Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

win his spurs by attacking a notable offender (pro Caelio, 73). In the following year he defended Marcus (or Manius) Fonteius on a charge of extortion in Gaul, using various arguments which might equally well have been advanced on behalf of Verres himself.

In 68 B.C. his letters begin, from which (and especially those to T. Pomponius Atticus, his “second self”) we obtain wholly unique knowledge of Roman life and history. In 66 B.C. he was praetor, and was called upon to hear cases of extortion. In the same year he spoke on behalf of the proposal of Gaius Manilius to transfer the command against Mithradates from Lucullus to Pompey (de Lege Manilia), and delivered his clever but disingenuous defence of Aulus Cluentius (pro Cluentio). At this time he was a prospective candidate for the consulship, and was obliged by the hostility of the nobles towards “new men” to look for help wherever it was to be found. In 65 B.C. he even thought of defending Catiline on a charge of extortion, and delivered two brilliant speeches on behalf of Gaius Cornelius, tribune in 67 B.C., a leader of the democratic party. In 64 B.C. he lost his father and his son Marcus was born. The optimates finally decided to support him for the consulship in order to keep out Catiline, and he eagerly embraced the “good cause,” his affection for which from this time onward never varied, though his actions were not always consistent.

The public career of Cicero henceforth is largely covered by the general article on Rome: History, II. “The Republic,” ad fin. The year of his consulship (63) was one of amazing activity, both administrative and oratorical. Besides the three speeches against Publius Rullus and the four against Catiline, he delivered a number of others, among which that on behalf of Gaius Rabirius is especially notable. The charge was that Rabirius (q.v.) had killed Saturninus in 100 B.C., and by bringing it the democrats challenged the right of the senate to declare a man a public enemy. Cicero, therefore, was fully aware of the danger which would threaten himself from his execution of the Catilinarian conspirators. He trusted, however, to receive the support of the nobles. In this he was disappointed. They never forgot that he was a “new man,” and were jealous of the great house upon the Palatine which he acquired at this time. Caesar had made every possible effort to conciliate Cicero,[1] but, when all overtures failed, allowed Publius Clodius to attack him. Cicero found himself deserted, and on the advice of Cato went into exile to avoid bloodshed. He left Rome at the end of March 58, and arrived on the 23rd of May at Thessalonica, where he remained in the deepest dejection until the end of November, when he went to Dyrrhachium (Durazzo) awaiting his recall. He left for Italy on the 4th of August 57, and on arriving at Brundisium (Brindisi) found that he had been recalled by a law passed by the comitia on the very day of his departure. On his arrival at Rome he was received with enthusiasm by all classes, but did not find the nobles at all eager to give him compensation for the loss of his house and villas, which had been destroyed by Clodius. He was soon encouraged by the growing coolness between Pompey and Caesar to attack the acts of Caesar during his consulship, and after his successful defence of Publius Sestius on the 10th of March he proposed on the 5th of April that the senate should on the 15th of May discuss Caesar’s distribution of the Campanian land. This brought about the conference of Luca (Lucca). Cicero was again deserted by his supporters and threatened with fresh exile. He was forced to publish a “recantation,” probably the speech de Provinciis Consularibus, and in a private letter says frankly, “I know that I have been a regular ass.” His conduct for the next three years teems with inconsistencies which we may deplore but cannot pass over. He was obliged to defend in 54 Publius Vatinius, whom he had fiercely attacked during the trial of Sestius; also Aulus Gabinius, one of the consuls to whom his exile was due; and Rabirius Postumus, an agent of Gabinius. On the other hand, he made a violent speech in the senate in 55 against Lucius Piso, the colleague of Gabinius in 58. We know from his letters that he accepted financial aid from Caesar, but that he repaid the loan before the outbreak of the civil war.[2] There is no doubt that he was easily deceived. He was always an optimist, and thought that he was bringing good influence to bear upon Caesar as afterwards upon Octavian. His actions, however, when Caesar’s projects became manifest, sufficiently vindicated his honesty. During these unhappy years he took refuge in literature. The de Oratore was written in 55 B.C., the de Republica in 54, and the de Legibus at any rate begun in 52. The latter year is famous for the murder of Clodius by T. Annius Milo on the Appian Way (on the 18th of January), which brought about the appointment of Pompey as sole consul and the passing of the special laws dealing with rioting and bribery. Cicero took an active part in the trials which followed, both as a defender of Milo and his adherents and as a prosecutor of the opposite faction. At the close of the year, greatly to his annoyance, he was sent to govern Cilicia under the provisions of Pompey’s law (see Pompey and Rome: History). His reluctance to leave Rome, already shown by his refusal to take a province, after his praetorship and consulship, was increased by the inclination of his daughter Tullia, then a widow, to marry again.[3] During his absence she married the profligate spendthrift, P. Cornelius Dolabella.

The province of Cilicia was a large one. It included, in addition to Cilicia proper, Isauria, Lycaonia, Pisidia, Pamphylia and Cyprus, as well as a protectorate over the client kingdoms of Cappadocia and Galatia. There was also danger of a Parthian inroad. Cicero’s legate was his brother Quintius Cicero (below), an experienced soldier who had gained great distinction under Caesar in Gaul. The fears of Parthian invasion were not realized, but Cicero, after suppressing a revolt in Cappadocia, undertook military operations against the hill-tribes of the Amanus and captured the town of Pindenissus after a siege of forty-six days. A supplicatio in his honour was voted by the senate. The early months of 50 were occupied by the administration of justice, chiefly at Laodicea, and by various attempts to alleviate the distress in the province caused by the exactions of his predecessor, Appius Claudius. He had to withstand pressure from influential persons (e.g. M. Brutus, who had business interests in his province), and refused to provide his friends with wild beasts for their games in Rome. Leaving his province on the earliest opportunity, he reached Brundisium on the 24th of November, and found civil war inevitable. He went to Rome on the 4th of January, but did not enter the city, since he aspired to a triumph for his successes.[4] After the outbreak of war he was placed by Pompey in charge of the Campanian coast. After much irresolution he refused Caesar’s invitations and resolved to join Pompey’s forces in Greece. He was shocked by the ferocious language of his party, and himself gave offence by his bitter jests (Plut. Cic. 38). Through illness he was not present at the battle of Pharsalus, but afterwards was offered the command by Cato the Younger at Corcyra, and was threatened with death by the young Cn. Pompeius when he refused to accept it. Thinking it useless to continue the struggle, he sailed to Brundisium, where he remained until the 12th of August 47, when, after receiving a kind letter from Caesar, he went to Rome. Under Caesar’s dictatorship Cicero abstained from politics. His voice was raised on three occasions only: once in the senate in 46 to praise Caesar’s clemency to M. Claudius Marcellus (pro Marcello), to plead in the same year before Caesar for Quintus Ligarius, and in 45 on behalf of Deiotarus, tetrarch of Galatia, also before Caesar. He suffered greatly from family troubles at this period. In 46, his patience giving way, he divorced Terentia, and married his young and wealthy ward Publilia. Then came the greatest grief

  1. Caesar, at one time, offered him a place on the coalition, which on his refusal became a triumvirate (Att. ii. 3. 3; Prov. Cons. 41), and afterwards a post on his commission for the division of the Campanian land, or a legatio libera.
  2. Att. vii. 8. 5 “est enim ἄμορφον ἀντιπολιτευομένου χρεωφειλέτην esse.”
  3. She was married in 63 B.C. to C. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, whom Cicero found a model son-in-law. He appears to have died before 56, since in that year Tullia was betrothed to Furius Crassipes (quaestor in Bithynia in 51). It is not known if this marriage actually took place.
  4. That the loss of his triumph rankled in his mind may be seen from Brutus, § 255: “hanc gloriam . . . tuae quidem supplicationi non, sed triumphis multorum antepono.”