« PreviousContinue »
1 According to the arrangement in the Teubner edition of 1898. In earlier editions the letters here marked 3=5 and 3; 4=4 and 6; 5=7.
THE letters in this volume bring us to the end of the
correspondence and to the last period of Cicero's life. They naturally fall into two divisions, those following the
assassination of Cæsar to September, B.C. First period of the 44—five months of hesitation and doubt letters, pp. 1-128. and those which begin after Cicero's return From 15th of March to uist of to Rome from his abortive start for Greece August.
(31st August), and bring him before us
once more active and eager, all doubt and hesitation thrown to the winds. He is straining every nerve to organize opposition to Antony, whom he has now made up his mind to be the enemy of the constitution and of liberty-a weaker and a worse Cæsar, trading on his great patron's name, intoxicated with the wealth that has fallen into his hands, and stained with every private and public vice.
The first period is one of disenchantment, the second of desperate strife. The disenchantment indeed begins at once. The volume opens with a note, scarcely more than a line in length, addressed to one of the assassins, of almost hysterical exultation. Cicero had been in the senate when the assassination took place :' he tells us of the “joy with which he feasted his eyes on the just execution of a tyrant.” 2 He again and again declares that the Ides of March consoled him for all troubles and disappointments. The assassins he calls “heroes” or almost divinities. But the uselessness of this treacherous crime was at once made evident, and
This has been doubted, but I think his own expressions make it practically certain. ? P. 29 (ad Att. xiv, 14).
3 Pp. 8, 11, 26, 29, 34. · Pp. 28, 91.
became more and more conspicuous every day that followed it. Within a month Cicero saw that “the constitution had not been recovered along with liberty," I and was discussing with Atticus whose fault it was At the meeting of the senate, summoned by Antony on the 17th of March, the acta of Cæsar had been confirmed, and a public funeral voted.' The revulsion of popular feeling, caused by Antony's funeral oration and the publication of Cæsar's will, had encouraged Antony to make the fullest use of the confirmation of the acta, until Cicero indignantly exclaimed that the concession made to the exigencies of the time was "being abused without moderation or gratitude," : that “measures which Cæsar would never have taken nor sanctioned are now produced from his forged minutes," and that “we, who could not endure being his slaves, are the humble servants of his memorandum books." * Added to this was the increasing difficulty of the position
of the leaders in the assassination. Decimus The difficult Brutus indeed, in spite of Antony's protest, position of the
went to his province of Gallia Cisalpina and assassins.
took over the command of the troops there; while Trebonius started for his province of Asia, having a secret understanding with the Ciceronian party that he was to concert measures and collect forces in view of future contingencies. But M. Brutus and C. Cassius, though prætors, could not venture to Rome, and Antony was eventually able to force the senate to name others to the provinces of Macedonia and Syria, to which they had been respectively nominated by Cæsar: while Trebonius could only leave Italy for his province by travelling almost in disguise by by-roads to the coast. Every day that passed seemed to shew that they would have to fight for their position or even their lives. Antony was gathering a considerable force in Rome, under the pretence of a bodyguard, and against an
1 Pp. 9, 10, 11, 20, 28, 42, 48, 55. 2 P. 17. 3 P. 37.
4 Pp. 27, 28; cp. p. 36: “We seemed not to have been freed from a tyranny-only from a tyrant: for though the tyrant has been killed we obey his every word ... immunities are being granted ; immense sums of money squandered ; exiles recalled ; forged decrees of the senate entered in the ærarium.”
1 P. 16.
alleged intention of Brutus and Cassius to resort to force. This bodyguard was partly at least formed by inducing Cæsar's veterans to rejoin, and was continually increasing. Even those veterans who did not actually rejoin the colours were persuaded to hold themselves in readiness for a summons, with their proper arms provided, and at any rate to be prepared to come to Rome to vote in favour of Antony's proposals.” Besides this Antony extorted from the senate early in June, if not before, the command of the legions which had been stationed in the province of Macedonia with a view to the Getic and Parthian expeditions, and presently sent over his brother Gaius to bring them to Italy. Brutus and Cassius on their part were collecting ships and men, resolved to possess themselves of the provinces originally assigned to them (Macedonia and Syria) at the end of their prætorship; Decimus Brutus by engaging his forces against the Alpine tribes was training troops which he might use against any “intending successor,” 8 and all things pointed to a coming struggle. “In my opinion,” says Cicero on the 15th of June, “the state of affairs points to bloodshed and that at an early date. You see what the men are, you see how they are arming." 4 Matters had been farther complicated by the appearance
of the young Octavian on the scene. He had been Arrival of sent by his uncle for the winter to Apollonia, where Octavian. he might with less interruption than at Rome
pursue his studies and perfect his military education. But immediately he received from his mother the news of the Dictator's assassination, he started with a small retinue of friends for Italy. On the 11th of April Cicero writes that he has heard of his arrival and is anxious to know how he has been received. On the 18th he came to Naples, saw Balbus, and declared his acceptance of his greatuncle's inheritance, which was sure to cause, Balbus thinks, much bad blood between him and Antony, who had laid hands on much which Octavian would claim, on the ground that it was public money. In a letter of the 22nd Cicero describes a meeting with him at the villa of his stepfather
? Pp. 7-8, 17, 48, 64, 75.
2 P. 45.
3 P. 145. - 6 P. 18.
4 P. 77.
Philippus near Puteoli. He watched to see how he was addressed by his friends. They all called him Cæsar, in virtue of his adoption in the will of his great-uncle. But Philippus -who wished him to refuse the inheritance—did not do so. Cicero therefore also refrained, but anxiously observed his disposition towards the party of Antony. The young man appears to have been characteristically cautious, speaking of the existing state of things indeed as “ intolerable," but not suggesting his views as to their remedy or committing himself to anything. Cicero was doubtful. He mistrusted the friends surrounding him, who would make it "impossible for him to be a good citizen," and he felt indignant at his being able to go safely to the city from which Brutus and Cassius and the other “heroes” were excluded. Still he could not but acknowledge that Octavian treated him personally with respect, and he presently began to cherish a hope that he might use his grievances against Antony to draw him into closer union with the party of the Optimates. But this hope was a good deal dashed early in May by the report of a speech delivered in Rome by Octavian, in which he spoke in glowing terms of his great-uncle, declared his intention of paying the legacies to the citizens, and celebrating the games which he had promised. However, Cicero did not give up hope of him, and his final verdict at this period is distinctly rather favourable:
In Octavianus, as I have perceived, there is no little ability and spirit, and he seems likely to be as well disposed to our heroes as I could wish. But what confidence one can feel in a man of his age, name, inheritance, and upbringing may well give us pause. His stepfather, whom I have seen at Astura, thinks none at all. However, we must foster him, and, if nothing else, keep him apart from Antony. Marcellus will be doing admirable service if he gives him good advice. Octavian seemed to me to be devoted to him : but he has no great confidence in Pansa and Hirtius. His disposition is good if it does but last.'
It will be observed that Cicero now speaks of the young man as Octavianus, thus acknowledging his adoption. He 1 P. 21.
Pp. 45-46, 52. 3 Pp. 71-72.