|The numbering of the letters and the summary of Cicero's activities for this year are taken from Cicero, Letters, ed & trans by Evelyn Shuckburgh.
This year was a crucial one in the history of the Republic, and also of Cicero particularly. It witnessed the working of the agreement entered into in the previous year between Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus, to secure their several objects, commonly called the First Triumvirate. The determined enmity of the consuls to each other, the high-handed conduct of Caesar in regard to the senate, his ultimate appointment to the unusual period of five years' government of the Gauls and Illyricum, were so many blows at the old constitution; and scarcely less offensive to the Catonian Optimates were the agrarian laws passed in favour of Pompey's veterans, the forcing of his acta through the senate, and the arrangement whereby he too was eventually to have the consulship again, and an extended period of provincial government. Cicero was distracted by hesitation. He had pinned his faith on Pompey's ultimate opposition to Caesar, and yet did not wholly trust him, and was fully aware of the unpracticable nature of Cato and the weakness of the Optimates. The triumvirs had an instrument for rendering him helpless in Clodius, but Cicero could not believe that they would use it, or that his services to the state could be so far forgotten as to make danger possible. We shall find him, then, wholly absorbed in the question as to how far he is to give into or oppose the triumvirs. It is not till the end of the year that he begins to see the real danger ahead. We have one extant oration of this year-pro Flacco-which was not much to his credit, for Flaccus had evidently been guilty of extortion in Asia. He also defended the equally guilty C. Antonius in a speech which brought upon him the vengeance of the triumvirs, but it is happily lost.