Page:EB1911 - Volume 06.djvu/373

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357
CICERO

series of manuals which from their beauty of style have had enduring influence upon mankind.

The most famous of these treatises are the following:—

De Finibus, on the Supreme Good. In Book i. L. Manlius Torquatus explains the Epicurean doctrine, which is refuted in ii. by Cicero. In iii. and iv. M. Porcius Cato sets forth the doctrine of the Stoics which is shown by Cicero to agree with that of Antiochus of Ascalon; in v. M. Pupius Piso explains the views of the Academics and Peripatetics.

Tusculanae Disputationes, so called from Cicero’s villa at Tusculum in which the discussion is supposed to have taken place. The subjects treated are:—in Book i., the nature of death and the reasons for despising it; Book ii., the endurance of pain: Pain is not an evil; Book iii., wisdom makes a man insensible to sorrow; Book iv., wisdom banishes all mental disquietude; Book v., virtue is sufficient to secure happiness. The materials are drawn largely from works of Dicaearchus.

De Deorum Natura.—The dialogue is placed in 77 B.C. In Book i. Velleius attacks other philosophies and explains the system of Epicurus. He is then refuted by Cotta. In Book ii. Balbus, speaking as a Stoic, discusses the existence of the gods, nature, the government of the world and providence. In Book iii. Cotta criticizes the views of Balbus. The statement of the Epicurean doctrine is drawn from the work of Phaedrus Περὶ θεῶν, the criticism of this from Posidonius. The Stoic teaching is derived from Cleanthes, Chrysippus and Zeno, and is criticized from the writings of Carneades and Clitomachus.

De Officiis, addressed to his son Marcus. In this the form of dialogue was not employed. The material is chiefly drawn from Stoic sources, e.g. works of Panaetius in Books i. and ii., of Posidonius and Hecato in Book iii.

The Academica, as they have come down to us, are a conflation from the two editions of this work. They consist of the second book from the first edition, and a portion of the first book from the second edition.

Cato maior, or de Senectute, a dialogue placed in 150 B.C. in which Cato, addressing Scipio and Laelius, set forth the praises of old age. The idea is drawn from Aristo of Chios, and the materials largely derived from Xenophon and Plato.

Laelius, or de Amicitia, a dialogue between Laelius and his sons-in-law, in which he sets forth the theory of friendship, speaking with special reference to the recent death of Scipio. Cicero here draws from a work of Theophrastus on the same subject and from Aristotle.

(iv.) Letters.—Those preserved are (1) ad Familiares, i.-xvi.; (2) ad Atticum, i.-xvi.; (3) ad Quintum, i.-iii., ad Brutum, i.-ii. Some thirty-five other books of letters were known to antiquity, e.g. to Caesar, to Pompey, to Octavian and to his son Marcus.

The collection includes nearly one hundred letters written by other persons. Thus, the eighth Book ad Fam. consists entirely of letters from Caelius to Cicero when in Cilicia. When writing to Atticus Cicero frequently sent copies of letters which he had received. There is a great variety in the style not only of Cicero’s correspondents, but also of Cicero himself. Caelius writes in a breezy, school-boy style; the Latinity of Plancus is Ciceronian in character; the letter of Sulpicius to Cicero on the death of Tullia is a masterpiece of style; Matius writes a most dignified letter justifying his affectionate regard for Caesar’s memory. There is an amazingly indiscreet letter of Quintus to his brother’s freedman, Tiro, in which he says of the consuls-elect, Hirtius and Pansa, that he would hesitate to put one of them in charge of a village on the frontier, and the other in that of the basement of a tavern (Fam. xvi. 27. 2). Several of his correspondents are indifferent stylists. Cato labours to express himself in an awkward and laconic epistle, apologizing for its length. Metellus Celer is very rude, but gives himself away in every word. Antony writes bad Latin, while Cicero himself writes in various styles. We have such a cri de cœur as his few words to one of the conspirators after Caesar’s murder, “I congratulate you. I rejoice for myself. I love you. I watch your interests; I wish for your love and to be informed what you are doing and what is being done” (Fam. vi. 15). When writing to Atticus he eschews all ornamentation, uses short sentences, colloquial idioms, rare diminutives and continually quotes Greek. This use of Greek tags and quotations is also found in letters to other intimate friends, e.g. Paetus and Caelius; also in letters written by other persons, e.g. Cassius to Cicero; Quintus to Tiro, and subsequently in those of Augustus to Tiberius. It is a feature of the colloquial style and often corresponds to the modern use of “slang.” Other letters of Cicero, especially those written to persons with whom he was not quite at his ease or those meant for circulation, are composed in his elaborate style with long periods, parentheses and other devices for obscuring thought. These are throughout rhythmical in character, like his speeches and philosophical works.

We know from Cicero’s own statement (Att. xvi. 5. 5) that he thought of publishing some of his letters during his lifetime. On another occasion he jestingly charges Tiro with wishing to have his own letters included in the “volumes” (Fam. xvi. 17. 1). It is obvious that Cicero could not have meant to publish his private letters to Atticus in which he makes confessions about himself, or those to Quintus in which he sometimes outsteps the limits of brotherly criticism, but was thinking of polished productions such as the letters to Lentulus Spinther or that to Lucceius which he describes as “very pretty” (Att. iv. 6. 4).

It is universally agreed that the letters ad Familiares were published by Tiro, whose hand is revealed by the fact that he suppresses all letters written by himself, and modestly puts at the end those written to him. That Cicero kept copies of his letters, or of many of them, we know from a passage in which, when addressing a friend who had inadvertently torn up a letter from him, he says that there is nothing to grieve about; he has himself a copy at home and can replace the loss (Fam. vii. 25. 1). Tiro may have obtained from Terentia copies of letters written to her. It has been suggested that he may also have edited the letters to Quintus, as he could obtain them from members of the family. The letters ad Familiares were generally quoted in antiquity by books, the title being taken from the first letter, e.g. Cicero ad Varronem epistula Paeti.

While the letters ad Familiares were circulated at once, those to Atticus appear to have been suppressed for a considerable time. Cornelius Nepos (Att. 16) knew of their existence but distinguishes them from the published letters. Asconius (p. 87), writing under Claudius, never quotes them, though, when discussing Cicero’s projected defence of Catiline, he could hardly have failed to do so, if he had known them. The first author who quotes them is Seneca. It is, therefore, probable that they were not published by Atticus himself, who died 32 B.C., though his hand may be seen in the suppression of all letters written by himself, but that they remained in the possession of his family and were not published until about A.D. 60. At that date they could be published without expurgation of any kind, whereas in the letters ad Familiares the editor’s hand is on one occasion (iii. 10. 11) manifest. Cicero is telling Appius, his predecessor in Cilicia, of the measures which he is taking on his behalf. There then follows a lacuna. It is obvious that Tiro thought the passage compromising and struck it out. In the letters to Atticus, on the other hand, we have Cicero’s private journal, his confessions to the director of his conscience, the record of his moods from day to day, without alterations of any kind.

Cicero’s letters are the chief and most reliable source of information for the period. It is due to them that the Romans of the day are living figures to us, and that Cicero, in spite of, or rather in virtue of his frailties, is intensely human and sympathetic. The letters to Atticus abound in the frankest self-revelation, though even in the presence of his confessor his instinct as a pleader makes him try to justify himself. The historical value of the letters, therefore, completely transcends that of Cicero’s other works. It is true that these are full of information. Thus we learn much from the de Legibus regarding the constitutional history of Rome, and much from the Brutus concerning the earlier orators. The speeches abound in details which may be accepted as authentic, either because there is no reason for misrepresentation or on account of their circumstantiality. Thus the Verrines are our chief source of information for the government of the provinces, the system of taxation, the powers of the governor. We hear from them of such interesting details as that the senate annul a judicial decision improperly arrived at by the governor, or that the college of tribunes could consider the status at Rome of a man affected by this decision (Verr. II. ii. 95-100). We have unfolded to us the monstrous system by which the governor could fix upon a remote place