A History of Roman Literature - From the Earliest Period to the Death of Marcus Aurelius
by Charles Thomas Cruttwell
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

In Cato's time we hear of SER. FULVIUS and L. COTTA, SCIPIO AFRICANUS and SULPICIUS GALLUS, all of whom were good though not first-rate speakers. A little later LAELIUS and the younger SCIPIO (185-129 B.C.), whose speeches were extant in the time of Cicero [16] and their contemporaries, followed Cato's example and wrote down what they had delivered. It is not clear whether their motive was literary or political, but more probably the latter, as party feeling was so high at Rome that a powerful speech might do good work afterwards as a pamphlet. [17] From the passages of Scipio Aemilianus which we possess, we gather that he strove to base his style on Greek models. In one we find an elaborate dilemma, with a taunting question repeated after each deduction; in another we find Greek terms contemptuously introduced much as they are centuries after in Juvenal; in another we have a truly patrician epigram. Being asked his opinion about the death of Gracchus, and replying that the act was a righteous one, the people raised a shout of defiance,—Taceant, inquit, quibus Italia noverca non mater est, quos ego sub corona vendidi—"Be silent, you to whom Italy is a stepdame not a mother, whom I myself have sold at the hammer of the auctioneer."

Laelius, surnamed Sapiens, or the philosopher (cons. 140), is well known to readers of Cicero as the chief speaker in the exquisite dialogue on friendship, and to readers of Horace as the friend of Scipio and Lucilius. [18] Of his relative excellence as an orator, Cicero speaks with caution. [19] He mentions the popular preference for Laelius, but apparently his own judgment inclines the other way. "It is the manner of men to dislike one man excelling in many things. Now, as Africanus has no rival in martial renown, though Laelius gained credit by his conduct of the war with Viriathus, so as regards genius, learning, eloquence, and wisdom, though both are put in the first rank, yet all men are willing to place Laelius above Scipio." It is certain that Laelius's style was much less natural than that of Scipio. He affected an archaic vocabulary and an absence of ornament, which, however, was a habit too congenial at all times to the Roman mind to call down any severe disapproval. What Laelius lacked was force. On one occasion a murder had been committed in the forest of Sila, which the consuls were ordered to investigate. A company of pitch manufacturers were accused, and Laelius undertook their defence. At its conclusion the consuls decided on a second hearing. A few days after Laelius again pleaded, and this time with an elegance and completeness that left nothing to be desired. Still the consuls were dissatisfied. On the accused begging Laelius to make a third speech, he replied: "Out of consideration for you I have done my best. You should now go to Ser. Galba, who can defend you with greater warmth and vehemence than I." Galba, from respect to Laelius, was unwilling to undertake the case; but, having finally agreed, he spent the short time that was left in getting it by heart, retiring into a vaulted chamber with some highly educated slaves, and remaining at work till after the consuls had taken their seat. Being sent for he at last came out, and, as Rutilius the narrator and eye-witness declared, with such a heightened colour and triumph in his eyes that he looked like one who had already won his cause. Laelius himself was present. The advocate spoke with such force and weight that scarcely an argument passed unapplauded. Not only were the accused released, but they met on all hands with sympathy and compassion. Cicero adds that the slaves who had helped in the consultation came out of it covered with bruises, such was the vigour of body as well as mind that a Roman brought to bear on his case, and on the unfortunate instruments of its preparation. [20]

GALBA (180-136 B.C.?) was a man of violence and bad faith, not for a moment to be compared to Laelius. His infamous cruelty to the Lusitanians, one of the darkest acts in all history, has covered his name with an ineffaceable stain. Cato at eighty-five years of age stood forth as his accuser, but owing to his specious art, and to the disgrace of Rome, he was acquitted. [21] Cicero speaks of him as peringeniosus sed non satis doctus, and says that he lacked perseverance to improve his speeches from a literary point of view, being contented with forensic success. Yet he was the first to apply the right sort of treatment to oratorical art; he introduced digressions for ornament, for pathos, for information; but as he never re-wrote his speeches, they remained unfinished, and were soon forgotten—Hanc igitur ob caussum videtur Laelii mens spirare etiam in scriptis, Galbae autem vis occidisse.

Laelius had embodied in his speeches many of the precepts of the Stoic philosophy. He had been a friend of the celebrated Panaetius (186-126 B.C.) of Rhodes, to whose lectures he sent his own son-in-law, and apparently others too. Eloquence now began to borrow philosophic conceptions; it was no longer merely practical, but admitted of illustration from various theoretical sources. It became the ambition of cultivated men to fuse enlightened ideas into the substance of their oratory. Instances of this are found in SP. MUMMIUS, AEMILIUS LEPIDUS, C. FANNIUS, and the Augur MUCIUS SCAEVOLA, and perhaps, though it is difficult to say, in Carbo and the two Gracchi. These are the next names that claim our notice.

CARBO (164-119 B.C.), the supporter first of the Gracchi, and then of their murderers, was a man of the most worthless character, but a bold speaker, and a successful patron. In his time the quaestiones perpetuae [22] were constituted, and thus he had an immense opportunity of enlarging his forensic experience. He gained the reputation of being the first pleader of his day; he was fluent, witty, and forcible, and was noted for the strength and sweetness of his voice. Tacitus also mentions him with respect in his dialogue de Oratoribus. [23]

The two GRACCHI were no less distinguished as orators than as champions of the oppressed. TIBERIUS (169-133 B.C.) served his first campaign with Scipio in Africa, and was present at the fall of Carthage. His personal friendship for the great soldier was cemented by Scipio's union with his only sister. The father of Gracchus was a man of sterling worth and considerable oratorical gifts; his mother's virtue, dignity, and wisdom are proverbial. Her literary accomplishments were extremely great; she educated her sons in her own studies, and watched their progress with more than a preceptor's care. The short and unhappy career of this virtuous but imprudent man is too well known to need allusion here; his eloquence alone will be shortly noticed. It was formed on a careful study of Greek authors. Among his masters was Diophanes of Mitylene, who dwelt at Rome, and paid the penalty of his life for his friendship for his pupil. Tiberius's character was such as to call for the strongest expressions of reverence even from those who disapproved his political conduct. Cicero speaks of him as homo sanctissimus, and Velleius Paterculus says of him, "vita innocentissimus, ingenio florentissimus, proposito sanctissimus, tantis denique ornatus virtutibus, quantas perfecta et natura et industria mortalis conditio recipit." His appearance formed an epoch in eloquence. "The Gracchi employed a far freer and easier mode of speech than any of their predecessors." [24] This may be accounted for partly through the superiority of their inherited talent and subsequent education, but is due far more to the deep conviction which stirred their heart and kindled their tongue. Cato alone presents the spectacle of a man deeply impressed with a political mission and carrying it into the arena of political conflict, but the inspiration of Gracchus was of a far higher order than that of the harsh censor. It was in its origin moral, depending on the eternal principles of right and wrong, not on the accident of any particular state or party in it. Hence the loftiness of his speech, from which sarcasm and even passion were absent. In estimating the almost ideal character of the enthusiasm which fired him we cannot forget that his mother was the daughter of Scipio, of him who believed himself the special favourite of heaven, and the communicator of divinely sent ideas to the world. Unhappily we have no fragments of the orations of Gracchus; the more brilliant fame of his brother has eclipsed his literary renown, but we may judge of their special features by those of their author's character, and be sure that while lacking in genius they were temperate, earnest, pure, and classical. In fact the Gracchi may he called the founders of classical Latin. That subdued power whose subtle influence penetrates the mind and vanquishes the judgment is unknown in literature before them. Whenever it appears it marks the rise of a high art, it answers to the vis temperata which Horace so warmly commends. The younger son of Cornelia, C. GRACCHUS (154-121 B.C.), was of a different temper from his brother. He was less of the moralist, more of the artist. His feeling was more intense but less profound. His brother's loyalty had been to the state alone; his was given partly to the state, partly to the shade of his brother. In nearly every speech, in season and out of season, he denounced his murder. "Pessimi Tiberium meum fratrem, optimum virum, interfecerunt." Such is the burden of his eloquence. If in Tiberius we see the impressive calmness of reasoned conviction, in Caius we see the splendid impetuosity of chivalrous devotion. And yet Caius was, without doubt, the greater statesman of the two. The measures, into which his brother was as it were forced, were by him well understood and deliberately planned. They amounted to nothing less than a subversion of the existing state. The senate destroyed meant Gracchus sovereign. Under the guise of restoring to the people their supreme power, he paved the way for the long succession of tyrants that followed. His policy mingled patriotism and revenge. The corruption and oppression that everywhere marked the oligarchical rule roused his just indignation; the death of his brother, the death he foresaw in store for himself, stirred him into unholy vengeance. Many of his laws were well directed. The liberal attitude he assumed towards the provinces, his strong desire to satisfy the just claims of the Italians to citizenship, his breaking down the exclusive administration of justice, these are monuments of his far-seeing statesmanship. But his vindictive legislation with regard to Popillius Laenas, and to Octavius (from which, however, his mother's counsel finally deterred him), and above all his creation of the curse of Rome, a hungry and brutal proletariate, by largesses of corn, present his character as a public man in darker colours. As Mommsen says, "Right and wrong, fortune and misfortune, were so inextricably blended in him that it may well beseem history in this case to reserve her judgment." [25] The discord of his character is increased by the story that an inward impulse dissuaded him at first from public life, that agreeably to its monitions he served as Quaestor abroad, and pursued for some years a military career; but after a time his brother's spirit haunted him, and urged him to return to Rome and offer his life upon the altar of the great cause. This was the turning-point of his career. He returned suddenly, and from that day became the enemy of the senate, the avenger of his brother, and the champion of the multitude. His oratory is described as vehement beyond example; so carried away did he become, that he found it necessary to have a slave behind him on the rostra, who, by playing a flute, should recall him to moderation. [26] Cicero, who strongly condemned the man, pays the highest tribute to his genius, saying in the Brutus: "Of the loftiest talent, of the most burning enthusiasm, carefully taught from boyhood, he yields to no man in richness and exuberance of diction." To which Brutus assents, adding, "Of all our predecessors he is the only one whose works I read." Cicero replies, "You do right in reading him; Latin literature has lost irreparably by his early death. I know not whether he would not have stood above every other name. His language is noble, his sentiments profound, his whole style grave. His works lack the finishing touch; many are admirably begun, few are thoroughly complete. He of all speakers is the one that should be read by the young, for not only is he fit to sharpen talent, but also to feed and nourish a natural gift." [27]

One of the great peculiarities of ancient eloquence was the frequent opportunity afforded for self-recommendation or self-praise. That good taste or modesty which shrinks from mentioning its own merits was far less cultivated in antiquity than now. Men accepted the principle not only of acting but of speaking for their own advantage. This gave greater zest to a debate on public questions, and certainly sharpened the orator's powers. If a man had benefited the state he was not ashamed to blazon it forth; if another in injuring the state had injured him, he did not altogether sacrifice personal invective to patriotic indignation. [28] The frequency of accusations made this "art of self-defence" a necessity—and there can be no doubt the Roman people listened with admiration to one who was at once bold and skilful enough to sound his own praises well. Cicero's excessive vanity led him to overdo his part, and to nauseate at times even well-disposed hearers. From the fragments of Gracchus' speeches that remain (unhappily very few) we should gather that in asserting himself he was without a rival. The mixture of simplicity and art removes him at once from Cato's bald literalism and Cicero's egotism. It was, however, in impassioned attack that Gracchus rose to his highest tones. The terms Gracchi impetum, [29] tumultuator Gracchus, [30] among the Latin critics, and similar ones from Plutarch and Dio among the Greeks, attest the main character of his eloquence. His very outward form paralleled the restlessness of his soul. He moved up and down, bared his arm, stamped violently, made fierce gestures of defiance, and acted through real emotion as the trained rhetoricians of a later age strove to act by rules of art. His accusation of Piso is said to have contained more maledictions than charges; and we can believe that a temperament so fervid, when once it gave the reins to passion, lost all self-command. It is possible we might think less highly of Gracchus's eloquence than did the ancients, if his speeches remained. Their lack of finish and repose may have been unnoticed by critics who could hurl themselves in thought not merely into the feeling but the very place which he occupied; but to moderns, whose sympathy with a state of things so opposite must needs be imperfect, it is possible that their power might not have compensated for the absence of relief. Important fragments from the speech apud Censores (124 B.C.), from that de legibus a se promulgatis (123 B.C.), and from that de Mithridate (123 B.C.), are given and commented on by Wordsworth.

Among the friends and opponents of the Gracchi were many orators whose names are given by Cicero with the minute care of a sympathising historian; but as few, if any, remains of their speeches exist, it can serve no purpose to recount the list. Three celebrated names may be mentioned as filling up the interval between C. Gracchus and M. Antonius. The first of these is AEMILIUS SCAURUS (163-90? B.C.), the haughty chief of the senate, the unscrupulous leader of the oligarchical party. His oratory is described by Cicero [31] as conspicuous for dignity and a natural but irresistible air of command; so that when he spoke for a defendant, he seemed like one who gave his testimony rather than one who pleaded. This want of flexibility unfitted him for success at the bar; accordingly, we do not find that he was much esteemed as a patron; but for summing up the debates at the Senate, or delivering an opinion on a great public question, none could be more impressive. Speeches of his were extant in Cicero's time; also an autobiography, which, like Caesar's Commentaries, was intended to put his conduct in the most favourable light; these, however, were little read. Scaurus lived to posterity, not in his writings, but in his example of stern constancy to a cause. [32]

A man in many ways resembling him but of purer conduct, was RUTILIUS (158- 78 B.C.), who is said by Cicero to have been a splendid example of many- sided culture. He was a scholar, a philosopher, a jurist of high repute, a historian, and an orator, though the severity of the Stoic sect, to which he adhered, prevented his striving after oratorical excellence. His impeachment for malversation in Asia, and unjust condemnation to banishment, reflect strongly on the formation of the Roman law-courts. His pride, however, was in part the cause of his exile. For had he chosen to employ Antonius or Crassus to defend him, an acquittal would at least have been possible; but conscious of rectitude, he refused any patron, and relied on his own dry and jejune oratory, and such assistance as his young friend Cotta could give. Sulla recalled him from Smyrna, whither he had repaired after his condemnation; but Rutilius refused to return to the city which had unjustly expelled him.

Among the other aristocratic leaders, CATULUS, the "noble colleague" of Marius [33] (cons. 102), must be mentioned. He was not a Stoic, and therefore was free to chose a more ornamental method of speaking than Rutilius. Cicero, with the partiality of a senatorial advocate, gives him very high praise. "He was educated not in the old rough style, but in that of our own day, or something more finished and elegant still. He had a wide acquaintance with literature, the highest courtesy of life and manners as well as of discourse, and a pure stream of genuine Latin eloquence. This is conspicuous in all his works, but most of all, in his autobiography, written to the poet A. Furius, in a style full of soft grace recalling that of Xenophon, but now, unhappily, little, if at all, read. In pleading he was successful but not eminent. When heard alone, he seemed excellent, but when contrasted with a greater rival, his faults at once appeared." His chief virtue seems to have been the purity of his Latin idiom. He neither copied Greek constructions nor affected archaisms, as Rutilius Scaurus, Cotta, and so many others in his own time, and Sallust, Lucretius, and Varro in a later age. [34] The absence of any recognised standard of classical diction made it more difficult than at first appears for an orator to fix on the right medium between affectation and colloquialism.

The era inaugurated by the Gracchi was in the highest degree favourable to eloquence. The disordered state of the Republic, in which party-spirit had banished patriotism and was itself surrendering to armed violence, called for a style of speaking commensurate with the turbulence of public life. Never in the world's history has fierce passion found such exponents in so great a sphere. It is not only the vehemence of their language—that may have been paralleled elsewhere—it is the reality of it that impresses us. The words that denounced an enemy were not idly flung into the forum; they fell among those who had the power and the will to act upon them. He who sent them forth must expect them to ruin either his antagonist or himself. Each man chose his side, with the daggers of the other party before his face. His eloquence, like his sword, was a weapon for life and death. Only in the French Revolution have oratory and assassination thus gone hand in hand. Demosthenes could lash the Athenians into enthusiasm so great that in delight at his eloquence they forgot his advice. "I want you," he said, "not to applaud me, but to march against Philip." [35] There was no danger of the Roman people forgetting action in applause. They rejoiced to hear the orator, but it was that he might impel them to tumultuous activity; he was caterer not for the satisfaction of their ears, but for the employment of their hands. Thus he paid a heavy price for eminence. Few of Rome's greatest orators died in their beds. Carbo put an end to his own life; the two Gracchi, Antonius, Drusus, Cicero himself, perished by the assassin's hand; Crassus was delivered by sudden illness from the same fate. It is not wonderful if with the sword hanging over their heads, Roman orators attain to a vehemence beyond example in other nations. The charm that danger lends to daring is nowhere better shown than in the case of Cicero. Timid by nature, he not only in his speeches hazarded his life, but even when the dagger of Antony was waiting for him, he could not bring himself to flee. With the civil war, however, eloquence was for a time suppressed. Neither argument nor menace could make head against the furious brutality of Marius, or the colder butcheries of Sulla. But the intervening period produced two of the greatest speakers Rome ever saw, both of whom Cicero places at the very summit of their art, between whom he professes himself unable to decide, and about whom he gives the most authentic and copious account. These were the advocates M. ANTONIUS (143-87 B.C.) and M. LICINIUS CRASSUS (140-91 B.C.).

Both of them spoke in the senate and assembly as well as in the courts; and Crassus was perhaps a better political than forensic orator. Nevertheless the criticism of Cicero, from which we gain our chief knowledge, is mainly directed to their forensic qualifications; and it is probable that at the period at which they flourished, the law-courts offered the fullest combination of advantages for bringing out all the merits of a speaker. For the comitia were moved solely by passion or interest; the senate was swayed by party considerations, and was little touched by argument; whereas the courts offered just enough necessity for exact reasoning without at all resisting appeals to popular passion. Of the two kinds of judicia at Rome, the civil cases were little sought after; the public criminal trials being those which the great patroni delighted to undertake. A few words may not be out of place here on the general division of cases, and the jurisdiction of the magistrates, senate, and people, as it is necessary to understand these in order to appreciate the special kind of oratory they developed.

There had been, previously to this period, two praetors in Rome, the Praetor Urbanus, who adjudged cases between citizens in accordance with civil law, and the Praetor Peregrinus, who presided whenever a foreigner or alien was concerned, and judged according to the principles of natural law. Afterwards six praetors were appointed; and in the time of Antonius they judged not only civil but criminal cases, except those concerning the life of a citizen or the welfare of the state, which the people reserved for themselves. It must be remembered that the supreme judicial power was vested in the sovereign people in their comitia; that they delegated it in public matters to the senate, and in general legal cases to the praetor's court, but that in every capital charge a final appeal to them remained. The praetors at an early date handed over their authority to other judges, chosen either from the citizens at large, or from the body of Judices Selecti, who were renewed every year. These subsidiary judges might consist of a single arbiter, of small boards of three, seven, or ten, &c., or of a larger body called the Centum viri, chosen from the thirty- five tribes, who sat all the year, the others being only appointed for the special case. But over their decisions the praetor exercised a superior supervision, and he could annul them on appeal. The authorities on which the praetor based his practice were those of the Twelve Tables and the custom-law; but he had besides this a kind of legislative prerogative of his own. For on coming into office he had to issue an edict, called edictum perpetuum, [36] specifying the principles he intended to guide him in any new cases that might arise. If these were merely a continuation of those of his predecessor, his edict was called tralaticium, or "handed on." But more often they were of an independent character, the result of his knowledge or his prejudices; and too often he departed widely from them in the course of his year of office. It was not until after the time of Crassus and Antonius that a law was passed enforcing consistency in this respect (67 B.C.). Thus it was inevitable that great looseness should prevail in the application of legal principles, from the great variety of supplementary codes (edicta), and the instability of case-law. Moreover, the praetor was seldom a veteran lawyer, but generally a man of moderate experience and ambitious views, who used the praetorship merely as a stepping-stone to the higher offices of state. Hence it was by no means certain that he would be able to appreciate a complicated technical argument, and as a matter of fact the more popular advocates rarely troubled themselves to advance one.

Praetors also generally presided over capital trials, of which the proper jurisdiction lay with the comitia. In Sulla's time their number was increased to ten, and each was chairman of the quaestio which sat on one of the ten chief crimes, extortion, peculation, bribery, treason, coining, forgery, assassination or poisoning, and violence. [37] As assessors he had the quaesitor or chief juror, and a certain number of the Judices Selecti of whom some account has been already given. The prosecutor and defendant had the right of objecting to any member of the list. If more than one accuser offered, it was decided which should act at a preliminary trial called Divinatio. Owing to the desire to win fame by accusations, this occurrence was not unfrequent.

When the day of the trial arrived the prosecutor first spoke, explaining the case and bringing in the evidence. This consisted of the testimony of free citizens voluntarily given; of slaves, wrung from them by torture; and of written documents. The best advocates, as for instance Cicero in his Milo, were not disposed, any more than we should be, to attach much weight to evidence obtained by the rack; but in estimating the other two sources they differed from us. We should give the preference to written documents; the Romans esteemed more highly the declarations of citizens. These offered a grander field for the display of ingenuity and misrepresentation; it is, therefore, in handling these that the celebrated advocates put forth all their skill. The examination of evidence over, the prosecutor put forth his case in a long and elaborate speech; and the accused was then allowed to defend himself. Both were, as a rule, limited in point of time, and sometimes to a period which to us would seem quite inconsistent with justice to the case. Instead of the strict probity and perfect independence which we associate with the highest ministers of the law, the Roman judices were often canvassed, bribed, or intimidated. So flagitious had the practice become, that Cicero mentions a whole bench having been induced by indulgences of the most abominable kind to acquit Clodius, though manifestly guilty. We know also that Pompey and Antony resorted to the practice of packing the forum with hired troops and assassins; and we learn from Cicero that it was the usual plan for provincial governors to extort enough not only to satisfy their own rapacity, but to buy their impunity from the judges. [38]

Under circumstances like these we cannot wonder if strict law was little attended to, and the moral principles that underlay it still less. The chief object was to inflame the prejudices or anger of the jurors; or, still more, to excite their compassion, to serve one's party, or to acquire favour with the leading citizen. For example, it was a rule that men of the same political views should appear on the same side. Cicero and Hortensius, though often opposed, still retained friendly feelings for each other; but when Cicero went over to the senatorial party, the last bar to free intercourse with his rival was removed, since henceforward they were always retained together.

With regard to moving the pity of the judges, many instances of its success are related both in Greece and Rome. The best are those of Galba and Piso, both notorious culprits, but both acquitted; the one for bringing forward his young children, the other for prostrating himself in a shower of rain to kiss the judges' feet and rising up with a countenance bedaubed with mud! Facts like these, and they are innumerable, compel us to believe that the reverence for justice as a sacred thing, so inbred in Christian civilization, was foreign to the people of Rome. It is a gloomy spectacle to see a mighty nation deliberately giving the rein to passion and excitement heedless of the miscarriage of justice. The celebrated law, re-enacted by Gracchus, "That no citizen should be condemned to death without the consent of the people," banished justice from the sphere of reason to that of emotion or caprice. As progress widens emotion necessarily contracts its sphere; the pure light of reason raises her beacon on high. When Antonius, the most successful of advocates, declared that his success was due not to legal knowledge, of which he was destitute, but to his making the judges pleased, first with themselves and then with himself, we may appreciate his honesty; but we gladly acknowledge a state of things as past and gone in which he could wind up an accusation [39] with these words, "If it ever was excusable for the Roman people to give the reins to their just excitement, as without doubt it often has been, there has no case existed in which it was more excusable than now."

Cicero regards the advent of these two men, M. Antonius and Crassus, as analogous to that of Demosthenes and Hyperides at Athens. They first raised Latin eloquence to a height that rivalled that of Greece. But though their merits were so evenly balanced that it was impossible to decide between them, their excellencies were by no means the same. It is evident that Cicero preferred Crassus, for he assigns him the chief place in his dialogue de Oratore, and makes him the vehicle of his own views. Moreover, he was a man of much more varied knowledge than Antonius. An opinion prevailed in Cicero's day that neither of them was familiar with Greek literature. This, however, was a mistake. Both were well read in it. But Antonius desired to be thought ignorant of it; hence he never brought it forward in his speeches. Crassus did not disdain the reputation of a proficient, but he wished to be regarded as despising it. These relics of old Roman narrowness, assumed whether from conviction or, more probably, to please the people, are remarkable at an epoch so comparatively cultured. They show, if proof were wanted, how completely the appearance of Cicero marks a new period in literature, for he is as anxious to popularise his knowledge of Greek letters as his predecessors had been to hide theirs. The advantages of Antony were chiefly native and personal; those of Crassus acquired and artificial. Antony had a ready wit, an impetuous flow of words, not always the best, but good enough for the purpose, a presence of mind and fertility of invention that nothing could quench, a noble person, a wonderful memory, and a sonorous voice the very defects of which he turned to his advantage; he never refused a case; he seized the bearings of each with facility, and espoused it with zeal; he knew from long practice all the arts of persuasion, and was an adept in the use of them; in a word, he was thoroughly and genuinely popular.

Crassus was grave and dignified, excellent in interpretation, definition, and equitable construction, so learned in law as to be called the best lawyer among the orators; [40] and yet with all this grace and erudition, he joined a sparkling humour which was always lively, never commonplace, and whose brilliant sallies no misfortune could check. His first speech was an accusation of the renegade democrat Carbo; his last, which was also his best, was an assertion of the privileges of his order against the over-bearing insolence of the consul Philippus. The consul, stung to fury by the sarcasm of the speaker, bade his lictor seize his pledges as a senator. This insult roused Crassus to a supreme effort. His words are preserved by Cicero [41]—"an tu, quum omnem auctoritatem universi ordinis pro pignore putaris, eamque in conspectu populi Romani concideris, me his existimas pignoribus posse terreri? Non tibi illa sunt caedenda, si Crassum vis coercere; haec tibi est incidenda lingua; qua vel evulsa, spiritu ipso libidinem tuam libertas mea refutabit." This noble retort, spoken amid bodily pain and weakness, brought on a fever which within a week brought him to the grave (91 B.C.), as Cicero says, by no means prematurely, for he was thus preserved from the horrors that followed. Antonius lived for some years longer. It was under the tyrannical rule of Marius and Cinna that he met his end. Having found, through the indiscretion of a slave, that he was in hiding, they sent hired assassins to murder him. The men entered the chamber where the great orator lay, and prepared to do their bloody work, but he addressed them in terms of such pathetic eloquence that they turned back, melted with pity, and declared they could not kill Antonius. Their leader then came in, and, less accessible to emotion than his men, cut off Antonius' head and carried it to Marius. It was nailed to the rostra, "exposed," says Cicero, "to the gaze of those citizens whose interests he had so often defended."

After the death of these two great leaders, there appear two inferior men who faintly reflect their special excellences. These are C. AURELIUS COTTA (consul 75 B.C.) an imitator of Antonius, though without any of his fire, and P. SULPICIUS RUFUS (fl. 121-88 B.C.) a bold and vigorous speaker, who tried, without success, to reproduce the high-bred wit of Crassus. He was, according to Cicero, [42] the most tragic of orators. His personal gifts were remarkable, his presence commanding, his voice rich and varied. His fault was want of application. The ease with which he spoke made him dislike the labour of preparation, and shun altogether that of written composition. Cotta was exactly the opposite of Sulpicius. His weak health, a rare thing among the Romans of his day, compelled him to practise a soft sedate method of speech, persuasive rather than commanding. In this he was excellent, but that his popularity was due chiefly to want of competitors is shown by the suddenness of his eclipse on the first appearance of Hortensius. The gentle courteous character of Cotta is well brought out in Cicero's dialogue on oratory, where his remarks are contrasted with the mature but distinct views of Crassus and Antonius, with the conservative grace of Catulus, and the masculine but less dignified elegance of Caesar.

Another speaker of this epoch is CARRO, son of the Carbo already mentioned, an adherent of the senatorial party, and opponent of the celebrated Livius Drusus. On the death of Drusus he delivered an oration in the assembly, the concluding words of which are preserved by Cicero, as an instance of the effectiveness of the trochaic rhythm. They were received with a storm of applause, as indeed their elevation justly merits. [43] "O Marce Druse, patrem appello; tu dicere solebas sacram esse rempublicam; quicunque eam violavissent, ab omnibus esse ei poenas persolatas. Patris dictum sapiens temeritas filii comprobavit." In this grand sentence sounds the very voice of Rome; the stern patriotism, the reverence for the words of a father, the communion of the living with their dead ancestors. We cannot wonder at the fondness with which Cicero lingers over these ancient orators; while fully acknowledging his own superiority, how he draws out their beauties, each from its crude environment; how he shows them to be deficient indeed in cultivation and learning, but to ring true to the old tradition of the state, and for that very reason to speak with a power, a persuasiveness, and a charm, which all the rules of polished art could never hope to attain.

In the concluding passage of the De Oratore Catulus says he wishes HORTENSIUS (114-50 B.C.) could have taken part in the debate, as he gave promise of excelling in all the qualifications that had been specified. Crassus replies—"He not only gives promise of being, but is already one of the first of orators. I thought so when I heard him defend the cause of the Africans during the year of my consulship, and I thought so still more strongly when, but a short while ago, he spoke on behalf of the king of Bithynia." This is supposed to have been said in 91 B.C., the year of Crassus's death, four years after the first appearance of Hortensius. This brilliant orator, who at the age of nineteen spoke before Crassus and Scaevola and gained their unqualified approval, and who, after the death of Antonius, rose at once into the position of leader of the Roman bar, was as remarkable for his natural as for his acquired endowments. Eight years senior to Cicero, "prince of the courts" [44] when Cicero began public life, for some time his rival and antagonist, but afterwards his illustrious though admittedly inferior coadjutor, and towards the close of both of their lives, his intimate and valued friend; Hortensius is one of the few men in whom success did not banish enjoyment, and displacement by a rival did not turn to bitterness. Without presenting the highest virtue, his career of forty-four years is nevertheless a pleasant and instructive one. It showed consistency, independence, and honour; he never changed sides, he never flattered the great, he never acquired wealth unjustly. In these points he may be contrasted with Cicero. But on the other hand, he was inactive, luxurious, and effeminate; not like Cicero, fighting to the last, but retiring from public life as soon as he saw the domination of Pompey or Caesar to be inevitable; not even in his professional labours showing a strong ambition, but yielding with epicurean indolence the palm of superiority to his young rival; still less in his home life and leisure moments pursuing like Cicero his self-culture to develop his own nature and enrich the minds and literature of his countrymen, but regaling himself at luxurious banquets in sumptuous villas, decked with everything that could delight the eye or charm the fancy; preserving herds of deer, wild swine, game of all sorts for field and feast; stocking vast lakes with rare and delicate fish, to which this brilliant epicure was so attached that on the death of a favourite lamprey he shed tears; buying the costliest of pictures, statues, and embossed works; and furnishing a cellar which yielded to his unworthy heir 10,000 casks of choice Chian wine. When we read the pursuits in which Hortensius spent his time, we cannot wonder that he was soon overshadowed; the stuff of the Roman was lacking in him, and great as were his talents, even they, as Cicero justly remarks, were not calculated to insure a mature or lasting fame. They lay in the lower sphere of genius rather than the higher; in a bright expression, a deportment graceful to such a point that the greatest actors studied from him as he spoke; in a voice clear, mellow, and persuasive; in a memory so prodigious that once after being present at an auction and challenged to repeat the list of sale, he recited the entire catalogue without hesitation, like the sailor the points of his compass, backwards. As a consequence he was never at a loss. Everything suggested itself at the right moment, giving him no anxiety that might spoil the ease of his manner and his matchless confidence; and if to all this we add a copiousness of expression and rich splendour of language exceeding all that had ever been heard in Rome, the encomiums so freely lavished on him by Cicero both in speeches and treatises, hardly seem exaggerated.

There are few things pleasanter in the history of literature than the friendship of these two great men, untinctured, at least on Hortensius's part, by any drop of jealousy; and on Cicero's, though now and then overcast by unworthy suspicions, yet asserted afterwards with a warm generosity and manly confession of his weakness which left nothing to be desired. Though there were but eight years between them, Hortensius must be held to belong to the older period, since Cicero's advent constitutes an era.

The chief events in the life of Hortensius are as follows. He served two campaigns in the Social War (91 B.C.), but soon after gave up military life, and took no part in the civil struggles that followed. His ascendancy in the courts dates from 83 B.C. and continued till 70 B.C. when Cicero dethroned him by the prosecution of Verres. Hortensius was consul the following year, and afterwards we find him appearing as advocate on the senatorial side against the self-styled champions of the people, whose cause at that time Cicero espoused (e.g. in the Gabinian and Manilian laws). When Cicero, after his consulship (63 B.C.), went over to the aristocratic party, he and Hortensius appeared regularly on the same side, Hortensius conceding to him the privilege of speaking last, thus confessing his own inferiority. The party character of great criminal trials has already been alluded to, and is an important element in the consideration of them. A master of eloquence speaking for a senatorial defendant before a jury of equites, might hope, but hardly expect, an acquittal; and a senatorial orator, pleading before jurymen of his own order needed not to exercise the highest art in order to secure a favourable hearing. It has been suggested [45] that his fame is in part due to the circumstance, fortunate for him, that he had to address the courts as reorganised by Sulla. The coalition of Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus (60 B.C.), sometimes called the first Triumvirate, showed plainly that the state was near collapse; and Hortensius, despairing of its restitution, retired from public life, confining himself to the duties of an advocate, and more and more addicting himself to refined pleasures. The only blot on his character is his unscrupulousness in dealing with the judges. Cicero accuses him [46] of bribing them on one occasion, and the fact that he was not contradicted, though his rival was present, makes the accusation more than probable. The fame of Hortensius waned not only through Cicero's superior lustre, but also because of his own lack of sustained effort. The peculiar style of his oratory is from this point of view so ably criticised by Cicero that, having no remains of Hortensius to judge by, we translate some of his remarks. [47]

"If we inquire why Hortensius obtained more celebrity in his youth than in his mature age, we shall find there are two good reasons. First because his style of oratory was the Asiatic, which is more becoming to youth than to age. Of this style there are two divisions; the one sententious and witty, the sentiments neatly turned and graceful rather than grave or sedate: an example of this in history is Timaeus; in oratory during my own boyhood there was Hierocles of Alabanda, and still more his brother Menecles, both whose speeches are, considering their style, worthy of the highest praise. The other division does not aim at a frequent use of pithy sentiment, but at rapidity and rush of expression; this now prevails throughout Asia, and is characterised not only by a stream of eloquence but by a graceful and ornate vocabulary: Aeschylus of Cnidos, and my own contemporary Aeschines the Milesian, are examples of it. They possess a fine flow of speech, but they lack precision and grace of sentiment. Both these classes of oratory suit young men well, but in older persons they show a want of dignity. Hence Hortensius, who excelled in both, obtained as a young man the most tumultuous applause. For he possessed that strong leaning for polished and condensed maxims which Menecles displayed; as with whom, so with Hortensius, some of these maxims were more remarkable for sweetness and grace than for aptness and indispensable use; and so his speech, though highly strung and impassioned without losing finish or smoothness, was nevertheless not approved by the older critics. I have seen Philippus hide a smile, or at other times look angry or annoyed; but the youths were lost in admiration, and the multitude was deeply moved. At that time he was in popular estimation almost perfect, and held the first place without dispute. For though his oratory lacked authority, it was thought suitable to his age; but when his position as a consular and a senator demanded a weightier style, he still adhered to the same; and having given up his former unremitting study and practice, retained only the neat concise sentiments, but lost the rich adornment with which in old times he had been wont to clothe his thoughts."

The Asiatic style to which Cicero here alludes, was affected, as its name implies, by the rhetoricians of Asia Minor, and is generally distinguished from the Attic by its greater profusion of verbal ornament, its more liberal use of tropes, antithesis, figures, &c. and, generally, by its inanity of thought. Rhodes, which had been so well able to appreciate the eloquence of Aeschines and Demosthenes, first opened a crusade against this false taste, and Cicero (who himself studied at Rhodes as well as Athens) brought about a similar return to purer models at Rome. The Asiatic style represents a permanent type of oratorical effort, the desire to use word-painting instead of life-painting, turgidity instead of vigour, allusiveness instead of directness, point instead of wit, frigid inflation instead of real passion. It borrows poetical effects, and heightens the colour without deepening the shade. In Greece Aeschines shows some traces of an Asiatic tendency as contrasted with the soberer self-restraint of Demosthenes. In Rome Hortensius, as contrasted with Cicero, and even Cicero himself, according to some critics, as contrasted with Brutus and Calvus,—though this charge is hardly well-founded,—in France Bossuet, in England Burke, have leaned towards the same fault.

We have now traced the history of Roman Oratory to the time of Cicero, and we have seen that it produces names of real eminence, not merely in the history of Rome, but in that of humanity. The loss to us of the speeches of such orators as Cato, Gracchus, Antonius, and Crassus is incalculable; did we possess them we should be able form a truer estimate of Roman genius than if we possessed the entire works of Ennius, Pacuvius, or Attius. For the great men who wielded this tremendous weapon were all burgesses of Rome, they had all the good and all the bad qualities which that name suggests, many of them in an extraordinary degree. They are all the precursors, models, or rivals of Cicero, the greatest of Roman orators; and in them the true structure of the language as well as the mind of Rome would have been fully, though unconsciously, revealed. If the literature of a country be taken as the expression in the field of thought of the national character as pourtrayed in action, this group of orators would be considered the most genuine representative of Roman literature. The permanent contributions to human thought would indeed have been few: neither in eloquence nor in any other domain did Rome prove herself creative, but in eloquence she at least showed herself beyond expression masculine and vigorous. The supreme interest of her history, the massive characters of the men that wrought it, would here have shown themselves in the working; men whose natures are a riddle to us, would have stood out, judged by their own testimony, clear as statues; and we should not have had so often to pin our faith on the biassed views of party, or the uncritical panegyrics of school-bred professors or courtly rhetoricians. The next period shows us the culmination, the short bloom, and the sudden fall of national eloquence, when with the death of Cicero the "Latin tongue was silent," [48] and as he himself says, clamatores not oratores were left to succeed him.



Great literary activity of all kinds was, after the third Punic war, liable to continual interruption from political struggles or revolutions. But between each two periods of disturbance there was generally an interval in which philosophy, law, and rhetoric were carefully studied. As, however, no work of this period has come down to us except the treatise to Herennius, our notice of it will be proportionately general and brief. We shall touch on the principal studies in order. First in time as in importance comes Law, the earliest great representative of which is P. MUCIUS SCAEVOLA, consul in 133 B.C. but better known as Pontifex Maximus. In this latter office, which he held for several years, Mucius did good service to literature. He united a high technical training with a liberal mind, and superintended the publication of the Annales Pontificum from the earliest period to his own date. This was a great boon to historians. He gave another to jurists. His responsa were celebrated for their insight into the principles of Law, and for the minute knowledge they displayed. He was conscientious enough to study the law of every case before he undertook to plead it, a practice which, however commendable, was rare even with advocates of the highest fame, as, for example, M. Antonius.

The jurisconsult of this period used to offer his services without payment to any who chose to consult him. At first he appeared in the forum, but as his fame and the number of applicants increased, he remained at home and received all day. His replies were always oral, but when written down were considered as authoritative, and often quoted by the orators. In return for this laborious occupation, he expected the support of his clients in his candidature for the offices of state. An anecdote is preserved of C. Figulus, a jurisconsult, who, not having been successful for the consulship, addressed his consultores thus, "You know how to consult me, but not (it seems) how to make me consul." [1] In addition to the parties in a suit, advocates in other causes often came to a great jurisconsult to be coached in the law of their case. For instance, Antonius, who, though a ready speaker, had no knowledge of jurisprudence, often went to Scaevola for this purpose. Moreover there were always one or two regular pupils who accompanied the jurisconsult, attended carefully to his words, and committed them assiduously to memory or writing. Cicero himself did this for the younger Scaevola, and thus laid the foundation of that clear grasp on the civil law which was so great a help to him in his more difficult speeches. It was not necessary that the pupil should himself intend to become a consultus; it was enough that he desired to acquire the knowledge for public purposes, although, of course, it required great interest to procure for a young man so high a privilege. Cicero was introduced to Scaevola by the orator Crassus. The family of the Mucii, as noticed by Cicero, were traditionally distinguished by their legal knowledge, as that of the Appii Claudii were by eloquence. The Augur Q. MUCIUS SCAEVOLA who comes midway between Publius and his son Quintus was somewhat less celebrated than either, but he was nevertheless a man of eminence. He died probably in 87 B.C., and Cicero mentions that it was in consequence of this event that he himself became a pupil of his nephew. [2]

The great importance of Religious Law must not be forgotten in estimating the acquirements of these men. Though to us the Jus Augurale and Jus Pontificium are of small interest compared with the Jus Civile; yet to the Romans of 120 B.C., and especially to an old and strictly aristocratic family, they had all the attraction of exclusiveness and immemorial authority. In all countries religious law exercises at first a sway far in excess of its proper province, and Rome was no exception to the rule. The publication of civil law is an era in civilization. Just as the chancellorship and primacy of England were often in the hands of one person and that an ecclesiastic, so in Rome the pontifices had at first the making of almost all law. What a canonist was to Mediaeval Europe, a pontifex was to senatorial Rome. In the time of which we are now speaking (133-63 B.C.), the secular law had fully asserted its supremacy on its own ground, and it was the dignity and influence, not the power of the post, that made the pontificate so great an object of ambition, and so inaccessible to upstart candidates. Even for Cicero to obtain a seat in the college of augurs was no easy task, although he had already won his way to the consulship and been hailed as the saviour of his country.

The younger Scaevola (Q. MUCIUS SCAEVOLA), who had been his father's pupil, [3] and was the most eloquent of the three, was born about 135 B.C., was consul 95 with Licinius Crassus for his colleague, and afterwards Pontifex Maximus. He was an accomplished Greek scholar, a man of commanding eloquence, deeply versed in the Stoic philosophy, and of the highest nobility of character. As Long well says, "He is one of those illustrious men whose fame is not preserved by his writings, but in the more enduring monument of the memory of all nations to whom the language of Rome is known." His chief work, which was long extant, and is highly praised by Cicero, was a digest of the civil law. Rudorff says of it, [4] "For the first time we meet here with a comprehensive, uniform, and methodical system, in the place of the old interpretation of laws and casuistry, of legal opinions and prejudices." Immediately on its publication it acquired great authority, and was commented upon within a few years of the death of its author. It is quoted in the Digest, and is the earliest work to which reference is there made. [5] He was especially clear in definitions and distinctions, [6] and the grace with which he invested a dry subject made him deservedly popular. Though so profound a lawyer, he was quite free from the offensive stamp of the mere professional man. His urbanity, unstained integrity, and high position, fitted him to exercise a widespread influence. He had among his hearers Cicero, as we have already seen, and among jurists proper, Aquillius Gallus, Balbus Lucilius, and others, who all attained to eminence. His virtue was such that his name became proverbial for probity as for legal eminence. In Horace he is coupled with Gracchus as the ideal of a lawyer, as the other of an orator.

"Gracchus ut hic illi foret, huic ut Mucius ille." [7]

The great oratorical activity of this age produced a corresponding interest in the theory of eloquence. We have seen that many of the orators received lessons from Greek rhetoricians. We have seen also the deep attraction which rhetoric possessed over the Roman mind. It was, so to speak, the form of thought in which their intellectual creations were almost all cast. Such a maxim as that attributed to Scaevola, Fiat iustitia: ruat caelum, is not legal but rhetorical. The plays of Attius owed much of their success to the ability with which statement was pitted against counter-statement, plea against plea. The philosophic works of Cicero are coloured with rhetoric. Cases are advanced, refuted, or summed up, with a view to presentability (veri simile), not abstract truth. The history of Livy, the epic of Virgil, are eminently rhetorical. A Roman when not fighting was pleading. It was, then, important that he should he well grounded in the art. Greek rhetoricians, in spite of Cato's opposition, had been steadily making way, and increasing the number of their pupils; but it was not until about 93 B.C. that PLOTIUS GALLUS taught the principles of Rhetoric in Latin. Quintilian says, [8] "Latinos dicendi praeceptores extremis L. Crassi temporibus coepisse Cicero auctor est: quorum insignis maxime Plotius fuit." He was the first of that long list of writers who expended wit, learning, and industry, in giving precepts of a mechanical character to produce what is unproduceable, namely, a successful style of speaking. Their treatises are interesting, for they show on the one hand the severe technical application which the Romans were always willing to bestow in order to imitate the Greeks; and on the other, the complex demands of Latin rhetoric as contrasted with the simpler and more natural style of modern times.

The most important work on the subject is the treatise dedicated to Herennius (80 B.C.), written probably in the time of Sulla, and for a long time reckoned among Cicero's works. The reason for this confusion is twofold. First, the anonymous character of the work; and, secondly, the frequent imitations of it by Cicero in his De Inventione, an incomplete essay written when he was a young man. Who the author was is not agreed; the balance of probability is in favour of CORNIFICIUS. Kayser [9] points out several coincidences between Cornificius's views, as quoted by Quintilian, and the rhetorical treatise to Herennius. The author, whoever he may be, was an accomplished man, and, while a warm admirer of Greek eloquence, by no means disposed to concede the inferiority of his own countrymen. His criticism upon the inanitas [10] of the Greek manuals is thoroughly just. They were simply guides to an elegant accomplishment, and had no bearing on real life. It was quite different with the Roman manuals. These were intended to fit the reader for forensic contests, and, we cannot doubt, did materially help towards this result. It was only in the imperial epoch that empty ingenuity took the place of activity, and rhetoric sunk to the level of that of Greece. There is nothing calling for special remark in the contents of the book, though all is good. The chief points of interest in this subject will be discussed in a later chapter. The style is pure and copious, the Latin that finished idiom which is the finest vehicle for Roman thought, that spoken by the highest circles at the best period of the language.

The science of Grammar was now exciting much attention. The Stoic writers had formulated its main principles, and had assigned it a place in their system of general philosophy. It remained for the Roman students to apply the Greek treatment to their own language. Apparently, the earliest labours were of a desultory kind. The poet Lucilius treated many points of orthography, pronunciation, and the like; and he criticised inaccuracies of syntax or metre in the poets who had gone before him. A little later we find the same mine further worked. Quintilian observes that grammar began at Rome by the exegesis of classical authors. Octavius Lampadio led the van with a critical commentary on the Punica of Naevius, and Q. Vargunteius soon after performed the same office for the annals of Ennius. The first scientific grammarian, was AELIUS STILO, a Roman knight (144-70 B.C.). His name was L. Aelius Praeconinus; he received the additional cognomen Stilo from the facility with which he used his pen, especially in writing speeches for others to deliver. At the same time he was no orator, and Cicero implies that better men often used his compositions through mere laziness, and allowed them to pass as their own. [11] Cicero mentions in more than one place that he himself had been an admiring pupil of Aelius. And Lucilius addressed some of his satires to him, probably those on grammar,

"Has res ad te scriptas Luci misimus Aeli;"

so that he is a bond of connection between the two epochs. His learning was profound and varied. He dedicated his investigations to Varro, who speaks warmly of him, but mentions that his etymologies are often incorrect. He appears to have bestowed special care on Plautus, in which department he was followed by Varro, some of the results of whose criticism have been already given.

The impulse given by Stilo was rapidly extended. Grammar became a favourite study with the Romans, as indeed it was one for which they were eminently fitted. The perfection to which they carried the analysis of sentences and the practical rules for correct speech as well as the systematization of the accidence, has made their grammars a model for all modern school-works. It is only recently that a deeper scientific knowledge has reorganised the entire treatment, and substituted for superficial analogy the true basis of a common structure, not only between Greek and Latin, but among all the languages of the Indo-European class. Nevertheless, the Roman grammarians deserve great praise for their elaborate results in the sphere of correct writing. No defects of syntax perplex the reader of the classical authors. Imperfect and unpliable the language is, but never inexact. And though the meaning is often hard to settle, this is owing rather to the inadequacy of the material than the carelessness of the writer.

Side by side with rhetoric and grammar, Philosophy made its appearance at Rome. There was no importation from Greece to which a more determined resistance was made from the first by the national party. In the consulship of Strabo and Messala (162 B.C.) a decree was passed banishing philosophers and rhetoricians from Rome. Seven years later took place the embassy of the three leaders of the most celebrated schools of thought, Diogenes the Stoic, Critolaus the Peripatetic, and Carneades the New Academician. The subtilty and eloquence of these disputants rekindled the interest in philosophy which had been smothered, not quenched, by the vigorous measures of the senate. There were two reasons why an interest in these studies was dreaded. First, they tended to spread disbelief in the state religion, by which the ascendency of the oligarchy was in great measure maintained; secondly, they distracted men's minds, and diverted them from that exclusive devotion to public life which the old regime demanded. Nevertheless, some of the greatest nobles ardently espoused the cause of free thought. After the war with Perseus, and the detention of the Achaean hostages in Rome, many learned Greeks well versed in philosophical inquiries were brought into contact with their conquerors in a manner well calculated to promote mutual confidence. The most eminent of these was Polybius, who lived for years on terms of intimacy with Scipio and Laelius, and imparted to them his own wide views and varied knowledge. From them may be dated the real study of Philosophy at Rome. They both attained the highest renown in their lifetime and after their death for their philosophical eminence, [12] but apparently they left no philosophical writings. The spirit, however, in which they approached philosophy is eminently characteristic of their nation, and determined the lines in which philosophic activity afterwards moved.

In no department of thought is the difference between the Greek and Roman mind more clearly seen; in none was the form more completely borrowed, and the spirit more completely missed. The object of Greek philosophy had been the attainment of absolute truth. The long line of thinkers from Thales to Aristotle had approached philosophy in the belief that they could by it be enabled to understand the cause of all that is. This lofty anticipation pervades all their theories, and by its fruitful influence engenders that wondrous grasp and fertility of thought [13] which gives their speculations an undying value. It is true that in the later systems this consciousness is less strongly present. It struggles to maintain itself in stoicism and epicureanism against the rising claims of human happiness to be considered as the goal of philosophy. In the New Academy (which in the third century before Christ was converted to scepticism) and in the sceptical school, we see the first confession of incapacity to discover truth. Instead of certainties they offer probabilities sufficient to guide us through life; the only axiom which they assert as incontrovertible being the fact that we know nothing. Thus instead of proposing as the highest activity of man a life of speculative thought, they came to consider inactivity and impassibility [13] the chief attainable good. Their method of proof was a dialectic which strove to show the inconsistency or uncertainty of their opponent's positions, but which did not and could not arrive at any constructive result. Philosophy (to use an ancient phrase) had fallen from the sphere of knowledge to that of opinion. [15]

Of these opinions there were three which from their definiteness were well calculated to lay hold on the Roman mind. The first was that of the Stoics, that virtue is the only good; the second that of the Epicureans, that pleasure is the end of man; the third that of the Academy, that nothing can be known. [16] These were by no means the only, far less the exclusive characteristics of each school; for in many ways they all strongly resembled each other, particularly stoicism and the New Academy; and in their definition of what should be the practical result of their principles all were substantially agreed. [17]

But what to the Greeks was a speculative principle to be drawn out by argument to its logical conclusions, to the Romans was a practical maxim to be realized in life. The Romans did not understand the love of abstract truth, or the charm of abstract reasoning employed for its own sake without any ulterior end. To profess the doctrines of stoicism, and live a life of self-indulgence, was to be false to one's convictions; to embrace Epicurus's system without making it subservient to enjoyment, was equally foreign to a consistent character. In Athens the daily life of an Epicurean and a Stoic would not present any marked difference; in discussion they would be widely divergent, but the contrast ended there. In Rome, on the contrary, it was the mode of life which made the chief distinction. Men who laboured for the state as jurists or senators, who were grave and studious, generally, if not always, adopted the tenets of Zeno; if they were orators, they naturally turned rather to the Academy, which offered that balancing of opinions so congenial to the tone of mind of an advocate. Among public men of the highest character, very few espoused Epicurus's doctrines.

The mere assertion that pleasure was the summum bonum for man was so repugnant to the old Roman views that it could hardly have been made the basis of a self-sacrificing political activity. Accordingly we find in the period before Cicero only men of the second rank representing epicurean views. AMAFINIUS is stated to have been the first who popularised them. [18] He wrote some years before Cicero, and from his lucid and simple treatment immediately obtained a wide circulation for his books. The multitude (says Cicero), hurried to adopt his precepts, [19] finding them easy to understand, and in harmony with their own inclinations. The second writer of mark seems to have been RABIRIUS. He also wrote on the physical theory of Epicurus in a superficial way. He neither divided his subject methodically, nor attempted exact definitions, and all his arguments were drawn from the world of visible things. In fact, his system seems to have been a crude and ordinary materialism, such as the vulgar are in all ages prone to, and beyond which their minds cannot go. The refined Catulus was also an adherent of epicureanism, though he also attached himself to the Academy. Among Greeks resident at Rome the best known teachers were Phaedrus and Zeno; a book by the former on the gods was largely used by Cicero in the first book of his De Natura Deorum. A little later Philodemus of Gadara, parts of whose writings are still extant, seems to have risen to the first place. In the time of Cicero this system obtained more disciples among the foremost men. Both statesmen and poets cultivated it, and gained it a legitimate place among the genuine philosophical creeds. [20]

Stoicism was far more congenial to the national character, and many great men professed it. Besides Laelius, who was a disciple of Diodes and Panactius, we have the names of Rutilius Rufus, Aelius Stilo, Balbus, and Scaevola. But during the tumultuous activity of these years it was not possible for men to cultivate philosophy with deep appreciation. Political struggles occupied their minds, and it was in their moments of relaxation only that the questions agitated by stoicism would he discussed. We must remember that as yet stoicism was one of several competing systems. Peripateticism and the Academy, as has been said, attracted the more sceptical or argumentative minds, for their dialectics were far superior to those of stoicism; it was in its moral grandeur that stoicism towered not only above these but above all other systems that have been invented, and the time for the full recognition of this moral grandeur had not yet come. At present men were occupied in discussing its logical quibbles and paradoxes, and in balancing its claims to cogency against those of its rivals. It was not until the significance of its central doctrine was tried to the uttermost by the dark tyranny of the Empire, that stoicism stood erect and alone as the sole representative of all that was good and great. Still, the fact that its chief professors were men of weight in the state, lent it a certain authority, and Cicero, among the few definite doctrines that he accepts, numbers that of stoicism that virtue is sufficient for happiness.

We shall close this chapter with one or two remarks on the relation of philosophy to the state religion. It must be observed that the formal and unpliable nature of the Roman cult made it quite unable to meet the requirements of advancing enlightenment. It was a superstition, not a religion; it admitted neither of allegoric interpretation nor of poetical idealisation. Hence there was no alternative but to believe or disbelieve it. There can be no doubt that all educated Romans did the latter. The whole machinery of ritual and ceremonies was used for purely political ends; it was no great step to regard it as having a purely political basis. To men with so slight a hold as this on the popular creed, the religion and philosophy of Greece were suddenly revealed. It was a spiritual no less than an intellectual revolution. Their views on the question of the unseen were profoundly changed. The simple but manly piety of the family religion, the regular ceremonial of the state, were confronted with the splendid hierarchy of the Greek Pantheon and the subtle questionings of Greek intellect. It is no wonder that Roman conviction was, so to speak, taken by storm. The popular faith received a shock from which it never rallied. Augustus and others restored the ancient ritual, but no edict could restore the lost belief. So deep had the poison penetrated that no sound place was left. With superstition they cast off all religion. For poetical or imaginative purposes the Greek deities under their Latin dress might suffice, but for a guide of life they were utterly powerless. The nobler minds therefore naturally turned to philosophy, and here they found, if not certainty, at least a reasonable explanation of the problems they encountered. Is the world governed by law? If so, is that law a moral one? If not, is the ruler chance? What is the origin of the gods? of man? of the soul? Questions like these could neither be resolved by the Roman nor by the Helleno-Roman systems of religion, but they were met and in a way answered by Greek philosophy. Hence it became usual for every thinking Roman to attach himself to the tenets of some sect, which ever best suited his own comprehension or prejudices. But this adhesion did not involve a rigid or exclusive devotion. Many were Eclectics, that is, adopted from various systems such elements as seemed to them most reasonable. For instance, Cicero was a Stoic more than anything else in his ethical theory, a New Academician in his logic, and in other respects a Platonist. But even he varied greatly at different times. There was, however, no combination among professors of the same sect with a view to practical work or dissemination of doctrines. Had such been attempted, it would at once have been put down by the state. But it never was. Philosophical beliefs of whatever kind did not in the least interfere with conformity to the state religion. One Scaevola was Pontifex Maximus, another was Augur; Cicero himself was Augur, so was Caesar. The two things were kept quite distinct. Philosophy did not influence political action in any way. It was simply a refuge for the mind, such as all thinking men must have, and which if not supplied by a true creed, will inevitably be sought in a false or imperfect one. And the noble doctrines professed by the great Greek schools were certainly far more worthy of the adhesion of such men as Scaevola and Laelius, than the worn-out cult which the popular ceremonial embodied.








The period embraced by the present book contains the culmination of all kinds of literature, the drama alone excepted. It falls naturally into two divisions, each marked by special and clearly-defined characteristics. The first begins with the recognition of Cicero as the chief man of letters at Rome, and ends with the battle of Philippi, a year after his death. It extends over a period of two and twenty years (about 63-42 B.C.), though many of Cicero's orations are anterior, and some of Varro's works posterior, to the extreme dates. In this period Latin prose writing attained its perfection. The storms which shook and finally overthrew the Republic turned the attention of all minds to political questions. Oratory and history were the prevailing forms of intellectual activity. It was not until the close of the period that philosophy was treated by Cicero during his compulsory absence from public life; and poetry rose once more into prominence in the works of Lucretius and Catullus. The chief characteristics of the literature of this period are freedom and vigour. In every author the bold spirit of the Republic breathes forth; and in the greatest is happily combined with an extensive and elegant scholarship, equally removed from pedantry and dullness.

The second division (42 B.C.-14 A.D.) begins shortly after the battle of Philippi, with the earliest poems of Varius and Virgil, and closes with the death of Augustus. It is pre-eminently an era of poets, Livy alone being a prose writer of the first rank, and is marked by all the characteristics of an imperial age. The transition from the last poems of Catullus to the first of Virgil is complete. Nevertheless, many republican authors lived on into this period, as Varro, Pollio, and Bibaculus. But their character and genius belong to the Republic, and, with the exception of Pollio, they will be noticed under the republican writers. The entire period represents the full maturity and perfection of the Latin language, and the epithet classical is by many restricted to the authors who wrote in it. It is best, however, not to narrow unnecessarily the sphere of classicality; to exclude Terence on the one hand or Tacitus and Pliny on the other, would savour of artificial restriction rather than that of a natural classification.

The first writer that comes before us is M. TERENTIUS VARRO, 116-28 B.C. He is at once the earliest and the latest of the series. His birth took place ten years before that of Cicero, and his death fifteen years after Cicero's murder, in the third year of the reign of Augustus. His long life was devoted almost entirely to study, and he became known even in his lifetime as the most learned of the Romans. This did not, however, prevent him from offering his services to the state when the state required them. He served more than once under Pompey, acquitting himself with distinction, so that in the civil war the important post of legatus was intrusted to him in company with Petreius and Afranius in Spain. But Varro felt from the first his inability to cope with his adversary. Caesar speaks of him as acting coolly in Pompey's interest until the successes of Afranius at Ilerda roused him to more vigorous measures; but the triumph of the Pompeians was shortlived; and when Caesar convened the delegates at Corduba, Varro found himself shut out from all the fortified towns, and in danger of being deserted by his army. [1] He therefore surrendered at discretion, returned to Italy, and took no more part in public affairs. We hear of him occasionally in Cicero's letters as studying in his country seats at Tusculum, Cumae, or Casinum, indifferent to politics, and preparing those great works of antiquarian research which have immortalised his name. Caesar's victorious return brought him out of his retreat. He was placed over the library which Caesar built for public use, an appointment equally complimentary to Varro and honourable to Caesar. Antony, however, incapable of the generosity of his chief, placed Varro's name on the list of the proscribed, at a time when the old man was over seventy years of age, and had long ceased to have any weight in politics. Nothing more clearly shows the abominable motives that swayed the triumvirs than this attempt to murder an aged and peaceful citizen for the sake of possessing his wealth. For Varro had the good or bad fortune to be extremely rich. His Casine villa, alluded to by Cicero, and partly described by himself, was sumptuously decorated, and his other estates were large and productive. The Casine villa was made the scene of Antony's revelry; he and his fellow-rioters plundered the rooms, emptied the cellar, burned the library, and carried on every kind of debauchery and excess. Few passages in all eloquence are more telling than that in which Cicero with terrible power contrasts the conduct of the two successive occupants. [2] Varro, through the zeal of his friends, managed to escape Antony's fury, and for a time lay concealed in the villa of Galenas, at which Antony was a frequent visitor, little suspecting that his enemy was within his grasp. An edict was soon issued, however, exempting the old man from the effect of the proscription, so that he was enabled to live in peace at Rome until his death. But deprived of his wealth (which Augustus afterwards restored), deprived of his friends, and above all, deprived of his library, he must have felt a deep shadow cast over his declining years. Nevertheless, he remained cheerful, and to all appearance contented, and charmed those who knew him by the vigour of his conversation and his varied antiquarian lore. He is never mentioned by any of the Augustan writers.

Varro belongs to the genuine type of old Roman, improved but not altered by Greek learning, with his heart fixed in the past, deeply conservative of everything national, and even in his style of speech protesting against the innovations of the day. If we reflect that when Varro wrote his treatise on husbandry, Virgil was at work on the Georgics, and then compare the diction of the two, it seems almost incredible that they should have been contemporaries. In all literature there is probably no such instance of rock-like impenetrability to fashion; for him Alexandria might never have existed. He recalls the age of Cato rather than that of Cicero. His versatility was as great as his industry. There was scarcely any department of prose or poetry, provided it was national, in which he did not excel. His early life well fitted him for severe application. Born at Reate, in the Sabine territory, which was the nurse of all manly virtues, [3] Varro, as he himself tells us, had to rough it as a boy; he went barefoot over the mountain side, rode without saddle or bridle, and wore but a single tunic. [4] Bold, frank, and sarcastic, he had all the qualities of the old-fashioned country gentleman. At Rome he became intimate with Aelius Stilo, whose opinion of his pupil is shown by the inscription of his grammatical treatise to him. Stilo's mantle descended on Varro, but with sevenfold virtue. Not only grammar, by which term we must understand philology and etymology as well as syntax, but antiquities secular and religious, and almost all the liberal arts, were passed under review by his encyclopaedic mind.

At the same time lighter themes had strong attraction for him. He possessed in a high degree that racy and caustic wit which was a special Italian product, and had been conspicuous in Cato and Lucilius. But while Cato studied to be oracular, and Lucilius to be critical, Varro seems to have indulged his vein without any special object. Though by no means a born poet, he had the faculty of writing terse and elegant verse when he chose, and in his younger days composed a long list of metrical works. There were among them Pseudotragoediae, which Teuffel thinks were the same as the Hilarotragoediae, or Rhinthonicae, so called from their inventor Rhinthon; though others class them with the Komodotragodiai, of which Plautus's Amphitruo is the best known instance. However this may be, they were mock-heroic compositions in which the subjects consecrated by tragic usage were travestied or burlesqued. It is probable that they were mere literary exercises designed to beguile leisure or to facilitate the labour of composition, like the closet tragedies composed by Cicero and his brother Quintus; and Varro certainly owed none of his fame to them. Other poems of his are referred to by Cicero, and perhaps by Quintilian; [5] but in the absence of definite allusions we can hardly characterize them. There was one class of semi-poetical composition which Varro made peculiarly his own, the Satura Menippea, a medley of prose and verse, treating of all kinds of subjects just as they came to hand in the plebeian style, often with much grossness, but with sparkling point. Of these Saturae he wrote no less than 150 books, of which fragments have been preserved amounting to near 600 lines. Menippus of Gadara, the originator of this style of composition, lived about 280 B.C.; he interspersed jocular and commonplace topics with moral maxims and philosophical doctrines, and may have added contemporary pictures, though this is uncertain.

Varro followed him; we find him in the Academicae Quaestiones of Cicero, [6] saying that he adopted this method in the hope of enticing the unlearned to read something that might profit them. In these saturae topics were handled with the greatest freedom. They were not satires in the modern sense. They are rather to be considered as lineal descendants of the old saturae which existed before any regular literature. They nevertheless embodied with unmistakable clearness Varro's sentiments with regard to the prevailing luxury, and combined his thorough knowledge of all that best befitted a Roman to know with a racy freshness which we miss in his later works. The titles of many are preserved, and give some index to the character of the contents. We have some in Greek, e.g. Marcopolis or peri archaes, a sort of Varro's Republic, after the manner of Plato; Hippokyon, Kynoppaetor, and others, satirizing the cynic philosophy. Some both in Greek and Latin, as Columnae Herculis, peri doxaes; est modus matulae, peri methaes; others in Latin only, as Marcipor the slave of Marcus (i.e. Varro himself). Many are in the shape of proverbs, e.g. Longe fugit qui suos fugit, gnothi seauton, nescis quid vesper serus vehat. Only two fragments are of any length; one from the Marcipor, in graceful iambic verse, [7] the other in prose from the nescis quid vesper. [8] It consists of directions for a convivial meeting: "Nam multos convivas esse non convenit, quod turba plerumque est turbulenta; et Romae quidem constat: sed et Athenis; nusquam enim plures cubabant. [9] Ipsum deinde convivium constat ex rebus quatuor, et tum denique omnibus suis numeris absolutum est; si belli homuculi collecti sunt, si lectus locus, si tempus lectum, si apparatus non neglectus. Nec loquaces autem convivas nec mutos legere oportet; quia eloquentia in foro et apud subsellia; silentium vero non in convivio sed in cubiculo esse debet. Quod profecto eveniet, si de id genus rebus ad communem vitae usum pertinentibus confabulemur, de quibus in foro atque in negotiis agendis loqui non est otium. Dominum autem convivii esse oportet non tam tautum quam sine sordibus. Et in convivio legi non omnia debent, sed ea potissimum quae simul sunt biophelae, [10] et delectent potius, ut id quoque videatur non superfuisse. Bellaria ea maxime sunt mellita, quae mellita non sunt, pemmasin entra et pepsei societas infida." In this piece we see the fondness for punning, which even in his eightieth year had not left him. The last pun is not at first obvious; the meaning is that the nicest sweetmeats are those which are not too sweet, for made dishes are hostile to digestion; or, as we may say, paraphrasing his diction, "Delicacies are conducive to delicacy." It was from this satura the celebrated rule was taken that guests should be neither fewer than the graces, nor more than the muses. The whole subject of the Menippean satires is brilliantly treated in Mommsen's History of Rome, and Riese's edition of the satires, to both which, if he desire further information, we refer the reader. [11]

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse