Caesar: A Sketch
by James Anthony Froude
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[Sidenote: December 5, B.C. 63.] Cicero, with a pardonable laudation of himself and of the Divine Providence of which he professed to regard himself as the minister, congratulated his country on its escape from so genuine a danger; and he then invited the Senate to say what was to be done with these apostates from their order, whose treason was now demonstrated. A plot for a mere change of government, for the deposition of the aristocrats and the return to power of the popular party, it might be impolitic, perhaps impossible, severely to punish; but Catiline and his friends had planned the betrayal of the State to the barbarians; and with persons who had committed themselves to national treason there was no occasion to hesitate. Cicero produced the list of those whom he considered guilty, and there were some among his friends who thought the opportunity might be used to get rid of dangerous enemies, after the fashion of Sylla, especially of Crassus and Caesar. The name of Crassus was first mentioned, some said by secret friends of Catiline, who hoped to alarm the Senate into inaction by showing with whom they would have to deal. Crassus, it is possible, knew more than he had told the consul. Catiline's success had, at one moment, seemed assured; and great capitalists are apt to insure against contingencies. But Cicero moved and carried a resolution that the charge against him was a wicked invention. The attempt against Caesar was more determined. Old Catulus, whom Caesar had defeated in the contest for the pontificate, and Caius Calpurnius Piso,[15] a bitter aristocrat, whom Caesar had prosecuted for misgovernment in Gaul, urged Cicero to include his name. But Cicero was too honorable to lend himself to an accusation which he knew to be false. Some of the young lords in their disappointment threatened Caesar at the senate-house door with their swords; but the attack missed its mark, and served only to show how dreaded Caesar already was, and how eager a desire there was to make an end of him.

The list submitted for judgment contained the names of none but those who were indisputably guilty. The Senate voted at once that they were traitors to the State. The next question was of the nature of their punishment. In the first place the persons of public officers were sacred, and Lentulus was at the time a praetor. And next the Sempronian law forbade distinctly that any Roman citizen should be put to death without a trial, and without the right of appeal to the assembly.[16] It did not mean simply that Roman citizens were not to be murdered, or that at any time it had been supposed that they might. The object was to restrain the extraordinary power claimed by the Senate of setting the laws aside on exceptional occasions. Silanus, the consul-elect for the following year, was, according to usage, asked to give his opinion first. He voted for immediate death. One after the other the voices were the same, till the turn came of Tiberius Nero, the great-grandfather of Nero the Emperor. Tiberius was against haste. He advised that the prisoners should be kept in confinement till Catiline was taken or killed, and that the whole affair should then be carefully investigated. Investigation was perhaps what many senators were most anxious to avoid. When Tiberius had done, Caesar rose. The speech which Sallust places in his mouth was not an imaginary sketch of what Sallust supposed him likely to have said, but the version generally received of what he actually did say, and the most important passages of it are certainly authentic. For the first time we see through the surface of Caesar's outward actions into his real mind. During the three quarters of a century which had passed since the death of the elder Gracchus one political murder had followed upon another. Every conspicuous democrat had been killed by the aristocrats in some convenient disturbance. No constitution could survive when the law was habitually set aside by violence; and disdaining the suspicion with which he knew that his words would be regarded, Caesar warned the Senate against another act of precipitate anger which would be unlawful in itself, unworthy of their dignity, and likely in the future to throw a doubt upon the guilt of the men upon whose fate they were deliberating. He did not extenuate, he rather emphasized, the criminality of Catiline and his confederates; but for that reason and because for the present no reasonable person felt the slightest uncertainty about it, he advised them to keep within the lines which the law had marked out for them. He spoke with respect of Silanus. He did not suppose him to be influenced by feelings of party animosity. Silanus had recommended the execution of the prisoners, either because he thought their lives incompatible with the safety of the State, or because no milder punishment seemed adequate to the enormity of their conduct. But the safety of the State, he said, with a compliment to Cicero, had been sufficiently provided for by the diligence of the consul. As to punishment, none could be too severe; but with that remarkable adherence to fact, which always distinguished Caesar, that repudiation of illusion and sincere utterance of his real belief, whatever that might be, he contended that death was not a punishment at all. Death was the end of human suffering. In the grave there was neither joy nor sorrow. When a man was dead he ceased to be.[17]He became as he had been before he was born. Probably almost every one in the Senate thought like Caesar on this subject. Cicero certainly did. The only difference was that plausible statesmen affected a respect for the popular superstition, and pretended to believe what they did not believe. Caesar spoke his convictions out. There was no longer any solemnity in an execution. It was merely the removal out of the way of troublesome persons; and convenient as such a method might be, it was of graver consequence that the Senate of Rome, the guardians of the law, should not set an example of violating the law. Illegality, Caesar told them, would be followed by greater illegalities. He reminded them how they had applauded Sylla, how they had rejoiced when they saw their political enemies summarily despatched; and yet the proscription, as they well knew, had been perverted to the license of avarice and private revenge. They might feel sure that no such consequence need be feared under their present consul: but times might change. The worst crimes which had been committed in Rome in the past century had risen out of the imitation of precedents, which at the moment seemed defensible. The laws had prescribed a definite punishment for treason. Those laws had been gravely considered; they had been enacted by the great men who had built up the Roman dominion, and were not to be set aside in impatient haste. Caesar therefore recommended that the estates of the conspirators should be confiscated, that they themselves should be kept in strict and solitary confinement dispersed in various places, and that a resolution should be passed forbidding an application for their pardon either to Senate or people.

The speech was weighty in substance and weightily delivered, and it produced its effect.[18] Silanus withdrew his opinion. Quintus Cicero, the consul's brother, followed, and a clear majority of the Senate went with them, till it came to the turn of a young man who in that year had taken his place in the house for the first time, who was destined to make a reputation which could be set in competition with that of the gods themselves, and whose moral opinion could be held superior to that of the gods.[19]

Marcus Porcius Cato was born in the year 95, and was thus five years younger than Caesar and eleven years younger than Cicero. He was the great-grandson, as was said above, of the stern rugged censor who hated Greek, preferred the teaching of the plough-tail and the Twelve Tables to the philosophy of Aristotle, disbelieved in progress, and held by the maxims of his father—the last, he of the Romans of the old type. The young Marcus affected to take his ancestor for a pattern. He resembled him as nearly as a modern Anglican monk resembles St. Francis or St. Bernard. He could reproduce the form, but it was the form with the life gone out of it. He was immeasurably superior to the men around him. He was virtuous, if it be virtue to abstain from sin. He never lied. No one ever suspected him of dishonesty or corruption. But his excellences were not of the retiring sort. He carried them written upon him in letters for all to read, as a testimony to a wicked generation. His opinions were as pedantic as his life was abstemious, and no one was permitted to differ from him without being held guilty rather of a crime than of a mistake. He was an aristocratic pedant, to whom the living forces of humanity seemed but irrational impulses of which he and such as he were the appointed school- masters. To such a temperament a man of genius is instinctively hateful. Cato had spoken often in the Senate, though so young a member of it, denouncing the immoral habits of the age. He now rose to match himself against Caesar; and with passionate vehemence he insisted that the wretches who had plotted the overthrow of the State should be immediately killed. He noticed Caesar's objections only to irritate the suspicion in which he probably shared, that Caesar himself was one of Catiline's accomplices. That Caesar had urged as a reason for moderation the absence of immediate danger, was in Cato's opinion an argument the more for anxiety. Naturally, too, he did not miss the opportunity of striking at the scepticism which questioned future retribution. Whether Cato believed himself in a future life mattered little, if Caesar's frank avowal could be turned to his prejudice.

Cato spoke to an audience well disposed to go with him. Silanus went round to his first view, and the mass of senators followed him. Caesar attempted to reply; but so fierce were the passions that had been roused, that again he was in danger of violence. The young knights who were present as a senatorial guard rushed at him with their drawn swords. A few friends protected him with their cloaks, and he left the Curia not to enter it again for the rest of the year. When Caesar was gone, Cicero rose to finish the debate. He too glanced at Caesar's infidelity, and as Caesar had spoken of the wisdom of past generations, he observed that in the same generations there had been a pious belief that the grave was not the end of human existence. With an ironical compliment to the prudence of Caesar's advice, he said that his own interest would lead him to follow it; he would have the less to fear from the irritation of the people. The Senate, he observed, must have heard with pleasure that Caesar condemned the conspiracy. Caesar was the leader of the popular party, and from him at least they now knew that they had nothing to fear. The punishment which Caesar recommended was, in fact, Cicero admitted, more severe than death. He trusted, therefore, that if the conspirators were executed, and he had to answer to the people for the sentence to be passed upon them, Caesar himself would defend him against the charge of cruelty. Meanwhile he said that he had the ineffable satisfaction of knowing that he had saved the State. The Senate might adopt such resolutions as might seem good to them without alarm for the consequences. The conspiracy was disarmed. He had made enemies among the bad citizens; but he had deserved and he had won the gratitude of the good, and he stood secure behind the impregnable bulwark of his country's love.

So Cicero, in the first effusion of self-admiration with which he never ceased to regard his conduct on this occasion. No doubt he had acted bravely, and he had shown as much adroitness as courage. But the whole truth was never told. The Senate's anxiety to execute the prisoners arose from a fear that the people would be against them if an appeal to the assembly was allowed. The Senate was contending for the privilege of suspending the laws by its own independent will; and the privilege, if it was ever constitutional, had become so odious by the abuse of it, that to a large section of Roman citizens a conspiracy against the oligarchy had ceased to be looked on as treason at all. Cicero and Cato had their way. Lentulus, Cethegus, Autronius and their companions were strangled in their cells, on the afternoon of the debate upon their fate. A few weeks later Catiline's army was cut to pieces, and he himself was killed. So desperately his haggard bands had fought that they fell in their ranks where they stood, and never Roman commander gained a victory that cost him more dear. So furious a resistance implied a motive and a purpose beyond any which Cicero or Sallust records, and the commission of inquiry suggested by Tiberius Nero in the Senate might have led to curious revelations. The Senate perhaps had its own reasons for fearing such revelations, and for wishing the voices closed which could have made them.

[1] "Nunc quis patrem decem annorum natus non modo aufert sed tollit nisi veneno?"—Varronis Fragmenta, ed. Alexander Riese, p. 216.

[2] See the story in Cicero, Pro Cluentio.

[3] Pro P. Sulla, 4.

[4] "Catilina, si judicatum erit, meridie non lucere, certus erit competitor."—Epist. ad Atticum, i. 1.

[5] "Hoc tempore Catilinam, competitorem nostrum, defendere cogitamus. Judices habemus, quos volumus, summa accusatoris voluntate. Spero, si absolutus erit, conjunctiorem illum nobis fore in ratione petitionis."—Ib., i. 2.

[6] "Scito nihil tam exercitum nunc esse Romae quam candidatos omnibus iniquitatibus."—Ib., i. 11.

[7] I use a word apparently modern, but Cicero himself gave the name of Conservatores Reipublicae to the party to which he belonged.

[8] Suetonius, speaking of Augustus, says: "Quoties adesset, nihil praeterea agebat, seu vitandi rumoris causa, quo patrem Caesarem vulgo reprehensum commemorabat, quod inter spectandum epistolis libellisque legendis aut rescribendis vacaret; seu studio spectandi et voluptate," etc.—Vita Octavii, 45.

[9] Writing three years later to Atticus, he says: "Confirmabam omnium privatorum possessiones, is enim est noster exercitus, ut tute scis locupletium."—To Atticus, i. 19. Pomponius Atticus, Cicero's most intimate correspondent, was a Roman knight, who inheriting a large estate from his father, increased it by contracts, banking, money-lending, and slave-dealing, in which he was deeply engaged. He was an accomplished, cultivated man, a shrewd observer of the times, and careful of committing himself on any side. His acquaintance with Cicero rested on similarity of temperament, with a solid financial basis at the bottom of it. They were mutually useful to each other.

[10] "Et nimium istud est, quod ab hoc tribuno plebis dictum est in senatu: urbanam plebem nimium in republica posse: exhauriendam esse: hoc enim verbo est usus; quasi de aliqua sentina, ac non de optimorum civium genere loqueretur."—Contra Rullum, ii. 26.

[11] Cicero, Pro Murena, 25.

[12] Murena was afterward prosecuted for bribery at this election. Cicero defended him; but even Cato, aristocrat as he was, affected to be shocked at the virtuous consul's undertaking so bad a case. It is observable that in his speech for Murena, Cicero found as many virtues in Lucullus as in his speech on the Manilian law he had found vices. It was another symptom of his change of attitude.

[13] "In loco munitissimo."

[14] This description of the young Roman aristocracy is given by Cicero in his most powerful vein: "Postremum autem genus est, non solum numero, verum etiam genere ipso atque vita, quod proprium est Catilinae, de ejus delectu, immo vero de complexu ejus ac sinu: quos pexo capillo, nitidos, aut imberbes, aut bene barbatos, videtis, manicatis et talaribus tunicis; velis amictos, non togis: quorum omnis industria vitae et vigilandi labor in antelucanis coenis expromitur. In his gregibus omnes aleatores, omnes adulteri, omnes impuri impudicique versantur. Hi pueri tam lepidi ac delicati non solum amare et amari neque cantare et saltare, sed etiam sicas vibrare et spargere venena didicerunt.... Nudi in conviviis saltare didicerunt."—In Catilinam, ii. 10. Compare In Pisonem, 10.

The Romans shaved their beards at full maturity, and therefore "benebarbatos" does not mean grown men, but youths on the edge of manhood.

[15] Not to be confounded with Lucius Calpurnius Piso, who was Caesar's father-in-law.

[16] "Injussu populi."

[17] The real opinion of educated Romans on this subject was expressed in the well-known lines of Lucretius, which were probably written near this very time:

"Nil igitur mors est, ad nos neque pertinet hilum, Quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur: Et, velut ante acto nil tempore sensimus aegri, Ad confligendum venientibus undique Poenis; Omnia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu, Horrida, contremuere sub altis aetheris auris; In dubioque fuit sub utrorum regna cadendum Omnibus humanis esset, terraque, marique: Sic, ubi non erimus, cum corporis atque animai Discidium fuerit, quibus e sumus uniter apti, Scilicet haud nobis quicquam, qui non erimus tum, Accidere omnino poterit, sensumque movere: Non, si terra mari miscebitur, et mare coelo."

LUCRETIUS, lib. iii. 11. 842-854.

[18] In the following century when Caesar's life had become mythic, a story was current that when Caesar was speaking on this occasion a note was brought in to him, and Cato, suspecting that it referred to the conspiracy, insisted that it should be read. Caesar handed it to Cato, and it proved to be a love letter from Cato's sister, Servilia, the mother of Brutus. More will be said of the supposed liaison between Caesar and Servilia hereafter. For the present it is enough to say that there is no contemporary evidence for the story at all; and that if it be true that a note of some kind from Servilia was given to Caesar, it is more consistent with probability and the other circumstances of the case, that it was an innocent note of business. Ladies do not send in compromising letters to their lovers when they are on their feet in Parliament; nor, if such an accident should happen, do the lovers pass them over to be read by the ladies' brothers.

[19] "Victrix causa Deis placuit, sed victa Catoni."—LUCAN.


[Sidenote: B.C. 62.] The execution of Lentulus and Cethegus was received in Rome with the feeling which Caesar had anticipated. There was no active sympathy with the conspiracy, but the conspiracy was forgotten in indignation at the lawless action of the consul and the Senate. It was still violence—always violence. Was law, men asked, never to resume its authority?—was the Senate to deal at its pleasure with the lives and properties of citizens?—criminals though they might be, what right had Cicero to strangle citizens in dungeons without trial? If this was to be allowed, the constitution was at an end; Rome was no longer a republic, but an arbitrary oligarchy. Pompey's name was on every tongue. When would Pompey come? Pompey, the friend of the people, the terror of the aristocracy! Pompey, who had cleared the sea of pirates, and doubled the area of the Roman dominions! Let Pompey return and bring his army with him, and give to Rome the same peace and order which he had already given to the world.

A Roman commander, on landing in Italy after foreign service, was expected to disband his legions, and relapse into the position of a private person. A popular and successful general was an object of instinctive fear to the politicians who held the reins of government. The Senate was never pleased to see any individual too much an object of popular idolatry; and in the case of Pompey their suspicion was the greater on account of the greatness of his achievements, and because his command had been forced upon them by the people, against their will. In the absence of a garrison, the city was at the mercy of the patricians and their clients. That the noble lords were unscrupulous in removing persons whom they disliked they had shown in a hundred instances, and Pompey naturally enough hesitated to trust himself among them without security. He required the protection of office, and he had sent forward one of his most distinguished officers, Metellus Nepos, to prepare the way and demand the consulship for him. Metellus, to strengthen his hands, had stood for the tribuneship; and, in spite of the utmost efforts of the aristocracy, had been elected. It fell to Metellus to be the first to give expression to the general indignation in a way peculiarly wounding to the illustrious consul. Cicero imagined that the world looked upon him as its saviour. In his own eyes he was another Romulus, a second founder of Rome. The world, unfortunately, had formed an entirely different estimate of him. The prisoners had been killed on the 5th of December. On the last day of the year it was usual for the outgoing consuls to review the events of their term of office before the Senate; and Cicero had prepared a speech in which he had gilded his own performances with all his eloquence. Metellus commenced his tribunate with forbidding Cicero to deliver his oration, and forbidding him on the special ground that a man who had put Roman citizens to death without allowing them a hearing did not himself deserve to be heard. In the midst of the confusion and uproar which followed, Cicero could only shriek that he had saved his country: a declaration which could have been dispensed with, since he had so often insisted upon it already without producing the assent which he desired.

Notwithstanding his many fine qualities, Cicero was wanting in dignity. His vanity was wounded in its tenderest point, and he attacked Metellus a day or two after, in one of those violently abusive outpourings of which so many specimens of his own survive, and which happily so few other statesmen attempted to imitate. Metellus retorted with a threat of impeaching Cicero, and the grave Roman Curia became no better than a kennel of mad dogs. For days the storm raged on with no symptom of abatement. At last Metellus turned to the people and proposed in the assembly that Pompey should be recalled with his army to restore law and order.

Caesar, who was now praetor, warmly supported Metellus. To him, if to no one else, it was clear as the sun at noonday, that unless some better government could be provided than could be furnished by five hundred such gentlemen as the Roman senators, the State was drifting on to destruction. Resolutions to be submitted to the people were generally first drawn in writing, and were read from the Rostra. When Metellus produced his proposal, Cato, who was a tribune also, sprang to his side, ordered him to be silent, and snatched the scroll out of his hands. Metellus went on, speaking from memory Cato's friends shut his mouth by force. The patricians present drew their swords and cleared the Forum; and the Senate, in the exercise of another right to which they pretended, declared Caesar and Metullus degraded from their offices. Metullus, probably at Caesar's advice, withdrew and went off to Asia, to describe what had passed to Pompey. Caesar remained, and, quietly disregarding the Senate's sentence, continued to sit and hear cases as praetor. His court was forcibly closed. He yielded to violence and retired under protest, being escorted to the door of his house by an enormous multitude. There he dismissed his lictors and laid aside his official dress, that he might furnish no excuse for a charge against him of resisting the established authorities. The mob refused to be comforted. They gathered day after day. They clustered about the pontifical palace. They cried to Caesar to place himself at their head, that they might tear down the senate-house, and turn the caitiffs into the street. Caesar neither then nor ever lent himself to popular excesses. He reminded the citizens that if others broke the law, they must themselves set an example of obeying it, and he bade them return to their homes.

Terrified at the state of the city, and penitent for their injustice to Caesar, the Senate hurriedly revoked their decree of deposition, sent a deputation to him to apologize, and invited him to resume his place among them. The extreme patrician section remained irreconcilable. Caesar complied, but only to find himself denounced again with passionate pertinacity as having been an accomplice of Catiline. Witnesses were produced, who swore to having seen his signature to a treasonable bond. Curius, Cicero's spy, declared that Catiline himself had told him that Caesar was one of the conspirators. Caesar treated the charge with indignant disdain. He appealed to Cicero's conscience, and Cicero was obliged to say that he had derived his earliest and most important information from Caesar himself. The most violent of his accusers were placed under arrest. The informers, after a near escape from being massacred by the crowd, were thrown into prison, and for the moment the furious heats were able to cool.

All eyes were now turned to Pompey. The war in Asia was over. Pompey, it was clear, must now return to receive the thanks of his countrymen; and as he had triumphed in spite of the aristocracy, and as his victories could neither be denied nor undone, the best hope of the Senate was to win him over from the people, and to prevent a union between him and Caesar. Through all the recent dissensions Caesar had thrown his weight on Pompey's side. He, with Cicero, had urged Pompey's appointment to his successive commands. When Cicero went over to the patricians, Caesar had stood by Pompey's officers against the fury of the Senate. Caesar had the people behind him, and Pompey the army. Unless in some way an apple of discord could be thrown between them, the two favorites would overshadow the State, and the Senate's authority would be gone. Nothing could be done for the moment politically. Pompey owed his position to the democracy, and he was too great as yet to fear Caesar as a rival in the Commonwealth. On the personal side there was better hope. Caesar was as much admired in the world of fashion as he was detested in the Curia. He had no taste for the brutal entertainments and more brutal vices of male patrician society. He preferred the companionship of cultivated women, and the noble lords had the fresh provocation of finding their hated antagonist an object of adoration to their wives and daughters. Here, at any rate, scandal had the field to itself. Caesar was accused of criminal intimacy with many ladies of the highest rank, and Pompey was privately informed that his friend had taken advantage of his absence to seduce his wife, Mucia. Pompey was Agamemnon; Caesar had been Aegisthus; and Pompey was so far persuaded that Mucia had been unfaithful to him, that he divorced her before his return.

Charges of this kind have the peculiar advantage that even when disproved or shown to be manifestly absurd, they leave a stain behind them. Careless equally of probability and decency, the leaders of the Senate sacrificed without scruple the reputation of their own relatives if only they could make Caesar odious. The name of Servilia has been mentioned already. Servilia was the sister of Marcus Cato and the mother of Marcus Brutus. She was a woman of remarkable ability and character, and between her and Caesar there was undoubtedly a close acquaintance and a strong mutual affection. The world discovered that she was Caesar's mistress, and that Brutus was his son. It might be enough to say that when Brutus was born Caesar was scarcely fifteen years old, and that, if a later intimacy existed between them, Brutus knew nothing of it or cared nothing for it. When he stabbed Caesar at last it was not as a Hamlet or an Orestes, but as a patriot sacrificing his dearest friend to his country. The same doubt extends to the other supposed victims of Caesar's seductiveness. Names were mentioned in the following century, but no particulars were given. For the most part his alleged mistresses were the wives of men who remained closely attached to him notwithstanding. The report of his intrigue with Mucia answered its immediate purpose, in producing a temporary coldness on Pompey's part toward Caesar; but Pompey must either have discovered the story to be false or else have condoned it, for soon afterward he married Caesar's daughter. Two points may be remarked about these legends: first, that on no single occasion does Caesar appear to have been involved in any trouble or quarrel on account of his love affairs; and secondly, that, with the exception of Brutus and of Cleopatra's Caesarion, whose claims to be Caesar's son were denied and disproved, there is no record of any illegitimate children as the result of these amours—a strange thing if Caesar was as liberal of his favors as popular scandal pretended. It would be idle to affect a belief that Caesar was particularly virtuous. He was a man of the world, living in an age as corrupt as has been ever known. It would be equally idle to assume that all the ink blots thrown upon him were certainly deserved, because we find them in books which we call classical. Proof deserving to be called proof there is none; and the only real evidence is the town talk of a society which feared and hated Caesar, and was glad of every pretext to injure him when alive, or to discredit him after his death. Similar stories have been spread, are spread, and will be spread of every man who raises himself a few inches above the level of his fellows. We know how it is with our contemporaries. A single seed of fact will produce in a season or two a harvest of calumnies, and sensible men pass such things by, and pay no attention to them. With history we are less careful or less charitable. An accusation of immorality is accepted without examination when brought against eminent persons who can no longer defend themselves, and to raise a doubt of its truth passes as a sign of a weak understanding. So let it be. It is certain that Caesar's contemporaries spread rumors of a variety of intrigues, in which they said that he was concerned. It is probable that some were well founded. It is possible that all were well founded. But it is no less indubitable that they rest on evidence which is not evidence at all, and that the most innocent intimacies would not have escaped misrepresentation from the venomous tongues of Roman society. Caesar comes into court with a fairer character than those whose virtues are thought to overshadow him. Marriage, which under the ancient Romans was the most sacred of ties, had become the lightest and the loosest. Cicero divorced Tereutia when she was old and ill-tempered, and married a young woman. Cato made over his Marcia, the mother of his children, to his friend Hortensius, and took her back as a wealthy widow when Hortensius died. Pompey put away his first wife at Sylla's bidding, and took a second who was already the wife of another man. Caesar, when little more than a boy, dared the Dictator's displeasure rather than condescend to a similar compliance. His worst enemies admitted that from the gluttony, the drunkenness, and the viler forms of sensuality, which were then so common, he was totally free. For the rest, it is certain that no friend ever permanently quarrelled with him on any question of domestic injury; and either there was a general indifference on such subjects, which lightens the character of the sin, or popular scandals in old Rome were of no sounder material than we find them composed of in other countries and in other times.

Turning from scandal to reality, we come now to a curious incident, which occasioned a fresh political convulsion, where Caesar appears, not as an actor in an affair of gallantry, but as a sufferer.

Pompey was still absent. Caesar had resumed his duties as praetor, and was living in the official house of the Pontifex Maximus, with his mother Aurelia and his wife Pompeia. The age was fertile of new religions. The worship of the Bona Dea, a foreign goddess of unknown origin, had recently been introduced into Rome, and an annual festival was held in her honor in the house of one or other of the principal magistrates. The Vestal virgins officiated at the ceremonies, and women only were permitted to be present. This year the pontifical palace was selected for the occasion, and Caesar's wife Pompeia was to preside.

The reader may remember a certain youth named Clodius, who had been with Lucullus in Asia, and had been a chief instigator of the mutiny in his army. He was Lucullus's brother-in-law, a member of the Claudian family, a patrician of the patricians, and connected by blood and marriage with the proudest members of the Senate. If Cicero is to be believed, he had graduated even while a boy in every form of vice, natural and unnatural. He was bold, clever, unprincipled, and unscrupulous, with a slender diminutive figure and a delicate woman's face. His name was Clodius Pulcher. Cicero played upon it and called him Pulchellus Puer, "the pretty boy." Between this promising young man and Caesar's wife Pompeia there had sprung up an acquaintance, which Clodius was anxious to press to further extremes. Pompeia was difficult of access, her mother-in-law Aurelia keeping a strict watch over her; and Clodius, who was afraid of nothing, took advantage of the Bona Dea festival to make his way into Caesar's house dressed as a woman. Unfortunately for him, his disguise was detected. The insulted Vestals and the other ladies who were present flew upon him like the dogs of Actaeon, tore his borrowed garments from him, and drove him into the street naked and wounded. The adventure became known. It was mentioned in the Senate, and the College of Priests was ordered to hold an inquiry. The college found that Clodius had committed sacrilege, and the regular course in such cases was to send the offender to trial. There was general unwillingness, however, to treat this matter seriously. Clodius had many friends in the house, and even Cicero, who was inclined at first to be severe, took on reflection a more lenient view. Clodius had a sister, a light lady who, weary of her conquests over her fashionable admirers, had tried her fascinations on the great orator. He had escaped complete subjugation, but he had been flattered by the attention of the seductive beauty, and was ready to help her brother out of his difficulty. Clodius was not yet the dangerous desperado which he afterward became; and immorality, though seasoned with impiety, might easily, it was thought, be made too much of. Caesar himself did not press for punishment. As president of the college, he had acquiesced in their decision, and he divorced the unfortunate Pompeia; but he expressed no opinion as to the extent of her criminality, and he gave as his reason for separating from her, not that she was guilty, but that Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.

Cato, however, insisted on a prosecution. Messala, one of the consuls, was equally peremptory. The hesitation was regarded by the stricter senators as a scandal to the order; and in spite of the efforts of the second consul Piso, who was a friend of Clodius, it was decided that a bill for his indictment should be submitted to the assembly in the Forum. Clodius, it seems, was generally popular. No political question was raised by the proceedings against him; for the present his offence was merely a personal one; the wreck of Catiline's companions, the dissolute young aristocrats, the loose members of all ranks and classes, took up the cause, and gathered to support their favorite, with young Curio, whom Cicero called in mockery Filiola, at their head. The approaches to the Forum were occupied by them. Piso, by whom the bill was introduced, himself advised the people to reject it. Cato flew to the Rostra and railed at the consul. Hortensius, the orator, and many others spoke on the same side. It appeared at last that the people were divided, and would consent to the bill being passed, if it was recommended to them by both the consuls. Again, therefore, the matter was referred to the Senate. One of the tribunes introduced Clodius, that he might speak for himself. Cicero had now altered his mind, and was in favor of the prosecution.

[Sidenote: February, B.C. 61.] The "pretty youth" was alternately humble and violent, begging pardon, and then bursting into abuse of his brother-in-law, Lucullus, and more particularly of Cicero, whom he suspected of being the chief promoter of the proceedings against him. When it came to a division, the Senate voted by a majority of four hundred to fifteen that the consuls must recommend the bill. Piso gave way, and the tribune also who had been in Clodius's favor. The people were satisfied, and a court of fifty-six judges was appointed, before whom the trial was to take place. It seemed that a conviction must necessarily follow, for there was no question about the facts, which were all admitted. There was some manoeuvring, however, in the constitution of the court, which raised Cicero's suspicions. The judges, instead of being selected by the praetor, were chosen by lot, and the prisoner was allowed to challenge as many names as he pleased. The result was that in Cicero's opinion a more scandalous set of persons than those who were finally sworn were never collected round a gaming table— "disgraced senators, bankrupt knights, disreputable tribunes of the treasury, the few honest men that were left appearing to be ashamed of their company"—and Cicero considered that it would have been better if Hortensius, who was prosecuting, had withdrawn, and had left Clodius to be condemned by the general sense of respectable people, rather than risk the credit of Roman justice before so scandalous a tribunal.[1] Still the case as it proceeded appeared so clear as to leave no hope of an acquittal. Clodius's friends were in despair, and were meditating an appeal to the mob. The judges, on the evening of the first day of the trial, as if they had already decided on a verdict of guilty, applied for a guard to protect them while they delivered it. The Senate complimented them in giving their consent. With a firm expectation present in all men's minds the second morning dawned. Even in Rome, accustomed as it was to mockeries of justice, public opinion was shocked when the confident anticipation was disappointed. According to Cicero, Marcus Crassus, for reasons known to himself, had been interested in Clodius. During the night he sent for the judges one by one. He gave them money. What else he either gave or promised them, must continue veiled in Cicero's Latin.[2] Before these influences the resolution of the judges melted away, and when the time came, thirty-one out of fifty-six high-born Roman peers and gentlemen declared Clodius innocent.

The original cause was nothing. That a profligate young man should escape punishment for a licentious frolic was comparatively of no consequence; but the trial acquired a notoriety of infamy which shook once more the already tottering constitution.

"Why did you ask for a guard?" old Catulus growled to the judges: "was it that the money you have received might not be taken from you?"

"Such is the history of this affair," Cicero wrote to his friend Atticus. "We thought that the foundation of the Commonwealth had been surely re- established in my consulship, all orders of good men being happily united. You gave the praise to me and I to the gods; and now unless some god looks favorably on us, all is lost in this single judgment. Thirty Romans have been found to trample justice under foot for a bribe, and to declare an act not to have been committed, about which not only not a man, but not a beast of the field, can entertain the smallest doubt."

Cato threatened the judges with impeachment; Cicero stormed in the Senate, rebuked the consul Piso, and lectured Clodius in a speech which he himself admired exceedingly. The "pretty boy" in reply taunted Cicero with wishing to make himself a king. Cicero rejoined with asking Clodius about a man named "King," whose estates he had appropriated, and reminded him of a misadventure among the pirates, from which he had come off with nameless ignominy. Neither antagonist very honorably distinguished himself in this encounter of wit. The Senate voted at last for an inquiry into the judges' conduct; but an inquiry only added to Cicero's vexation, for his special triumph had been, as he conceived, the union of the Senate with the equites; and the equites took the resolution as directed against themselves, and refused to be consoled.[3]

Caesar had been absent during these scenes. His term of office having expired, he had been despatched as propraetor to Spain, where the ashes of the Sertorian rebellion were still smouldering; and he had started for his province while the question of Clodius's trial was still pending. Portugal and Gallicia were still unsubdued. Bands of robbers lay everywhere in the fastnesses of the mountain ranges. Caesar was already favorably known in Spain for his service as quaestor. He now completed the conquest of the peninsula. He put down the banditti. He reorganized the administration with the rapid skill which always so remarkably distinguished him. He sent home large sums of money to the treasury. His work was done quickly, but it was done completely. He nowhere left an unsound spot unprobed. He never contented himself with the superficial healing of a wound which would break out again when he was gone. What he began he finished, and left it in need of no further surgery. As his reward, he looked for a triumph, and the consulship, one or both; and the consulship he knew could not well be refused to him, unwelcome as it would be to the Senate.

Pompey meanwhile was at last coming back. All lesser luminaries shone faint before the sun of Pompey, the subduer of the pirates, the conqueror of Asia, the glory of the Roman name. Even Cicero had feared that the fame of the saviour of his country might pale before the lustre of the great Pompey. "I used to be in alarm," he confessed with naive simplicity, "that six hundred years hence the merits of Sampsiceramus[4] might seem to have been more than mine." [5] But how would Pompey appear? Would he come at the head of his army, like Sylla, the armed soldier of the democracy, to avenge the affront upon his officers, to reform the State, to punish the Senate for the murder of the Catiline conspirators? Pompey had no such views, and no capacity for such ambitious operations. The ground had been prepared beforehand. The Mucia story had perhaps done its work, and the Senate and the great commander were willing to meet each other, at least with outward friendliness.

His successes had been brilliant; but they were due rather to his honesty than to his military genius. He had encountered no real resistance, and Cato had sneered at his exploits as victories over women. He had put down the buccaneers, because he had refused to be bribed by them. He had overthrown Mithridates and had annexed Asia Minor and Syria to the Roman dominions. Lucullus could have done it as easily as his successor, if he could have turned his back upon temptations to increase his own fortune or gratify his own passions. The wealth of the East had lain at Pompey's feet, and he had not touched it. He had brought millions into the treasury. He returned, as he had gone out, himself moderately provided for, and had added nothing to his private income. He understood, and practised strictly, the common rules of morality. He detested dishonesty and injustice. But he had no political insight; and if he was ambitious, it was with the innocent vanity which desires, and is content with, admiration. In the time of the Scipios he would have lived in an atmosphere of universal applause, and would have died in honor with an unblemished name. In the age of Clodius and Catiline he was the easy dupe of men of stronger intellect than his own, who played upon his unsuspicious integrity. His delay in coming back had arisen chiefly from anxiety for his personal safety. He was eager to be reconciled to the Senate, yet without deserting the people. While in Asia, he had reassured Cicero that nothing was to be feared from him.[6] His hope was to find friends on all sides and in all parties, and he thought that he had deserved their friendship.

[Sidenote: December, B.C. 62.] Thus when Pompey landed at Brindisi his dreaded legions were disbanded, and he proceeded to the Capitol, with a train of captive princes, as the symbols of his victories, and wagons loaded with treasure as an offering to his country. He was received as he advanced with the shouts of applauding multitudes. He entered Rome in a galaxy of glory. A splendid column commemorated the cities which he had taken, the twelve million human beings whom he had slain or subjected. His triumph was the most magnificent which the Roman citizens had ever witnessed, and by special vote he was permitted to wear his triumphal robe in the Senate as often and as long as might please him. The fireworks over, and with the aureole of glory about his brow, the great Pompey, like another Samson shorn of his locks, dropped into impotence and insignificance. In February, 61, during the debate on the Clodius affair, he made his first speech in the Senate. Cicero, listening with malicious satisfaction, reported that "Pompey gave no pleasure to the wretched; to the bad he seemed without backbone; he was not agreeable to the well-to-do; the wise and good found him wanting in substance;" [7] in short, the speech was a failure. Pompey applied for a second consulship. He was reminded that he had been consul eight years previously, and that the ten years' interval prescribed by Sylla, between the first and the second term, had not expired. He asked for lands for his soldiers, and for the ratification of his acts in Asia. Cato opposed the first request, as likely to lead to another agrarian law. Lucullus, who was jealous of him, raised difficulties about the second, and thwarted him with continual delays.

[Sidenote: February 1, B.C. 60.] Pompey, being a poor speaker, thus found himself entirely helpless in the new field. Cicero, being relieved of fear from him as a rival, was wise enough to see that the collapse might not continue, and that his real qualities might again bring him to the front. The Clodius business had been a frightful scandal, and, smooth as the surface might seem, ugly cracks were opening all round the constitution. The disbanded legions were impatient for their farms. The knights, who were already offended with the Senate for having thrown the disgrace of the Clodius trial upon them, had a fresh and more substantial grievance. The leaders of the order had contracted to farm the revenues in Asia. They found that the terms which they had offered were too high, and they claimed an abatement, which the Senate refused to allow. The Catiline conspiracy should have taught the necessity of a vigorous administration. Caecilius Metellus and Lucius Afranius, who had been chosen consuls for the year 60, were mere nothings. Metellus was a vacant aristocrat,[8] to be depended on for resisting popular demands, but without insight otherwise; the second, Afranius, was a person "on whom only a philosopher could look without a groan;" [9] and one year more might witness the consulship of Caesar. "I have not a friend," Cicero wrote, "to whom I can express my real thoughts. Things cannot long stand as they are. I have been vehement: I have put out all my strength in the hope of mending matters and healing our disorders, but we will not endure the necessary medicine. The seat of justice has been publicly debauched. Resolutions are introduced against corruption, but no law can be carried. The knights are alienated. The Senate has lost its authority. The concord of the orders is gone, and the pillars of the Commonwealth which I set up are overthrown. We have not a statesman, or the shadow of one. My friend Pompey, who might have done something, sits silent, admiring his fine clothes.[10] Crassus will say nothing to make himself unpopular, and the rest are such idiots as to hope that although the constitution fall they will save their own fish-ponds.[11] Cato, the best man that we have, is more honest than wise. For these three months he has been worrying the revenue farmers, and will not let the Senate satisfy them." [12]

It was time for Cicero to look about him. The Catiline affair was not forgotten. He might still be called to answer for the executions, and he felt that he required some stronger support than an aristocracy, who would learn nothing and seemed to be bent on destroying themselves. In letter after letter he pours out his contempt for his friends "of the fish- ponds," as he called them, who would neither mend their ways nor let others mend them. He would not desert them altogether, but he provided for contingencies. The tribunes had taken up the cause of Pompey's legionaries. Agrarian laws were threatened, and Pompey himself was most eager to see his soldiers satisfied. Cicero, who had hitherto opposed an agrarian law with all his violence, discovered now that something might be said in favor of draining "the sink of the city" [13] and repeopling Italy. Besides the public advantage, he felt that he would please the mortified but still popular Pompey; and he lent his help in the Senate to improving a bill introduced by the tribunes, and endeavoring, though unsuccessfully, to push it through.

[Sidenote: July, B.C. 60.] So grateful was Pompey for Cicero's support that he called him, in the Senate, "the saviour of the world." [14]Cicero was delighted with the phrase, and began to look to Pompey as a convenient ally. He thought that he could control and guide him and use his popularity for moderate measures. Nay, even in his despair of the aristocracy, he began to regard as not impossible a coalition with Caesar. "You caution me about Pompey," he wrote to Atticus in the following July. "Do not suppose that I am attaching myself to him for my own protection; but the state of things is such, that if we two disagree the worst misfortunes may be feared. I make no concessions to him, I seek to make him better, and to cure him of his popular levity; and now he speaks more highly by far of my actions than of his own. He has merely done well, he says, while I have saved the State. However this may affect me, it is certainly good for the Commonwealth. What if I can make Caesar better also, who is now coming on with wind and tide? Will that be so bad a thing? Even if I had no enemies, if I was supported as universally as I ought to be, still a medicine which will cure the diseased parts of the State is better than the surgery which would amputate them. The knights have fallen off from the Senate. The noble lords think they are in heaven when they have barbel in their ponds that will eat out of their hands, and they leave the rest to fate. You cannot love Cato more than I love him, but he does harm with the best intentions. He speaks as if he was in Plato's Republic, instead of being in the dregs of that of Romulus. Most true that corrupt judges ought to be punished! Cato proposed it, the Senate agreed; but the knights have declared war upon the Senate. Most insolent of the revenue farmers to throw up their contract! Cato resisted them, and carried his point; but now when seditions break out, the knights will not lift a finger to repress them. Are we to hire mercenaries? Are we to depend on our slaves and freedmen?.... But enough."[15]

[Sidenote: October, B.C. 60.] [Sidenote: November, B.C. 60.] Cicero might well despair of a Senate who had taken Cato to lead them. Pompey had come home in the best of dispositions. The Senate had offended Pompey, and, more than that, had offended his legionaries. They had quarrelled with the knights. They had quarrelled with the moneyed interests. They now added an entirely gratuitous affront to Caesar. His Spanish administration was admitted by every one to have been admirable. He was coming to stand for the consulship, which could not be refused; but he asked for a triumph also, and as the rule stood there was a difficulty, for if he was to have a triumph, he must remain outside the walls till the day fixed for it, and if he was a candidate for office, he must be present in person on the day of the election. The custom, though convenient in itself, had been more than once set aside. Caesar applied to the Senate for a dispensation, which would enable him to be a candidate in his absence; and Cato, either from mere dislike of Caesar or from a hope that he might prefer vanity to ambition, and that the dreaded consulship might be escaped, persuaded the Senate to refuse. If this was the expectation, it was disappointed. Caesar dropped his triumph, came home, and went through the usual forms, and it at once appeared that his election was certain, and that every powerful influence in the State was combined in his favor. From Pompey he met the warmest reception. The Mucia bubble had burst. Pompey saw in Caesar only the friend who had stood by him in every step of his later career, and had braved the fury of the Senate at the side of his officer Metellus Nepos. Equally certain it was that Caesar, as a soldier, would interest himself for Pompey's legionaries, and that they could be mutually useful to each other. Caesar had the people at his back, and Pompey had the army. The third great power in Rome was that of the capitalists, and about the attitude of these there was at first some uncertainty. Crassus, who was the impersonation of them, was a friend of Caesar, but had been on bad terms with Pompey. Caesar, however, contrived to reconcile them; and thus all parties outside the patrician circle were combined for a common purpose. Could Cicero have taken his place frankly at their side, as his better knowledge told him to do, the inevitable revolution might have been accomplished without bloodshed, and the course of history have been different. Caesar wished it. But it was not so to be. Cicero perhaps found that he would have to be content with a humbler position than he had anticipated, that in such a combination he would have to follow rather than to lead. He was tempted. He saw a promise of peace, safety, influence, if not absolute, yet considerable. But he could not bring himself to sacrifice the proud position which he had won for himself in his consulship, as leader of the Conservatives; and he still hoped to reign in the Senate, while using the protection of the popular chiefs as a shelter in time of storms. Caesar was chosen consul without opposition. His party was so powerful that it seemed at one time as if he could name his colleague, but the Senate succeeded with desperate efforts in securing the second place. They subscribed money profusely, the immaculate Cato prominent among them. The machinery of corruption was well in order. The great nobles commanded the votes of their clientele, and they succeeded in giving Caesar the same companion who had accompanied him through the aedileship and the praetorship, Marcus Bibulus, a dull, obstinate fool, who could be relied on, if for nothing else, yet for dogged resistance to every step which the Senate disapproved. For the moment they appeared to have thought that with Bibulus's help they might defy Caesar and reduce his office to a nullity. Immediately on the election of the consuls, it was usual to determine the provinces to which they were to be appointed when their consulate should expire. The regulation lay with the Senate, and, either in mere spleen or to prevent Caesar from having the command of an army, they allotted him the department of the "Woods and Forests." [16] A very few weeks had to pass before they discovered that they had to do with a man who was not to be turned aside so slightingly.

Hitherto Caesar had been feared and hated, but his powers were rather suspected than understood. As the nephew of Marius and the son-in-law of Cinna, he was the natural chief of the party which had once governed Rome and had been trampled under the hoof of Sylla. He had shown on many occasions that he had inherited his uncle's principles, and could be daring and skilful in asserting them. But he had held carefully within the constitutional lines; he had kept himself clear of conspiracies; he had never, like the Gracchi, put himself forward as a tribune or attempted the part of a popular agitator. When he had exerted himself in the political world of Rome, it had been to maintain the law against violence, to resist and punish encroachments of arbitrary power, or to rescue the Empire from being gambled away by incapable or profligate aristocrats. Thus he had gathered for himself the animosity of the fashionable upper classes and the confidence of the body of the people. But what he would do in power, or what it was in him to do, was as yet merely conjectural.

[Sidenote: B.C. 50.] At all events, after an interval of a generation there was again a popular consul, and on every side there was a harvest of iniquities ready for the sickle. Sixty years had passed since the death of the younger Gracchus; revolution after revolution had swept over the Commonwealth, and Italy was still as Tiberius Gracchus had found it. The Gracchan colonists had disappeared. The Syllan military proprietors had disappeared—one by one they had fallen to beggary, and had sold their holdings, and again the country was parcelled into enormous estates cultivated by slave-gangs. The Italians had been emancipated, but the process had gone no further. The libertini, the sons of the freedmen, still waited for equality of rights. The rich and prosperous provinces beyond the Po remained unenfranchised, while the value of the franchise itself was daily diminishing as the Senate resumed its control over the initiative of legislation. Each year the elections became more corrupt. The Clodius judgment had been the most frightful instance which had yet occurred of the depravity of the law courts; while, by Cicero's own admission, not a single measure could pass beyond discussion into act which threatened the interests of the oligarchy. The consulship of Caesar was looked to with hope from the respectable part of the citizens, with alarm from the high-born delinquents as a period of genuine reform. The new consuls were to enter office on the 1st of January. In December it was known that an agrarian law would be at once proposed under plea of providing for Pompey's troops; and Cicero had to decide whether he would act in earnest in the spirit which he had begun to show when the tribunes' bill was under discussion, or would fall back upon resistance with the rest of his party, or evade the difficult dilemma by going on foreign service, or else would simply absent himself from Rome while the struggle was going on. "I may either resist," he said, "and there will be an honorable fight; or I may do nothing, and withdraw into the country, which will be honorable also; or I may give active help, which I am told Caesar expects of me. His friend, Cornelius Balbus, who was with me lately, affirms that Caesar will be guided in everything by my advice and Pompey's, and will use his endeavor to bring Pompey and Crassus together. Such a course has its advantages; it will draw me closely to Pompey and, if I please, to Caesar. I shall have no more to fear from my enemies. I shall be at peace with the people. I can look to quiet in my old age. But the lines still move me which conclude the third book (of my Poem on my consulship): 'Hold to the track on which thou enteredst in thy early youth, which thou pursuedst as consul so valorously and bravely. Increase thy fame, and seek the praise of the good.'" [17]

It had been proposed to send Cicero on a mission to Egypt. "I should like well, and I have long wished," he said, "to see Alexandria and the rest of that country. They have had enough of me here at present, and they may wish for me when I am away. But to go now, and to go on a commission from Caesar and Pompey!

I should blush To face the men and long-robed dames of Troy.[18]

What will our optimates say, if we have any optimates left? Polydamas will throw in my teeth that I have been bribed by the opposition—I mean Cato, who is one out of a hundred thousand to me. What will history say of me six hundred years hence? I am more afraid of that than of the chatter of my contemporaries."[19]

So Cicero meditated, thinking as usual of himself first and of his duty afterward—the fatalest of all courses then and always.

[1] "Si causam quaeris absolutionis, egestas judicum fuit et turpitudo.... Non vidit (Hortensius) satius esse illum in infamia relinqui ac sordibus quam infirmo judicio committi."—To Atticus, i. 16.

[2] "Jam vero, oh Dii Boni! rem perditam! etiam noctes certarum mulierum, atque adolescentulorum nobilium introductiones nonnullis judicibus pro mercedis cumulo fuerunt."—Ad Atticum, i. 16.

[3] "Nos hic in republica infirma, misera commutabilique versamur. Credo enim te audisse, nostros equites paene a senatu esse disjunctos; qui primum illud valde graviter tulerund, promulgatum ex senatus consulto fuisse, ut de iis, qui ob judicaudum pecuniam accepissent queareretur. Qua in re decernenda cum ego casu non affuissem, sensissemque id equestrem ordinem ferre moleste, neque aperte dicere: objurgavi senatum, ut mihi visus sum, summa cum auctoritate, et in causa non verecunda admodum gravis et copiosus fui."—To Atticus, i. 17.

[4] A nickname under which Cicero often speaks of Pompey.

[5] "Solebat enim me pungere, ne Sampsicerami merita in patriam ad annos DC majora viderentur, quam nostra."—To Atticus, ii. 17.

[6] "Pompeius nobis amicissimus esse constat."—To Atticus, i. 13.

[7] "Non jucunda miseris, inanis improbis, beatis non grata, bonis non gravis. Itaque frigebat."—To Atticus, i. 14.

[8] "Metellus non homo, sed litus atque aer, et solitudo mera."—To Atticus, i. 18.

[9] "Consul est impositus is nobis, quem nemo, praeter nos philosophos, aspicere sine suspiratu potest."—Ib. i. 18.

[10] "Pompeius togulam illam pictam silentio tuetur suam."—Ib. The "picta togula" means the triumphal robe which Pompey was allowed to wear.

[11] "Ceteros jam nosti; qui ita sunt stulti, ut amissa republica piscinas suas fore salvas sperare videantur."—Ib.

[12] Ib., abridged.

[13] "Sentinam urbis," a worse word than he had blamed in Rullus three years before.—To Atticus, i. 19.

[14] "Pompeium adduxi in eam voluntatem, ut in Senatu non semel, sed saepe, multisque verbis, hujus mihi salutem imperii atque orbis terrarum adjudicarit."—ib.

[15] To Atticus, ii. 1, abridged.

[16] Silvae Callesque—to which "woods and forests" is a near equivalent.

[17] "Interea cursus, quos prima a parte juventae, Quosque ideo consul virtute animoque petisti, Hos retine atquae auge famam laudesque bonorum." To Atticus, ii. 3.

[18] Iliad, vi. 442. Lord Derby's translation.

[19] To Atticus, ii. 5.


The consulship of Caesar was the last chance for the Roman aristocracy. He was not a revolutionist. Revolutions are the last desperate remedy when all else has failed. They may create as many evils as they cure, and wise men always hate them. But if revolution was to be escaped, reform was inevitable, and it was for the Senate to choose between the alternatives. Could the noble lords have known then, in that their day, the things that belonged to their peace—could they have forgotten their fish-ponds and their game-preserves, and have remembered that, as the rulers of the civilized world, they had duties which the eternal order of nature would exact at their hands—the shaken constitution might again have regained its stability, and the forms and even the reality of the Republic might have continued for another century. It was not to be. Had the Senate been capable of using the opportunity, they would long before have undertaken a reformation for themselves. Even had their eyes been opened, there were disintegrating forces at work which the highest political wisdom could do no more than arrest; and little good is really effected by prolonging artificially the lives of either constitutions or individuals beyond their natural period. From the time when Rome became an empire, mistress of provinces to which she was unable to extend her own liberties, the days of her self-government were numbered. A homogeneous and vigorous people may manage their own affairs under a popular constitution so long as their personal characters remain undegenerate. Parliaments and Senates may represent the general will of the community, and may pass laws and administer them as public sentiment approves. But such bodies can preside successfully only among subjects who are directly represented in them. They are too ignorant, too selfish, too divided, to govern others; and imperial aspirations draw after them, by obvious necessity, an imperial rule. Caesar may have known this in his heart, yet the most far-seeing statesman will not so trust his own misgivings as to refuse to hope for the regeneration of the institutions into which he is born. He will determine that justice shall be done. Justice is the essence of government, and without justice all forms, democratic or monarchic, are tyrannies alike. But he will work with the existing methods till the inadequacy of them has been proved beyond dispute. Constitutions are never overthrown till they have pronounced sentence on themselves.

Caesar accordingly commenced office by an endeavor to conciliate. The army and the moneyed interests, represented by Pompey and Crassus, were already with him; and he used his endeavors, as has been seen, to gain Cicero, who might bring with him such part of the landed aristocracy as were not hopelessly incorrigible. With Cicero he but partially succeeded. The great orator solved the problem of the situation by going away into the country and remaining there for the greater part of the year, and Caesar had to do without an assistance which, in the speaking department, would have been invaluable to him. His first step was to order the publication of the "Acta Diurna," a daily journal of the doings of the Senate. The light of day being thrown in upon that august body might prevent honorable members from laying hands on each other as they had lately done, and might enable the people to know what was going on among them—on a better authority than rumor. He then introduced his agrarian law, the rough draft of which had been already discussed, and had been supported by Cicero in the preceding year. Had he meant to be defiant, like the Gracchi, he might have offered it at once to the people. Instead of doing so, he laid it before the Senate, inviting them to amend his suggestions, and promising any reasonable concessions if they would co-operate. No wrong was to be done to any existing occupiers. No right of property was to be violated which was any real right at all. Large tracts in Campania which belonged to the State were now held on the usual easy terms by great landed patricians. These Caesar proposed to buy out, and to settle on the ground twenty thousand of Pompey's veterans. There was money enough and to spare in the treasury, which they had themselves brought home. Out of the large funds which would still remain land might be purchased in other parts of Italy for the rest, and for a few thousand of the unemployed population which was crowded into Rome. The measure in itself was admitted to be a moderate one. Every pains had been taken to spare the interests and to avoid hurting the susceptibilities of the aristocrats. But, as Cicero said, the very name of an agrarian law was intolerable to them. It meant in the end spoliation and division of property, and the first step would bring others after it. The public lands they had shared conveniently among themselves from immemorial time. The public treasure was their treasure, to be laid out as they might think proper. Cato headed the opposition. He stormed for an entire day, and was so violent that Caesar threatened him with arrest. The Senate groaned and foamed; no progress was made or was likely to be made; and Caesar, as much in earnest as they were, had to tell them that if they would not help him he must appeal to the assembly. "I invited you to revise the law," he said; "I was willing that if any clause displeased you it should be expunged. You will not touch it. Well, then, the people must decide."

The Senate had made up their minds to fight the battle. If Caesar went to the assembly, Bibulus, their second consul, might stop the proceedings. If this seemed too extreme a step, custom provided other impediments to which recourse might be had. Bibulus might survey the heavens, watch the birds, or the clouds, or the direction of the wind, and declare the aspects unfavorable; or he might proclaim day after day to be holy, and on holy days no legislation was permitted. Should these religious cobwebs be brushed away, the Senate had provided a further resource in three of the tribunes whom they had bribed. Thus they held themselves secure, and dared Caesar to do his worst. Caesar on his side was equally determined. The assembly was convoked. The Forum was choked to overflowing. Caesar and Pompey stood on the steps of the Temple of Castor, and Bibulus and his tribunes were at hand ready with their interpellations. Such passions had not been roused in Rome since the days of Cinna and Octavius, and many a young lord was doubtless hoping that the day would not close without another lesson to ambitious demagogues and howling mobs. In their eyes the one reform which Rome needed was another Sylla.

Caesar read his law from the tablet on which it was inscribed; and, still courteous to his antagonist, he turned to Bibulus and asked him if he had any fault to find. Bibulus said sullenly that he wanted no revolutions, and that while he was consul there should be none. The people hissed; and he then added in a rage, "You shall not have your law this year though every man of you demand it." Caesar answered nothing, but Pompey and Crassus stood forward. They were not officials, but they were real forces. Pompey was the idol of every soldier in the State, and at Caesar's invitation he addressed the assembly. He spoke for his veterans. He spoke for the poor citizens. He said that he approved the law to the last letter of it.

"Will you then," asked Caesar, "support the law if it be illegally opposed?" "Since," replied Pompey, "you consul, and you my fellow- citizens, ask aid of me, a poor individual without office and without authority, who nevertheless has done some service to the State, I say that I will bear the shield if others draw the sword." Applause rang out from a hundred thousand throats. Crassus followed to the same purpose, and was received with the same wild delight. A few senators, who retained their senses, saw the uselessness of the opposition, and retired. Bibulus was of duller and tougher metal. As the vote was about to be taken, he and his tribunes rushed to the rostra. The tribunes pronounced their veto. Bibulus said that he had consulted the sky; the gods forbade further action being taken that day, and he declared the assembly dissolved. Nay, as if a man like Caesar could be stopped by a shadow, he proposed to sanctify the whole remainder of the year, that no further business might be transacted in it. Yells drowned his voice. The mob rushed upon the steps; Bibulus was thrown down, and the rods of the lictors were broken; the tribunes who had betrayed their order were beaten. Cato held his ground, and stormed at Caesar till he was led off by the police, raving and gesticulating. The law was then passed, and a resolution besides that every senator should take an oath to obey it.

So in ignominy the Senate's resistance collapsed: the Caesar whom they had thought to put off with their "woods and forests" had proved stronger than the whole of them; and, prostrate at the first round of the battle, they did not attempt another. They met the following morning. Bibulus told his story and appealed for support. Had the Senate complied, they would probably have ceased to exist. The oath was unpalatable, but they made the best of it. Metellus Celer, Cato, and Favonius, a senator whom men called Cato's ape, struggled against their fate, but, "swearing they would ne'er consent, consented." The unwelcome formula was swallowed by the whole of them; and Bibulus, who had done his part and had been beaten and kicked and trampled upon, and now found his employers afraid to stand by him, went off sulkily to his house, shut himself up there, and refused to act as consul further during the remainder of the year.

There was no further active opposition. A commission was appointed by Caesar to carry out the land act, composed of twenty of the best men that could be found, one of them being Atius Balbus, the husband of Caesar's only sister, and grandfather of a little child now three years old, who was known afterward to the world as Augustus. Cicero was offered a place, but declined. The land question having been disposed of, Caesar then proceeded with the remaining measures by which his consulship was immortalized. He had redeemed his promise to Pompey by providing for his soldiers. He gratified Crassus by giving the desired relief to the farmers of the taxes. He confirmed Pompey's arrangements for the government of Asia, which the Senate had left in suspense. The Senate was now itself suspended. The consul acted directly with the assembly, without obstruction and without remonstrance, Bibulus only from time to time sending out monotonous admonitions from within doors that the season was consecrated, and that Caesar's acts had no validity. Still more remarkably, and as the distinguishing feature of his term of office, Caesar carried, with the help of the people, the body of admirable laws which are known to jurists as the "Leges Juliae," and mark an epoch in Roman history. They were laws as unwelcome to the aristocracy as they were essential to the continued existence of the Roman State, laws which had been talked of in the Senate, but which could never pass through the preliminary stage of resolutions, and were now enacted over the Senate's head by the will of Caesar and the sovereign power of the nation. A mere outline can alone be attempted here. There was a law declaring the inviolability of the persons of magistrates during their term of authority, reflecting back on the murder of Saturninus, and touching by implication the killing of Lentulus and his companions. There was a law for the punishment of adultery, most disinterestedly singular if the popular accounts of Caesar's habits had any grain of truth in them. There were laws for the protection of the subject from violence, public or private; and laws disabling persons who had laid hands illegally on Roman citizens from holding office in the Commonwealth. There was a law, intended at last to be effective, to deal with judges who allowed themselves to be bribed. There were laws against defrauders of the revenue; laws against debasing the coin; laws against sacrilege; laws against corrupt State contracts; laws against bribery at elections. Finally, there was a law, carefully framed, De repetundis, to exact retribution from proconsuls or propraetors of the type of Verres who had plundered the provinces. All governors were required, on relinquishing office, to make a double return of their accounts, one to remain for inspection among the archives of the province, and one to be sent to Rome; and where peculation or injustice could be proved, the offender's estate was made answerable to the last sesterce.[1]

Such laws were words only without the will to execute them; but they affirmed the principles on which Roman or any other society could alone continue. It was for the officials of the constitution to adopt them, and save themselves and the Republic, or to ignore them as they had ignored the laws which already existed, and see it perish as it deserved. All that man could do for the preservation of his country from revolution Caesar had accomplished. Sylla had re-established the rule of the aristocracy, and it had failed grossly and disgracefully. Cinna and Marius had tried democracy, and that had failed. Caesar was trying what law would do, and the result remained to be seen. Bibulus, as each measure was passed, croaked that it was null and void. The leaders of the Senate threatened between their teeth that all should be undone when Caesar's term was over. Cato, when he mentioned the "Leges Juliae," spoke of them as enactments, but refused them their author's name. But the excellence of these laws was so clearly recognized that they survived the irregularity of their introduction; and the "Lex de Repetundis" especially remained a terror to evil-doers, with a promise of better days to the miserable and pillaged subjects of the Roman Empire.

So the year of Caesar's consulship passed away. What was to happen when it had expired? The Senate had provided "the woods and forests" for him. But the Senate's provision in such a matter could not be expected to hold. He asked for nothing, but he was known to desire an opportunity of distinguished service. Caesar was now forty-three. His life was ebbing away, and, with the exception of his two years in Spain, it had been spent in struggling with the base elements of Roman faction. Great men will bear such sordid work when it is laid on them, but they loathe it notwithstanding, and for the present there was nothing more to be done. A new point of departure had been taken. Principles had been laid down for the Senate and people to act on, if they could and would. Caesar could only wish for a long absence in some new sphere of usefulness, where he could achieve something really great which his country would remember.

And on one side only was such a sphere open to him. The East was Roman to the Euphrates. No second Mithridates could loosen the grasp with which the legions now held the civilized parts of Asia. Parthians might disturb the frontier, but could not seriously threaten the Eastern dominions; and no advantage was promised by following on the steps of Alexander and annexing countries too poor to bear the cost of their maintenance. To the west it was different. Beyond the Alps there was still a territory of unknown extent, stretching away to the undefined ocean, a territory peopled with warlike races, some of whom in ages long past had swept over Italy and taken Rome, and had left their descendants and their name in the northern province, which was now called Cisalpine Gaul. With these races the Romans had as yet no clear relations, and from them alone could any serious danger threaten the State. The Gauls had for some centuries ceased their wanderings, had settled down in fixed localities. They had built towns and bridges; they had cultivated the soil, and had become wealthy and partly civilized. With the tribes adjoining Provence the Romans had alliances more or less precarious, and had established a kind of protectorate over them. But even here the inhabitants were uneasy for their independence, and troubles were continually arising with them; while into these districts and into the rest of Gaul a fresh and stormy element was now being introduced. In earlier times the Gauls had been stronger than the Germans, and not only could they protect their own frontier, but they had formed settlements beyond the Rhine. These relations were being changed. The Gauls, as they grew in wealth, declined in vigor. The Germans, still roving and migratory, were throwing covetous eyes out of their forests on the fields and vineyards of their neighbors, and enormous numbers of them were crossing the Rhine and Danube, looking for new homes. How feeble a barrier either the Alps or the Gauls themselves might prove against such invaders had been but too recently experienced. Men who were of middle age at the time of Caesar's consulship could still remember the terrors which had been caused by the invasion of the Cimbri and Teutons. Marius had saved Italy then from destruction, as it were, by the hair of its head. The annihilation of those hordes had given Rome a passing respite. But fresh generations had grown up. Fresh multitudes were streaming out of the North. Germans in hundreds of thousands were again passing the Upper Rhine, rooting themselves in Burgundy, and coming in collision with tribes which Rome protected. There were uneasy movements among the Gauls themselves, whole nations of them breaking up from their homes and again adrift upon the world. Gaul and Germany were like a volcano giving signs of approaching eruption; and at any moment, and hardly with warning, another lava-stream might be pouring down into Venetia and Lombardy.

To deal with this danger was the work marked out for Caesar. It is the fashion to say that he sought a military command that he might have an army behind him to overthrow the constitution. If this was his object, ambition never chose a more dangerous or less promising route for itself. Men of genius who accomplish great things in this world do not trouble themselves with remote and visionary aims. They encounter emergencies as they rise, and leave the future to shape itself as it may. It would seem that at first the defence of Italy was all that was thought of. "The woods and forests" were set aside, and Caesar, by a vote of the people, was given the command of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria for five years; but either he himself desired, or especial circumstances which were taking place beyond the mountains recommended, that a wider scope should be allowed him. The Senate, finding that the people would act without them if they hesitated, gave him in addition Gallia Comata, the land of the Gauls with the long hair, the governorship of the Roman province beyond the Alps, with untrammelled liberty to act as he might think good throughout the country which is now known as France and Switzerland and the Rhine provinces of Germany.

He was to start early in the approaching year. It was necessary before he went to make some provision for the quiet government of the capital. The alliance with Pompey and Crassus gave temporary security. Pompey had less stability of character than could have been wished, but he became attached to Caesar's daughter Julia; and a fresh link of marriage was formed to hold them together. Caesar himself married Calpurnia, the daughter of Calpurnius Piso. The Senate having temporarily abdicated, he was able to guide the elections; and Piso and Pompey's friend Gabinius, who had obtained the command of the pirate war for him, were chosen consuls for the year 58. Neither of them, if we can believe a tithe of Cicero's invective, was good for much; but they were stanch partisans, and were to be relied on to resist any efforts which might be made to repeal the "Leges Juliae." These matters being arranged, and his own term having expired, Caesar withdrew, according to custom, to the suburbs beyond the walls to collect troops and prepare for his departure. Strange things, however, had yet to happen before he was gone.

[Sidenote: B. C. 58.] It is easy to conceive how the Senate felt at these transactions, how ill they bore to find themselves superseded and the State managed over their heads. Fashionable society was equally furious, and the three allies went by the name of Dynasts, or "Reges Superbi." After resistance had been abandoned, Cicero came back to Rome to make cynical remarks from which all parties suffered equally. His special grievance was the want of consideration which he conceived to have been shown for himself. He mocked at the Senate; he mocked at Bibulus, whom he particularly abominated; he mocked at Pompey and the agrarian law. Mockery turned to indignation when he thought of the ingratitude of the Senate, and his chief consolation in their discomfiture was that it had fallen on them through the neglect of their most distinguished member. "I could have saved them if they would have let me," he said. "I could save them still if I were to try; but I will go study philosophy in my own family." [2] "Freedom is gone," he wrote to Atticus; "and if we are to be worse enslaved, we shall bear it. Our lives and properties are more to us than liberty. We sigh, and we do not even remonstrate." [3]

Cato, in the desperation of passion, called Pompey a dictator in the assembly, and barely escaped being killed for his pains.[4] The patricians revenged themselves in private by savage speeches and plots and purposes. Fashionable society gathered in the theatres and hissed the popular leaders. Lines were introduced into the plays reflecting on Pompey, and were encored a thousand times. Bibulus from his closet continued to issue venomous placards, reporting scandals about Caesar's life, and now for the first time bringing up the story of Nicomedes. The streets were impassable where these papers were pasted up, from the crowds of loungers which were gathered to read them, and Bibulus for the moment was the hero of patrician saloons. Some malicious comfort Cicero gathered out of these manifestations of feeling. He had no belief in the noble lords, and small expectations from them. Bibulus was, on the whole, a fit representative for the gentry of the fish-ponds. But the Dynasts were at least heartily detested in quarters which had once been powerful, and might be powerful again; and he flattered himself, though he affected to regret it, that the animosity against them was spreading. To all parties there is attached a draggled trail of disreputables, who hold themselves entitled to benefits when their side is in power, and are angry when they are passed over.

"The State," Cicero wrote in the autumn of 59 to Atticus, "is in a worse condition than when you left us; then we thought that we had fallen under a power which pleased the people, and which, though abhorrent to the good, yet was not totally destructive to them. Now all hate it equally, and we are in terror as to where the exasperation may break out. We had experienced the ill-temper and irritation of those who in their anger with Cato had brought ruin on us; but the poison worked so slowly that it seemed we might die without pain. I hoped, as I often told you, that the wheel of the constitution was so turning that we should scarcely hear a sound or see any visible track; and so it would have been could men have waited for the tempest to pass over them. But the secret sighs turned to groans, and the groans to universal clamor; and thus our friend Pompey, who so lately swam in glory and never heard an evil word of himself, is broken-hearted and knows not whither to turn. A precipice is before him, and to retreat is dangerous. The good are against him; the bad are not his friends. I could scarce help weeping the other day when I heard him complaining in the Forum of the publication of Bibulus. He who but a short time since bore himself so proudly there, with the people in raptures with him, and with the world on his side, was now so humble and abject as to disgust even himself, not to say his hearers. Crassus enjoyed the scene, but no one else. Pompey had fallen down out of the stars—not by a gradual descent, but in a single plunge; and as Apelles if he had seen his Venus, or Protogenes his Ialysus, all daubed with mud, would have been vexed and annoyed, so was I grieved to the very heart to see one whom I had painted out in the choicest colors of art thus suddenly defaced.[5] Pompey is sick with irritation at the placards of Bibulus. I am sorry about them. They give such excessive annoyance to a man whom I have always liked; and Pompey is so prompt with his sword, and so unaccustomed to insult, that I fear what he may do. What the future may have in store for Bibulus I know not. At present he is the admired of all." [6]

"Sampsiceramus," Cicero wrote a few days later, "is greatly penitent. He would gladly be restored to the eminence from which he has fallen. Sometimes he imparts his griefs to me, and asks me what he should do, which I cannot tell him." [7]

Unfortunate Cicero, who knew what was right, but was too proud to do it! Unfortunate Pompey, who still did what was right, but was too sensitive to bear the reproach of it, who would so gladly not leave his duty unperformed, and yet keep the "sweet voices" whose applause had grown so delicious to him! Bibulus was in no danger. Pompey was too good-natured to hurt him; and Caesar let fools say what they pleased, as long as they were fools without teeth, who would bark but could not bite. The risk was to Cicero himself, little as he seemed to be aware of it. Caesar was to be long absent from Rome, and he knew that as soon as he was engaged in Gaul the extreme oligarchic faction would make an effort to set aside his land commission and undo his legislation. When he had a clear purpose in view, and was satisfied that it was a good purpose, he was never scrupulous about his instruments. It was said of him that when he wanted any work done he chose the persons best able to do it, let their general character be what it might. The rank and file of the patricians, proud, idle, vicious, and self-indulgent, might be left to their mistresses and their gaming-tables. They could do no mischief unless they had leaders at their head who could use their resources more effectively than they could do themselves. There were two men only in Rome with whose help they could be really dangerous—Cato, because he was a fanatic, impregnable to argument, and not to be influenced by temptation of advantage to himself; Cicero, on account of his extreme ability, his personal ambition, and his total want of political principle. Cato he knew to be impracticable. Cicero he had tried to gain; but Cicero, who had played a first part as consul, could not bring himself to play a second, and, if the chance offered, had both power and will to be troublesome. Some means had to be found to get rid of these two, or at least to tie their hands and to keep them in order. There would be Pompey and Crassus still at hand. But Pompey was weak, and Crassus understood nothing beyond the art of manipulating money. Gabinius and Piso, the next consuls, had an indifferent reputation and narrow abilities, and at best they would have but their one year of authority. Politics, like love, makes strange bedfellows. In this difficulty accident threw in Cesar's way a convenient but most unexpected ally.

Young Clodius, after his escape from prosecution by the marvellous methods which Crassus had provided for him, was more popular than ever. He had been the occasion of a scandal which had brought infamy on the detested Senate. His offence in itself seemed slight in so loose an age, and was as nothing compared with the enormity of his judges. He had come out of his trial with a determination to be revenged on the persons from whose tongues he had suffered most severely in the senatorial debates. Of these Cato had been the most savage; but Cicero had been the most exasperating, from his sarcasms, his airs of patronage, and perhaps his intimacy with his sister. The noble youth had exhausted the common forms of pleasure. He wanted a new excitement, and politics and vengeance might be combined. He was as clever as he was dissolute, and, as clever men are fortunately rare in the licentious part, of society, they are always idolized, because they make vice respectable by connecting it with intellect. Clodius was a second, an abler Catiline, equally unprincipled and far more dexterous and prudent. In times of revolution there is always a disreputable wing to the radical party, composed of men who are the natural enemies of established authority, and these all rallied about their new leader with devout enthusiasm. Clodius was not without political experience. His first public appearance had been as leader of a mutiny. He was already quaestor, and so a senator; but he was too young to aspire to the higher magistracies which were open to him as a patrician. He declared his intention of renouncing his order, becoming a plebeian, and standing for the tribuneship of the people. There were precedents for such a step, but they were rare. The abdicating noble had to be adopted into a plebeian family, and the consent was required of the consuls and of the Pontifical College. With the growth of political equality the aristocracy had become more insistent upon the privilege of birth, which could not be taken from them; and for a Claudius to descend among the canaille was as if a Howard were to seek adoption from a shopkeeper in the Strand.

At first there was universal amazement. Cicero had used the intrigue with Pompeia as a text for a sermon on the immoralities of the age. The aspirations of Clodius to be a tribune he ridiculed as an illustration of its follies, and after scourging him in the Senate, he laughed at him and jested with him in private.[8] Cicero did not understand with how venomous a snake he was playing. He even thought Clodius likely to turn against the Dynasts, and to become a serviceable member of the conservative party. Gradually he was forced to open his eyes. Speeches were reported to him as coming from Clodius or his allies threatening an inquiry into the death of the Catilinarians. At first he pushed his alarms aside, as unworthy of him. What had so great a man as he to fear from a young reprobate like "the pretty boy"? The "pretty boy," however, found favor where it was least looked for. Pompey supported his adventure for the tribuneship. Caesar, though it was Caesar's house which he had violated, did not oppose. Bibulus refused consent, but Bibulus had virtually abdicated and went for nothing. The legal forms were complied with. Clodius found a commoner younger than himself who was willing to adopt him, and who, the day after the ceremony, released him from the new paternal authority. He was now a plebeian, and free. He remained a senator in virtue of his quaestorship, and he was chosen tribune of the people for the year 58.

Cicero was at last startled out of his security. So long as the consuls, or one of them, could be depended on, a tribune's power was insignificant. When the consuls were of his own way of thinking, a tribune was a very important personage indeed. Atticus was alarmed for his friend, and cautioned him to look to himself. Warnings came from all quarters that mischief was in the wind. Still it was impossible to believe the peril to be a real one. Cicero, to whom Rome owed its existence, to be struck at by a Clodius! It could not be. As little could a wasp hurt an elephant.

There can be little doubt that Caesar knew what Clodius had in his mind; or that, if the design was not his own, he had purposely allowed it to go forward. Caesar did not wish to hurt Cicero. He wished well to him, and admired him; but he did not mean to leave him free in Rome to lead a senatorial reaction. A prosecution for the execution of the prisoners was now distinctly announced. Cicero as consul had put to death Roman citizens without a trial. Cicero was to be called to answer for the illegality before the sovereign people. The danger was unmistakable; and Caesar, who was still in the suburbs making his preparations, invited Cicero to avoid it, by accompanying him as second in command into Gaul. The offer was made in unquestionable sincerity. Caesar may himself have created the situation to lay Cicero under a pressure, but he desired nothing so much as to take him as his companion, and to attach him to himself. Cicero felt the compliment and hesitated to refuse, but his pride again came in his way. Pompey assured him that not a hair of his head should be touched. Why Pompey gave him this encouragement Cicero could never afterwards understand. The scenes in the theatres had also combined to mislead him, and he misread the disposition of the great body of citizens. He imagined that they would all start up in his defence, Senate, aristocracy, knights, commoners, and tradesmen. The world, he thought, looked back upon his consulship with as much admiration as he did himself, and was always contrasting him with his successors. Never was mistake more profound. The Senate, who had envied his talents and resented his assumption, now despised him as a trimmer. His sarcasms had made him enemies among those who acted with him politically. He had held aloof at the crisis of Caesar's election and in the debates which followed, and therefore all sides distrusted him; while throughout the body of the people there was, as Caesar had foretold, a real and sustained resentment at the conduct of the Catiline affair. The final opinion of Rome was that the prisoners ought to have been tried; and that they were not tried was attributed not unnaturally to a desire, on the part of the Senate, to silence an inquiry which might have proved inconvenient.

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