Cicero in Roman Biography

Cic'e-ro, [Gr. Kwcepuv; It. Cicerone, che-cha-ro'ni ; Fr. Ciceron, se'sa'rdN'; Ger. Cicero, tsits'J-ro; Sp. Ciceron, the-thA-r6n',] (Marcus Tullius,) often called Tully by English writers, an illustrious Roman orator, philosopher, and statesman, was born at Arpinum, (now Arpino,) about seventy miles east-southeast of Rome, on the 3d of January, 106 B.C., (647 A.u.C) He was a son of Marcus Tullius Cicero, an opulent citizen of the equestrian order, who owned an estate near Arpinum and devoted much time to literary pursuits. His mother's name was Helvia. His early education was directed by Archias the Greek poet, Q. yElius the grammarian, and other teachers, at Rome. During his minority he composed a number of poems, among which was " Pontius Glaucus," which is lost. His disposition was genial and amiable. He learned to speak Greek fluently, and was profoundly versed in Greek literature and philosophy. Having assumed the manly gown (toga virilis) in his sixteenth year, (91 B.C.,) he applied himself to the study of law under Mucius Scaevola the Augur, an eminent jurist and statesman. In the year 89 B.C. he served a campaign under Cneius Pompeius Strabo in the Social war, in obedience to the law which then required every citizen to perform military service. During the six ensuing years after this campaign he passed his life in studious retirement, and took no part in the bloody civil war between Marius and Sulla. He attended the lectures of the Greek philosopher Philo, the chief of the New Academy, studied logic with Diodotus the Stoic, and was instructed in rhetoric by Apollonius Molo of Rhodes. " He had," says Plutarch, " both the capacity and inclination to learn all the arts, nor was there any branch of science that he despised : yet he was most inclined to poetry. ... In process of time he was looked upon as the best poet as well as the greatest orator in Rome. His reputation for oratory still remains; . . . but, as many ingenious poets have appeared since his time, his poetry has lost its credit and is now neglected." In his admirable oration " Pro Archia," Cicero informs us that Archias the poet exerted great influence over the formation of his taste and the development and direction of his genius. Among his early productions was a heroic poem entitled "Marius," which is not extant : also a treatise on rhetoric, entitled " De Inventione Rhetorica." Having laid a solid foundation for his fame by the severe and systematic discipline of his rare talents, and by assiduous efforts to perfect his elocution by the practice of declamation, he began, at the age of twenty-five, his career as a pleader in the Forum. An argument which he made in 81 B.C. for his client P. Quinctius, in a civil suit, is still extant. The first important criminal trial in which he was employed was that of Sextus Roscius Amerinus, who was accused of parricide by an agent of the dictator Sulla, the dread of whose power and cruelty was so great that all the other advocates declined to appear for the defence. Cicero defended him with success, denounced the malice and iniquity of the prosecutor, and gained great applause by his courage and eloquence. This event occurred in the twenty-seventh year of his age. His physical constitution in his youth was so delicate that his medical friends advised him to abandon the bar. "My body," says he, "was very weak and emaciated, my neck long and small, which is a habit thought liable to great risk of life, if engaged in any fatigue or labour of the lungs." He therefore resolved to improve his health by travel, and to finish his education by visits to the famous seats of learning and art in Greece and Asia. Having departed from Rome in 79 B.C., he spent about six months in Athens, where ne pursued his favourite studies with Antiochus of Ascalon, Zeno the Epicurean,, and Demetrius Syrus. He also enjoyed in Athens the society of Pomponius Atticus, with whom he formed a lasting and memorable friendship, lie afterwards travelled extensively in Asia Minor. "He came back again to Italy," says Middleton-, "after an excursion of two years, extremely improved, and changed, as it were, into a new man : the vehemence of his voice and action was moderated, the redundancy of his style and fancy corrected, his lungs strengthened, and his whole constitution confirmed." In 76 B.C. he was elected quaestor (paymaster) by the unanimous suffrage of all the tribes. The quaestors were sent annually into the several provinces, one with every proconsul or governor, to whom he was next in authority. The office of quaestor was the first step in the gradation of public honours, and entitled him to an admission into the senate for life. He officiated as quaestor in Sicily, and performed his duties with such integrity, moderation, and humanity that he won, it is said, the love and admiration of all the Sicilians. As he was returning to Rome (74 B.C.) somewhat elated with his success, and entertaining the idea that the great capital was resounding with his praises, he met one of his acquaintances, a person of eminence, and inquired what they said and thought of his actions in Rome. The answer was, " Why, where have you been, then, Cicero, all this time ?" He then perceived that the reports of his conduct and services had been lost in Rome, as in an immense sea, and had added little or nothing to his reputation. About 76 B.C. he married a rich heiress, named Terentia. The law prescribed that five years should elapse after his election to the quaestorship (or that he must attain the age of thirty-eight) before he could hold the office of aedile, which was the next in the ascending scale. The orations which he pronounced during this period have not been preserved. His principal rival in forensic eloquence was Hortensius, whom he soon surpassed. According to Plutarch, " it was not by slow and insensible degrees that he gained the palm of eloquence : his fame shot foi th at once, and he was distinguished above all the orators of Rome." He excelled in sarcasm and witty repartees, with which he often seasoned his forensic arguments. All the resources of his genius, his art, his learning and influence were freely devoted to the defence of those whose lives or dignity or reputations were judicially assailed. He received no pay for his services as an advocate. He deviated from his general rule and practice of pleading for the defendant, in the case of the infamous Caius Verres, who in 70 B.C. was impeached by the Sicilians for atrocious acts of cruelty and rapine, but was supported by the most powerful families of Rome, including the Metelli. At the urgent request of the Sicilians, Cicero conducted the prosecution of Verres, who employed Hortensius to defend him ; but the evidence against the accused was so overwhelming that his counsel declined to plead, or had nothing to say, the defence suddenly collapsed, and Verres himself, anticipating his sentence, went into exile. Cicero, therefore, actually spoke only two of his seven celebrated orations against Verres ; but the others were published, and remain a noble and imperishable monument of his versatile and almost universal genius. Having acquired great popularity, he was elected to the aedileship, in 70 B.C., by a majority of the voters of every tribe. As aedile, he had the care of the sacred edifices, and was required by law or usage to gratify the people with public games and shows and costly pageants, partly at his own expense. In the year 67 he offered himself as a candidate for the office of praetor, which was one grade higher than that of aedile, and next in dignity to the consulship. Although he had several eminent competitors, he was elected the first praetor urbanus by the suffrages of all the centuries. The duty of the praetors was to preside as judges in the highest courts, and their jurisdictions were assigned to them by lot, which decided that Cicero should judge in cases of extortion and rapine of which governors of provinces were accused. " As a president in the courts of justice, he acted with great integrity and honour." (Plutarch's "Life of Cicero.") While he held the office of prxtor (66 B.C.) he made an important and famous political oration for the Manilian Law, (" Pro Lege Manilia,") the design of which was to appoint Pompey commanderin- chief in the war against Mithridates the Great. This was the first occasion on which Cicero ever mounted the rostrum. The Manilian Law, although strenuously opposed by the nobles, or optimates, and many powerful senators, was adopted. In the same year he defended A. Cluentius, (who was accused of poisoning his fatherin- law,) in a plea which is still extant. At the expiration of his praetorship, Cicero would not accept the government of a foreign p'rovince, which, says Middleton, " was the usual reward of that magistracy, and the chief fruit which the generality proposed from it. . . . The glory which he pursued was to shine in the eyes of the city as the guardian of its laws, and to teach the magistrates how to execute, the citizens how to obey them. But he was now preparing to sue for the consulship, the great object of all his hopes." The most formidable obstacle to his ambition was the jealousy of the nobles or aristocrats, who regarded the highest office as their birthright, and who would oppose the election of a " new man," (novus homo,) as they called all men whose ancestors were mere private citizens. He offered himself as a candidate for the consulship in his forty-third year, 64 B.C., with six competitors, among whom were P. Sulpicius Galba, C. Antonius, and L. Sergius Catilina. The last two formed a coalition against Cicero, and were favoured by Caesar and Crassus. During the canvass Cicero uttered a severe invective on the habits and characters of Catiline and Antonius, in his oration "In Toga Candida." The election resulted in the choice of Cicero andC. Antonius, the former of whom received the votes of all the centuries, and was the only " new man" that had been chosen consul in forty years. Among the events of this year was the birth of his only son. He had also a daughter, Tullia, who was born several years earlier and was the object of his warmest affection. She was a very amiable and accomplished woman. He entered upon the office on the 1st of January, 63 B.C., and found the republic in a very critical and perilous condition, distracted by pestilent laws and seditious harangues and undermined by pervading corruption and traitorous conspiracies. The difficulty was increased by the fact that his colleague Antonius was a man of bad (though feeble) character and was opposed to the policy of Cicero. The latter, however, secured the co-operation, or at least the neutrality, of Antonius, by a bargain that he should have the best and most lucrative of the provinces which were to be assigned to the consuls at the expiration of their term. He promoted the cause of liberty and order by another capital stroke of policy when he induced the senators and the equites (knights) to form a political alliance and unite in a common party. " He was," says Middleton, "the only man in the city capable of effecting such a coalition, being now at the head of the senate, yet the darling of the knights." By an artful and powerful speech he persuaded the people to reject an agrarian law proposed by Rullus, a tribune of the people. According to Niebuhr, this was " one of the most brilliant achievements of eloquence." He defended Kabirius, (accused of the murder of L. Satuininus, who had been dead about forty years,) in an oration which is extant. The most memorable part of his administration appears in the ability, courage, and elastic energy with which he detected and baffled the nefarious designs of Catiline and his accomplices. Catiline was a candidate for the consulship in the election of 63 B.C., and hired assassins to kill Cicero in the Campus Martius when he should come to preside at the election ; but, as the consul came guarded by armed men, the plot failed, and Catiline was not elected. This second repulse rendered him furious. He conspired to seize the chief power by the burning of the city and a general massacre of the senators and the Hand* of order. His capacity and resources for such an enterprise were very great, and he was abetted by vast numbers of disaffected and desperate men, some of whom were of high rank and great influence. The leaders of this plot met on the 6th of November, and arranged the immediate execution of the same ; but their plans were revealed to Cicero by Fulvia, the mistress of one of the conspirators, and when two of then went to his house next morning to assassinate the consul they found it well guarded. On the 8th