Page:Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) - Volume 1.djvu/736

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718 CICERO.

amidst those scenes of turbulence and revolutionary violence in which his lot was cast. So long as he was contented in his struggle upwards to play a subordinate part, his progress was marked by extraordinary, well-merited, and most honourable success. But when he attempted to secure the highest place, he was rudely thrust down by bolder, more adventurous, and more commanding spirits; when he sought to act as a mediator, he became the tool of each of the rivals in turn; and when, after much and protracted hesitation, he had finally espoused the interests of one, he threw an air of gloom and distrust over the cause by timid despondency and too evident repentance. His want of. firmness in the hour of trial amounted to cowardice; his numerous and glaring inconsistencies destroyed all confidence in his discretion and judgment; his irresolution not unfrequently assumed the aspect of awkward duplicity, and his restless craving vanity exposed him constantly to the snares of insidious flattery, while it covered him with ridicule and contempt. Even his boasted patriotism was of a very doubtful, we might say of a spurious stamp, for his love of country was so mixed up with petty feelings of personal importance, and his hatred of tyranny so inseparably connected in his mind with his own loss of power and consideration, that we can hardly persuade ourselves that the former was the disinterested impulse of a noble heart so much as the prompting of selfishness and vain glory, or that the latter proceeded from a generous devotion to the rights and liberties of his fellow-citizens so much as from the bitter consciousness of being individually depressed and overshadowed by the superior weight and eminence of another. It is vain to undertake the defence of his conduct by ingenious and elaborate reasonings. The whole case is placed clearly before our eyes, and all the common sources of fallacy and unjust judgment in regard to public men are removed. We are not called upon to weigh and scrutinize the evidence of partial or hostile witnesses, whose testimony may be coloured or perverted by the keenness of party spirit. Cicero is his own accuser, and is convicted by his own depositions. The strange confessions contained in his correspondence call for a sentence more severe than we have ventured to pronounce, presenting a most marvellous, memorable, and instructive spectacle of the greatest intellectual strength linked indissolubly to the greatest moral weakness.

Upon his social and domestic relations we can dwell with unmixed pleasure. In the midst of almost universal profligacy he remained uncontaminated; surrounded by corruption, not even malice ever ventured to impeach his integrity. To his dependents he was indulgent and warm-hearted, to his friends affectionate and true, ever ready to assist them in the hour of need with counsel, influence, or purse; somewhat touchy, perhaps, and loud in expressing resentment when offended, but easily appeased, and free from all rancour. In his intercourse with his contemporaries he rose completely above that paltry jealousy by which literary men are so often disgraced, fully and freely acknowledging the merits of his most formidable rivals, — Hortensius and Licinius Calvus, for the former of whom he cherished the warmest regard. Towards the members of his own family he uniformly displayed the deepest attachment. Nothing could be more amiable than the readiness with which he extended his forgiveness to his unworthy nephew and to his brother Quintus, after they had been guilty of the basest and most unnatural treachery and ingratitude; his devotion through life to his daughter Tullia, and his despair upon her death, have already called forth some remarks, and when his son, as he advanced in years, did not fulfil the hopes and expectations of his father, he was notwithstanding treated with the utmost forbearance and liberality. One passage only in the private life of Cicero is obscured by a shade of doubt. The simple fact, that when he became embarrassed by pecuniary difficulties he divorced the mother of his children, to whom he had been united for upwards of thirty years, and soon after married a rich heiress, his own ward, appears at first sight suspicious, if not positively discreditable. But it must be remembered that we are altogether ignorant of the circumstances connected with this transaction. From a series of obscure hints contained in letters to Atticus, we infer that Terentia had been extravagant during the absence of her husband in the camp of Pompey, and that she had made some arrangements with regard to her will which he looked upon as unfair and almost dishonest; in addition to which, we know from other sources that she was a woman of imperious and unyielding temper. On the other hand, the connexion with Publilia could not have been contemplated at the period of the divorce, for we find that his friends were busily employed for some time in looking out for a suitable match, and that, among others, a daughter of Pompey was suggested. Moreover, if the new alliance had been dictated by motives of a purely mercenary nature, more anxiety would have been manifested to retain the advantages which it procured, while on the contrarary we find that it was dissolved very quickly in consequence of the bride having incautiously testified satisfaction at the death of Tullia, of whose influence she may have been jealous, and that Cicero steadily refused to listen to any overtures, although a reconciliation was earnestly desired on the part of the lady.

(Our great authority for the life of Cicero is his own writings, and especially his letters and orations. The most important passages will be found collected in Meierotto, "Ciceronis Vita ex ipsius scriptis excerpta," Berolin. 1783, and in the "Onomasticon Tullianum," which forms an appendix to Orelli's Cicero, Zurich, 1826-1838. Much that is curious and valuable may be collected from the biographies of the orator and his contemporaries by Plutarch, whose statements, however, must always be received with caution. Something may be gleaned from Velleius Paterculus also, and from the books of Appian and of Dion Cassius which belong to this period. These and other ancient testimonies have been diligently arranged in chronological order in the "Historia M. Tullii Ciceronis," by F. Fabricius. Of modern works that of Middleton has attained great celebrity, although it must be regarded as a blind and extravagant panegyric ; some good strictures on his occasional inaccuracies and constant partiality will be found in Tunstall's "Epistola ad Middletonum," Cantab. 1741. and in Colley Cibber's "Character and Conduct of Cicero, London, 1747; but by far the most complete and critical examination of all points relating to Cicero and his times, down to the end of в. с. 56, is contained in the fifth volume of Drumann's "Geschichte