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And, though he was a man of somewhat fearful mind, he had courage enough at the end of his life vehemently to denounce Mark Antony just after he, with Octavius, had entered Rome after defeating Brutus and Cassius at Philippi. Antony vowed vengeance, and a few days later Cicero was murdered by Popilius Lænus, who sent the head and hands of the orator to Antony, who nailed them to the front of the rostrum from which Cicero had made many of his famous speeches.

During his life, Cicero held many important public offices, but he survives more by the speeches that he made in the law courts than by his political orations. Many of these speeches are instinct with excitement and interest, and can be read to-day almost as if they had just been addressed to a jury at the Old Bailey.

Sometimes Cicero, like Burke and other modern orators, was not above writing a speech which purported to be delivered and never was. A man called Milo killed a famous and disreputable Roman named Clodius in an inn on the Appian Way. He was arrested and tried for the offence, and just as if a wealthy man to-day killed somebody at Richmond and had the money

pay for the defence, he briefed Cicero as the leading defending counsel of the time. Cicero had many great qualities, but courage was not one of them. When he went to the Court to plead for his client he found it full of troops, lost his nerve, and was unable to say more than a few broken words. The prisoner was sentenced to banishment, and one day some weeks afterwards, when he was sitting at Marseilles, he received a letter from his defending counsel enclosing the speech Pro Milone, which is probably the most familiar work of Cicero to schoolboys. The convict who was its subject-matter liked it so well that he wrote a letter back to the barrister, saying: “I am glad that you did not deliver that speech, because if you had I should have got off, and I should not be eating this excellent mullet on which I am now lunching."


In addition to his speeches Cicero wrote philosophical treatises and a series of letters which, like Alexander Pope, he evidently anticipated would be published. These letters throw an astonishing flood of light on the life of Rome at the end of the Republic; and it is largely to them that we owe our intimate knowledge of the Imperial City at the beginning of the Christian Era. The vehemence of Cicero's oratory may be appreciated from the peroration of his arraignment of Mark Antony, to which reference has already been made.

Are you in any respect to be compared with Cæsar? He had capacity, sense, memory, learning, foresight, reflection, and spirit. His warlike achievements, though ruinous to his country, were glorious to himself. Through inexpressible toil, through numberless dangers, he laid a scheme for a long possession of power. What he projected he perfected. With presents, with shows, with largesses, with entertainments, he soothed the thoughtless vulgar: by his liberality he obliged his friends; and by a semblance of clemency, his enemies. In short, partly by fear and partly by patience, he made the habit of slavery tolerable to a free State. The lust of power, I own, was, indeed, common to you

I both; though in no other respect can you admit of a comparison with him. But from all the misfortunes inflicted by him upon his country, this advantage accrued, that the people of Rome have learned how far any man is to be believed; they have learned whom to trust, and of whom to beware. But this gives you no concern; nor do you conceive what it is for brave men to have now learned how amiable in itself, how agreeable in the consequences, and how glorious it is in report, to kill a tyrant. If they could not bear with a Cæsar, will they endure Antony?

Believe me, the world will henceforward eagerly rush upon such an enterprise; nor will they need ever wait long for an opportunity. Cast a considering eye, Mark Antony, at last upon your country. Reflect not on those with whom you live, but on those from whom you are descended. How. ever you may stand with me, yet reconcile yourself to your country. But of this you are the best judge. One thing on my own part I will here openly declare: In my youth I defended my country; in my old age I will not abandon her. The sword of Catiline I despised, and never shall I dread yours. With pleasure should I expose my person if by my blood the liberties of Rome could be immediately recovered, and the people of Rome delivered from that painful burden they have been so long in labour of. For if almost twenty years ago, in this very temple, I declared that no death could be untimely to me when Consular; much more truly can I declare the same now, when I am an aged man. To me, Conscript Fathers, death is even desirable, now I have performed all the duties which my station and character required. Two things only I have now to wish for: The first (than which the gods themselves can bestow nothing on me more grateful) is, that I may leave Rome in the enjoyment of her liberty; the other, that the reward of every man be proportioned to what he has deserved of his country.

It is little wonder that after listening to this splendid eloquence, the ruthless lover of Cleopatra should have determined that Cicero should live no longer and denounce no more.

§ 16

Cæsar and the Historians

Of all Latin books, Cæsar's Commentaries are most widely read in the modern world. No schoolboy can escape them. They were composed from the dispatches that he sent to the Senate at Rome during his campaigns in Gaul, and they may be compared to the dispatches written by a modern general with a literary gift like Sir Ian Hamilton. One outstanding characteristic of Cæsar was his constant care for the welfare of the common soldier.

The two most famous of the Roman historians were Livy,

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who was born in 59 B.c. and died in A.D. 17, and Tacitus, who lived in the first years of the Christian era. To Livy we owe the stories of the early Roman kings, of the foundation of the Roman Republic, and of the painful and sanguinary struggles by which the troubled community of Rome and its surrounding towns and villages became the controller of the Mediterranean. The parts of Livy which are generally read in the course of the ordinary English education are those which deal with the great conflict between Rome and the Semitic power on the other side of the Mediterranean at Carthage. The Carthaginians, scattered as they were by conquest, left no surviving literature, though they themselves probably survive as the bulk of the Jewish races dispersed over the world to-day. The story as told in Livy is, therefore, a one-sided story, but it is of interest because for the first time in classical literature one can trace an author's writing to its source. Most of his material he owes to an historian called Polybius, who wrote in Greek and who, living nearer than Livy to the time of the Punic wars, was able to obtain details which gave his account an importance not possessed by that of Livy himself.

The works of Tacitus deal with events either within the historian's own recollection or sufficiently near for him to have had trustworthy sources of information. They show a capacity for the study of character, great narrative gifts of compression and point, and a desire to use history as a means of instruction and warning to the politicians and peoples of the future. The strength of the writing of Tacitus lies in the irony and brilliance of his own comments on the emperors and statesmen with whom he deals. Possessing a mental temperament which was naturally bitter and biting, he forged a Latin style for his own use utterly unlike that of any other Roman prose-writer. His pages overflow with epigram and with the efficient exercise of a kind of humourless wit.

Tacitus has other claims than those of his annals and histories for the attention of students of literature. He was the first Roman writer, or at any rate the first whose works have remained, to write a biography, and his life of his uncle, the Roman General Agricola, who spent most of his active military career in Britain, is the earliest piece of biographical writing we have. Nothing is more strange in the history of literature than the fact that the interest in the writing of men's lives appears late in every country-except among the Jews. The fashion, however, soon spread in Rome. There are Suetonius's Lives of the Cæsars, which filled in many tragic and sensational details in the more sober stories of their reigns as told by Tacitus. Above all, there is the work of Plutarch, who, though writing in Greek, wrote under the Roman Empire.

§ 17

The Last Phase

The Golden Age of Latin literature, the first half of which coincided with the last years of the Republic, continued through the reign of Augustus down to about A.D. 17. The Silver Age came to an end with the death of Juvenal in A.D. 120. In addition to Tacitus and Juvenal the writers of the Silver Age included Suetonius, to whom passing reference has already been made; Seneca, the philosopher and tutor of Nero; and Martial, the epigrammist, who was described by a contemporary as “a man of talent, acuteness, and spirit, with plenty of wit and gall, and sincere as he was witty.”

With the decadence of the Roman Empire came the decadence of Latin literature. The writing of poetry ceased, and the history of classical literature comes to an end with The Golden Ass of Lucius Apuleius, who was born in Africa, and after a grand tour of the Roman world married a rich widow, and was thus able to devote himself to literature. The Golden Ass is among the earliest novels ever written. It is a fictional

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