« 上一頁繼續 »
of his order courted the favour of the multitude. But those who knew him more intimately discovered how little real interest he took in these honourable resources of dignified leisure. In his later years he withdrew himself almost entirely from public life, and seemed to devote all his languid energies to the invention of new refinements upon the luxury of the table. His example countenanced and corrupted those about him. One after another the nobles sank into a lethargy almost incomprehensible. The writers of a later period have associated the proudest names of Rome with the preposterous novelties by which they amused their idleness. A Gabinius, a Cælius, a Crassus, were immortalised by the elegance of their dancing. A Lucullus, a Hortensius, a Philippus, estimated one another, not by their eloquence, their courage, or their virtue, but by the perfection of their fishponds and the singularity of the breeds they nourished. They seemed to touch the sky with their finger, says their mortified advocate, if they had stocked their preserves with bearded mullets, and had taught them to recognise their masters' voices, and come to be fed from their hands.'
Sulla founded no school of statesmen, and trained up no successor to himself.' But in Cn. Pompeius he possessed a willing disciple. It is difficult to speak of this eminent man with too much censure, or with too much compassion. An ignominious death was not the bitterest portion of his severe destiny. In the age of the Scipios, while the laws still breathed a grave and lofty spirit, and the greatest commanders were content to remain the servants of the State, Pompeius would probably have transmitted an illustrious and unblemished name to posterity, and have led to the capitol a triumphal procession as the conqueror of Perseus or Antiochus. In the era of the emperors he might have claimed the epithets of respect and affection bestowed upon Nerva and Antoninus. But in his own generation, whether we regard him as the premature imperator or as the veteran proconsul, his influence was generally for evil, and for himself at least his triumphs were mostly calamitous. The popular son of an obnoxious father, his first and his latest model in life was a fortunate usurper, whom he resembled in ambition, but to whom he was immeasurably inferior in genius and strength of will. He was a great soldier and an able diplomatist : his domestic affections were deeper and more tenacious than was usual with his countrymen and contemporaries. But here his commendation ends. He was a false friend, a bad citizen, and a treacherous colleague. The two most specious acts in his career were the restoration of the tribunate of the Commons · to its proper functions, and the dismissal of his legions on his return from the Mithridatic war. But he restored their magistrates to the people, in order that he might the more effectually
control the government and the elections; and he divested himself of his command of the armies of the republic from a desire to rival the abdication of Sulla.
The career of Pompeius displayed, indeed, on the larger theatre of the world the contrast between present prosperity and impending calamity which the Greek tragic poets delighted to represent on the stage. He was called in derision by his contemporaries
Agamemnon’; nor were his fortunes less high or their catastrophe less appalling than that of the King of Mycenæ, lord
of Argos and the islands.' If we except the Mithridatic campaigns and even these were against orientals — all the triumphs of Pompeius were easily achieved. He came to the aid of Sulla when the Italians were wearied out with the war; he crushed the servile insurrection after the death of its great leader; and he hunted down the Cilician pirates with all the forces of the commonwealth. The great offices confided to him, absolute in trust but limited in time, fed the grand delusion of his life, that he too, like his prototype, deserved the appellation of Felix as well as Magnus. His civil career bore no proportion to his military one: he was eclipsed by Cicero and was less respected than Cato. He was generally the first to violate his own laws: his public appearances as Triumvir were undignified; and his belief that Cæsar was his tool and creature, whom he could employ and dismiss at will, was one of those extravagancies which, although history authenticates it, fiction would reject as improbable.
The following anecdote of Pompeius, which we introduce in this place by anticipation, is singularly illustrative of his fortunes :
· Towards the close of the year 703 Pompeius was prostrated by severe sickness at Naples, and his life was, for a time, despaired of. He had now reached the culminating point of his political career, and having enjoyed, and, still more, having surrendered, the sole consulship, there remained nothing within the sphere of the laws which could increase his reputation either for power or moderation. The only legitimate boon which fortune might still bestow upon her favourite was an honoured and tranquil old age; but the storms which were gathering in the horizon forbade the hope of so happy a consummation. At such a moment, said the Roman moralists, the Gods, in their foresight, offered to remove the great Pompeius beyond the sphere of human change; but the cities and the nations interposed with prayer, and preserved their beloved hero for defeat and decapitation. The people of Neapolis and Puteoli were the first to make a public demonstration of grief and despair. Vows and sacrifices were offered for the sick man's recovery. He was saved, and the same people expressed their delight with festivals and dances,
and crowned their heads with chaplets. These, indeed, Cicero might have said were only Greeks; but the reserved and sober Italians were no less ardent in their adulation. The roads were thronged ; the villages were crowded like cities; the harbours could not contain the vessels which brought strangers from beyond the sea, to salute the popular idol as he was transported slowly from place to place on his way to Rome. Pompeius, from his litter, contemplated this movement of the people with lively satisfaction: he regarded it as a crowning proof of the depth to which his influence had penetrated as a gauge of the inexhaustible sources of his popularity. Rooted on a foundation so broad and immovable, what should he fear from Cæsar or Cæsar's veterans ? There was no one at his ear to whisper how hollow these demonstrations were, -to foretell that Italy would surrender to his enemy without a blow, and that the voices now loudest in the accents of devotion to him would welcome the conqueror of Gaul with no less fervent acclamations.
The warning voice (which Mr. Merivale imagines) might have whispered to the fevered and failing veteran vaticinations of a doom more appalling than the fickleness of the multitude, or the loss of popularity and power. It might have told him of the treacherous embers beneath his feet, of the tainted air' which he breathed, of the petulance of counsellors, and the lipservice of dependents. • After a certain day in next year, it might have said, .bid farewell to ease, to fame, and to victory. • The laurels of Italian, of Spanish, and Pontic triumphs are • withered. Farewell to the repose of your Alban villa, to the
throngs of the theatre and the forum, to the acclamations on • the field of Mars. Farewell to the homage of the senate and
the alalagmos of the camp, to the fortune which flattered early • and mature manhood, and to the “honour, love, and obedience,” which should accompany old age.'
* Hæc finis Priami fatorum ; hic exitus illum
Avolsumque humeris caput, et sine nomine corpus.' Of all the leading actors of the Roman revolution, Cicero is perhaps the most difficult to delineate satisfactorily. On the one hand, so deep a debt of literary gratitude is due to the philosophic orator: he has enlisted in his favour so numerous a train of partisans in all ages, that to question his political efficiency may appear like paradox, even if it be not deemed presumption. But, on the other hand, it is impossible, on the evidence which he himself affords us, not to regret, with Mr. Merivale, that he did not retire from public life at the zenith of his honours, the close of his consular year. It was competent for Demosthenes and the Athenian orators to conduct for a time successfully the interests of a petty league; yet even Demosthenes found eloquence unavailing when opposed to the Macedonian phalanx. Cicero was a statesman not in a small republic, but in the metropolis and arbitress of the world. The power of his eloquence could banish Verres and drive Catilina headlong from Rome, and secure for himself the triumphs of the bar in all causes which were merely personal or local. But in the great questions of the age, — the amalgamation of the provincials, the extension of the franchise, the readjustment of the balance of the State, perhaps even the transference of the executive from the senate to a single chief,— eloquence was at best an accessory only, liable to be borne down at every turn by the tumult of the forum, by the combination of parties and their leaders, and finally by the inevitable appeal to arms. And in the case of Cicero there were other disqualifications proper to himself. A novus homo, he had no reserve of family support to fall back upon. His temper was irritable and vain. His eloquence was rather the exercise of an art, than the impulse of a fiery nature, like that of C. Gracchus or Mirabeau. Moreover, in an age of impetuous partisanship, Cicero was a trimmer or waverer in his politics. He had originally been the champion of the middle and monied order —the equites; after Catilina's destruction he became the advocate of the senate; and on his return from banishment he attached himself to the leading triumvir, as to the only patron in Rome able to shield him from tribunitian violence and from the recurrence of a calamity, which to him was as 'the bitterness of death. While, however, he courted Pompeius, he was not indifferent to the favour of the great proconsul of the Gauls. In his heart, we believe, he preferred the humane and accomplished Cæsar to the patron who had abandoned him once, who would probably at a similar crisis abandon him again, and who throughout their intercourse disgusted him by reserve and perplexed him by caprice. The fame of Cicero as the adherent of Cæsar might have stood less fair with posterity, at least with the posterity which until recently has persisted in seeing patriotism in the senate alone, and only rebellion in Cæsar; but it would probably have been happier, and eventually more honourable, for himselt, had he preferred the younger to the elder triumvir. Cæsar's prompt decision would have imparted consistency to his career, if not to his character; and Cicero would have interpreted to the senate and people the views of the proconsul more effectively, as well from his eloquence as from his personal repute, than any of the able but reckless adventurers engaged in Cæsar's interest. The union between the orator and the general, which had
proved efficient at Athens, would have been repeated at Rome; and the Julian reforms set forth by the master of persuasion might have conciliated, while there was yet time, many of the most upright and intelligent senators, and prevented their flight to the Pompeian camp from a merciful and magnanimous opponent.
It is with a feeling akin to remorse that any scholar can venture to doubt the political wisdom of Cicero — a feeling like that which a dutiful son experiences at discovering the imperfections of a parent. Eloquence, philosophy, official integrity, and moral refinement surround his name, and so entrench it, as it were, behind its claims upon our affection and reverence, that it is scarcely possible to analyse his career with the impartiality which history exacts. If he is accused of moral cowardice in the case of Clodius, who is entitled to refuse applause to his gallant defiance of Antonius? If we deplore his unmanly grief in exile, is there no palliation in the thought that beyond the walls of Rome his occupation was gone and his glorious existence at an end? When his self-laudation wearies us, let us remember that he rose by eloquence, and was sustained by it; and that eloquence alone had raised him to the level of men whose halls were populous with images of warriors, statesmen, and patriots, and who counted years by the curule honours of their ancestors. Eloquence procured him, living, the title of • Father of his Country;' and it was the consciousness of that eloquence which filled his spirit with the assurance of everlasting fame, and enabled him, in the end, to meet danger and death with a decision and serenity unwarranted by his temperament, and unsurpassed by Stoic or Christian fortitude.
It will be seen from the following extract that Mr. Merivale's estimate of Cicero differs in some respects from our own. We regret that our limits do not allow of more than a portion of his equally judicious and animated portrait :
• Having thus chosen his political views, Cicero carried them out through life with a steadiness hardly to be expected even in a firmer man, and conceived an interest in the classes whose cause he advocated, and even an affection for them, which is one of the most pleasing features in his character. His great object was to elevate that middle class of which we have already spoken, as a guarantee for the integrity of the constitution. He laboured diligently to soften away the conflicting tendencies of the nobles and commons, of the Romans and Italians, of the victors and the vanquished of the late civil wars. Nor was his political course warped, like that of his leader, Pompeius, by any illegitimate hopes of rising above the laws which he administered or defended. His ambition was great and noble, but was honestly limited to the enjoyment of the highest honours of the con