Caelius, and quitted Laodicea on the 30th of July (в. с. 50), having arrived in that city on the 31st of the same month in the preceding year. Returning homewards by Ephesus and Athens, he reached Brundisium in the last week of November, and arrived in the neighbourhood of Rome on the fourth of January (в. с. 49), at the very moment when the civil strife, which had been smouldering so long, burst forth into a blaze of war, but did not enter the city because he still cherished sanguine hopes of being allowed a triumph.

From the middle of December (в. с. 50) to the end of June (в. с. 49) he wrote almost daily to Atticus. The letters which form this series exhibit a most painful and humiliating spectacle of doubt, vacillation, and timidity, together with the utter absence of all singleness of purpose, and an utter want of firmness, either moral or physical. At first, although from habit, prejudice, and conviction disposed to follow Pompey, he seriously debated whether he would not be justified in submitting quietly to Caesar, but soon afterwards accepted from the former the post of inspector of tile Campanian coast, and the task of preparing for its defence, duties which he soon abandoned in disgust. Having quitted the vicinity of Rome on the 17th of January, he spent the greater portion of the two following months at Formiae in a state of miserable restlessness and hesitation; murmuring at the inactivity of the consuls; railing at the policy of Pompey, which he pronounced to be a tissue of blunders; oscillating first to one side and then to the other, according to the passing rumours of the hour; and keeping up an active correspondence all the while with the leaders of both parties, to an extent which caused the circulation of reports little favourable to his honour. Nor were the suspicions thus excited altogether without foundation, for it is perfectly evident that he more than once was on the point of becoming a deserter, and in one epistle (ad Att. viii. 1) he explicitly confesses, that he had embarked in the aristocratical cause sorely against his will, and that he would at once join the crowd who were flocking back to Rome, were it not for the incumbrance of his lictors, thus clinging to the last with pitiable tenacity to the faint and fading prospect of a military pageant, which must in his case have been a mockery. His distress was if possible augmented when Pompey, accompanied by a large number of senators, abandoned Italy; for now arose the question fraught with perplexity, whether he could or ought to stay behind, or was bound to join his friends; and this is debated over and over again in a thousand different shapes, his inteliect being all the while obscured by irresolution and fear. These tortures were raised to a climax by a persenal interview with Caesar, who urged him to return to Rome and act as a mediator, a proposal to which Cicero, who appears, if we can trust his own account, to have comported himself for the moment with considerable boldness and dignity, refused to accede, unless he were permitted to use his own discretion and enjoy full freedom of speech — a stipulation which at once put an end to the conference. At last, after many lingering delays and often renewed procrastination, influenced not so much by any overpowering sense of rectitude or consistency as by his sensitiveness to public opinion, to the " sermo hominum" whose censure he dreaded far more than the reproaches of his own conscience, and impressed also with a strong belief that Caesar must be overwhelmed by the enemies who were closing around him, he finally decided to pass over to Greece, and embarked at Brundisium on the 7th of June (в. с. 49). For the space of nearly a year we know little of his movements; one or two notes only have been preserved, which, combined with an anecdote given by Macrobius (Sat. ii. 3), prove that, during his residence in the camp of Pompey he was in bad health, low spirits, embarrassed by pecuniary difficulties, in the habit of inveighing against everything he heard and saw around him, and of giving way to the deepest despondency. After the battle of Pharsalia (August 9, в. с. 48), at which he was not present, Cato, who had a fleet and a strong body of troops at Dyrrachium, offered them to Cicero as the person best entitled by his rank to assume the command; and upon his refusing to have any further concern with warlike operations, young Pompey and some others of the nobility drew their swords, and, denouncing him as a traitor, were with difficulty restrained from slaying him on the spot. It is impossible to tell whether this narrative, which rests upon the authority of Plutarch, is altogether correct; but it is certain that Cicero regarded the victory of Caesar as absolutely conclusive, and felt persuaded that farther resistance was hopeless. While, therefore, some of his companions in arms retired to Achaia, there to watch the progress of events, and others passed over to Africa and Spain determined to renew the struggle, Cicero chose rather to throw himself at once upon the mercy of the conqueror, and, retracing his steps, landed at Brundisium about the end of November. Here he narrowly escaped being put to death by the legions which arrived from Pharsalia under the orders of M. Antonius, who, although disposed to treat the fugitive with kindness, was with the greatest difficulty prevailed upon to allow him to continue in Italy, having received positive instructions to exclude all the retainers of Pompey except such as had received special permission to return. At Brundisium Cicero remained for ten months until the pleasure of the conqueror could be known, who was busily engaged with the wars which sprung up in Egypt, Pontus, and Africa. During the whole of this time his mind was in a most agitated and unhappy condition. He was conpossible stantly tormented with unavailing remorse on account of the filly of his past conduct in having identified himself with the Pompeians when he might have remained unmolested at home; he was filled with apprehensions as to the manner in which he might be treated by Caesar, whom he had so often offended and so lately deceived; he moreover was visited by secret shame and compunction for having at once given up his associates upon the