Page:Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) - Volume 1.djvu/735

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CICERO. 717

first turn of fortune; above all, he was haunted by the foreboding that they might after all prove victorious, in which event his fate would have been desperate; and the cup of bitterness was filled by the unnatural treachery of his brother and nephew, who were seeking to recommend themselves to those in power by casting the foulest calumnies and vilest aspersions upon their relative, whom they represented as having seduced them from their duty. This load of misery was, however, lightened by a letter received on the 12th of August (в. с. 47) from Caesar, in which he promised to forget the past, and be the same as he had ever been — a promise which he amply redeemed, for on his arrival in Italy in September, he greeted Cicero with frank cordiality, and treated him ever after with the utmost respect and kindness.

Cicero was now at liberty to follow his own pursuits without interruption, and, accordingly, until the death of Caesar, devoted himself with exclusive assiduity to literary labours, finding consolation in study, but not contentment, for public display and popular applause had long been almost necessary to his existence; and now that the senate, the forum, and the courts of law were silent, or, at all events, no longer presented an arena for free and open discussion, the calm delights of speculative research, for which he was wont to sigh amid the din and hurry of incessant business, seemed monotonous and dull. Posterity, however, has good cause to rejoice that he was driven to seek this relief from distracting recollections; for, during the years в. с. 46, 45, and 44, nearly the whole of his most important works on rhetoric and philosophy, with the exception of the two political treatises named above, were arranged and published. In addition to the pain produced by wounded vanity, mixed with more honourable sorrow arising from the degradation of his country, he was harassed by a succession of domestic annoyances and griefs. Towards the close of в. с. 46, in consequence, it would appear, of some disputes connected with pecuniary transactions, he divorced his wife Terentia, to whom he had been united for upwards of thirty years, and soon after married a young and wealthy maiden, Publilia, his ward, but, as might have been anticipated, found little comfort in this new alliance, which was speedily dissolved. But his great and overpowering affliction was the death of his beloved daughter, Tullia (early in в. с. 45), towards whom he cherished the fondest attachment. Now, as formerly, philosophy afforded no support in the hour of trial; grief for a time seems to have been so violent as almost to affect his intellects, and it was long before he recovered sufficient tranquillity to derive any enjoyment from society or engage with zest in his ordinary occupations. He withdrew to the small wooded island of Astura, on the coast near Antium, where, hiding himself in the thickest groves, he could give way to melancholy thoughts without restraint; gradually he so far recovered as to be able to draw up a treatise on Consolation, in imitation of a piece by Crantor on the same topic, and found relief in devising a variety of plans for a monument in honour of the deceased.

The tumults excited by Antony after the murder of Caesar (в. с. 44) having compelled the leading conspirators to disperse in different directions, Cicero, feeling that his own position was not free from danger, set out upon a journey to Greece with the intention of being absent until the new consuls should have entered upon office, from whose vigour and patriotism he anticipated a happy change. While in the neighbourhood of Rhegium (August 2, в. с. 44), whither he had been driven from the Sicilian coast by a contrary wind, he was persuaded to return in consequence of intelligence that matters were likely to be arranged amicably between Antony and the senate. How bitterly this anticipation was disappointed is sufficiently proved by the tone and contents of the first two Philippics; but the jealousy which had sprung up in Antony towards Octavianus soon induced the former to quit the city, while the latter, commencing that career of dissimulation which he maintained throughout a long and most prosperous life, affected the warmest attachment to the senate, and especially to the person of their leader, who was completely duped by these professions. From the beginning of the year в. с. 43 until the end of April, Cicero was in the height of his glory; within this space the last twelve Philippics were all delivered and listened to with rapturous applause; his activity was unceasing, at one moment encouraging the senate, at another stimulating the people, he hurried from place to place the admired of all, the very hero of the scene; and when at length he announced the result of the battles under the walls of Mutina, he was escorted by crowds to the Capitol, thence to the Rostra, and thence to his own house, with enthusiasm not less eager than was displayed when he had detected and crushed the associates of Catiline. But when the fatal news arrived of the union of Lepidus with Antony (29th May), quickly followed by the defection of Octavianus, and when the latter, marching upon Rome at the head of an armed force, compelled the comitia to elect him consul at the age of 19, it was but too evident that all was lost. The league between the three usurpers was finally concluded on the 27th of November, and the lists of the proscribed finally arranged, among whom Cicero and sixteen others were marked for immediate destruction, and agents forthwith despatched to perpetrate the murders before the victims should take alarm. Although much care had been taken to conceal these proceedings, Cicero was warned of his danger while at his Tusculan villa, instantly set forth for the coast with the purpose of escaping by sea, and actually embarked at Antium, but was driven by stress of weather to Circeii, from whence he coasted along to Formiae, where he landed at his villa, diseased in body and sick at heart, resolving no longer to fly from his fate. The soldiers sent in quest of him were now known to be close at hand, upon which his attendants forced him to enter a litter, and hurried him through the woods towards the shore, distant about a mile from the house. As they were pressing onwards, they were overtaken by their pursuers, and were preparing to defend their master with their lives, but Cicero commanded them to desist, and stretching forward called upon his executioners to strike. They instantly cut off his head and hands, which were conveyed to Rome, and, by the orders of Antony, nailed to the Rostra.

A glance at the various events which form the subject of the above narrative will sufficiently demonstrate, that Cicero was totally destitute of the qualifications which alone could have fitted him to sustain the character of a great independent statesman