網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

stitution. He succeeded in attaining the consulship, the most eminent office in the State, and, in its discharge, performed a service for his country as brilliant as any recorded in the Roman annals. But his career of public usefulness was cut short by the jealousy of his associates and the selfishness of his early patron. Intoxicated by success, he had allowed himself to forget how unnatural and precarious his elevation really was; and there can be no doubt that his own vanity contributed in a great measure to his fall. But the nobles were willing to prove to the world the inherent weakness of any man, however splendid his abilities, who had not the genuine aristocratic basis of wealth and birth to rely upon; and Pompeius selected Cicero to be the victim of his wrath, when he wished to show his power, and hurl defiance at the senate, yet did not venture to inflict upon it a wound which should really smart.'

Before quitting the subject of Cicero, we will annex the following description of his Tusculan villa, — the scene of some of his dialogues, the topic of fond eulogy in many of his letters, his retreat from toil, and his refuge in affliction. It is a specimen both of Mr. Merivale's graceful employment of his classical stores and of the lighter portions of his work:

If the summit of the Palatine had been selected to keep the memory of its occupant ever fresh in the minds of his countrymen, his villa at Tusculum was his chosen spot for retirement and study. Here, also, though too far removed from Rome to be himself an object of observation, his porticoes opened upon the full view of his beloved city, from which he could never long bear to take off his eyes. From the hill on which this villa stood, the spectator surveyed a wide and varied prospect, rich at once in natural beauty and historic associations. The plain at his feet was the battle-field of the Roman kings and of the infant commonwealth ; it was strewn with the marble sepulchres of patricians and consulars; across it stretched the long straight lines of the military ways which transported the ensigns of conquest to Parthia and Arabia. On the right, over meadow and woodland, lucid with rivulets, he beheld the white turrets of Tibur, Æsulæ, Præneste, strung, like a row of pearls, on the bosom of the Sabine mountains; on the left, the glistening waves of Alba sunk in their green crater, the towering cone of the Latian Jupiter, the oaks of Aricia and the pines of Laurentum, and the sea, bearing sails of every nation to the strand of Ostia. Before him lay far outspread the mighty City, mistress of the world, gleaming in the sun with its panoply of roofs, and flashing brightness into the blue vault above it. The ancient city presented few towers, spires, or domes, such as now arrest the eye from a distant eminence; but the hills within its walls were more distinctly marked, and the statues of its gods, -exalted on pillars, or soaring above the peaks of its innumerable temples, seemed an army of immortals arrayed in defence of their eternal abodes. From the bank of lake Regillus to the gates of Tusculum the acclivity was studded with the pleasure-houses of the noblest

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

families of Rome. The pages of Cicero commemorate the villas of Balbus, of Brutus, of Julius Cæsar ; of Catulus, Metellus, Crassus, and Pompeius ; of Gabinius, Lucullus, Lentulus, and Varro. Accordingly, the retreat of the literary statesman gazed upon the centre of his dearest interests, and was surrounded by the haunts of his friends and rivals. It was here that, at a later period, when his fortunes were re-established, he composed some of the most abstract of his philosophical speculations : but even these, too, partook of the air of the city and the tone of practical life : the interlocutors of his dialogues were the same men whom he had just left behind at Rome, or whom he might encounter among the shady walks around him ; the subject of their conversations never wandered so far from their daily concerns, as not to admit of constant applications to the times and constant illustration from them.'

The Romans of the sixth century repeated, with complacency, the report of their senate, made by the Epirot envoy to his master. It seemed to me,' he said, or was believed to have said, ' an assembly of kings.' Cineas, accustomed to the more vivacious discussions of the Achæan congress, and fresh from the brawls of the Tarentine market-place, may not improbably have been deeply impressed by the austere dignity of the Curii and Fabricii, and the grave and practical tone of their debates. The characters which pass successively under Mr. Merivale's review — Cato, Hortensius, Lucullus, Catulus, and Varro — exbibit the great council shorn indeed of its original majesty, yet still decorous and august. It was no longer the conclave whose Decem Primi awaited the Gauls in the forum; it was no longer the assembly which welcomed Terentius Varro from Cannæ : yet neither was it the servile senate of Tiberius. But we must now pass on to the central figure of the group, — the champion of the Marians, the patron of the provincials, and, finally, the regenerator of the State.

If Mr. Merivale's merits as an historian were in other respects less conspicuous, his view of Cæsar's character, both in its relations to the commonwealth and to the world generally, would impart to his work a sterling value. It is not exactly the first time it has been attempted of late, even in our language, to delineate fairly and philosophically the Julian leader. In his vigorous prose, the English Opium Eater,' some years ago, drew a bold outline of Cæsar; and Mr. George Long, in his translation of · Plutarch's Roman Lives,' has more recently given a just and animated summary of the policy and genius of the fore

most man of all the world. The scholars of Germany and France — to whom, perhaps, the idea of centralisation was more welcome, or at least more familiar, than it is generally to our home-bred politicians — have also recognised the greatness of the man and of his system.* But the volumes now before us are the first upon a scale at once sufficiently ample and sufficiently special to comprise all the antecedents and all the consequents of the Julian career. They exhibit the steps by which he mounted ambition's ladder,' the circumstances which aided or justified his ascent, and the policy which he introduced during his brief supremacy. Their successors, which, we trust are speedily to appear, will display the results of that career, such as, after long previous convulsions, they were at length realised under the firm and intelligent sway of Trajan and the Antonines. For the strength and civilisation of imperial Rome, – the fourth universal empire, both in prophecy and in fact — sprang, in all that distinguished it from republican Rome, by no indirect process from the foundations originating with the first, and consolidated by the second Cæsar. We presume the leading facts of Cæsar's life to be familiarly known. We shall therefore advert, in the brief space which remains to us, rather to the system than to the person of the Dictator. As Mr. Merivale however, sums up the characteristics of the age, before he enters upon the details of the Julian policy, we shall first extract his summary, and then offer a few remarks upon it:

The ranks of both parties in the State were filled with men of practical ability, whose lives had been passed in the free and active spheres of the camp and the forum ; but, with the exception of Cæsar himself, it would be difficult to point out a single individual of original genius, or one who could discern the signs of the times, and conceive comprehensive measures in harmony with them. The temper of the Roman people, at this crisis of their history, required the guidance of a mind of more vigorous grasp than was possessed by a Cicero or a Pompeius, whose talents as public men were limited to a capacity for administration, in which respect we shall have occasion more than once to signalise their ability, but who could neither understand nor grapple with the great evil of the Sullan revolution, which had checked the natural progress of reform demanded by the extension of the Roman franchise, and restored the landmarks of a constitution which was no longer the legitimate exponent of the national character. The people had already undergone a marked change in their ideas and motives of action, while they were still clinging, with the pertinacity for which they were remarkable, to forms from which the living spirit had departed. The extent and rapid succession of their conquests, bringing with them an overwhelming accession of public and private wealth, had filled men's minds with the wildest anticipations. The extravagance of each succeeding year eclipsed the profuseness of its

* We shall find Mr. Merivale's views of Cæsar's genius and policy either suggested or confirmed in the works of Hoeck and Drumann, of Duruy, Amédée Thierry, and Michelet.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

predecessor. M. Lepidus, the consul in the year of Sulla's death, erected the most magnificent dwelling that had been seen up to his day in Rome: within thirty-five years it was outshone by not fewer than a hundred mansions. The same was the case with the extension of the territorial possessions of the nobility, their accumulation of plate, jewels, and every other article of luxury, and not less the multiplication of their slaves and dependents. The immoderate interest which ready money commanded shows that the opening of new channels to enterprise outstripped even the rapid multiplication of wealth. Mines of gold lay, as it were, at the feet of any man who could procure ineans to purchase the soil above them. The price was trifling compared with the gains to be acquired; but whether the speculator succeeded or was ruined, the usurer reared a stately fortune in ease and security. All eyes were turned from the barrenness of the past, and fixed upon a future of boundless promise. Men laughed at the narrow notions of their parents, and even of their own earlier years. It is only once or twice in the course of ages, -as on the discovery of a new continent, or the overthrow of a vast spiritual dominion, — that the human imagination springs, as it were, to the full proportion of its gigantic stature. But even a generation which has witnessed, like our own, an extraordinary developement of industrial resources and mechanical appliances, and has remarked within its own sphere of progress how such circumstances give the rein to the imagination,— what contempt for the past, what complacent admiration of the present, and what daring anticipations they engender regarding the future,- may enter into the feelings of the Romans at this period of social agitation, and realise the ideas of an age of popular delirium.

When the mind of a nation is thus excited and intoxicated by its fervid aspirations, it seeks relief from its own want of definite aims in hailing the appearance of a leader of clearer views and more decisive action. It wants a hero to applaud and to follow, and is ready to seize upon the first that presents himself as an object for its admiration, and to carry him forward on his career in triumph. Marius, Sulla, and Pompeius, each in their turn, claimed this eager homage of the multitude; but the two former had passed away with their generation, and the last lived to disappoint the hopes of his admirers, for whom he was not capable of extending the circuit of their political horizon. For a moment the multitude was dazzled by the eloquence and activity of Cicero; but neither had he the intellectual gifts which are fitted to lead a people onward. The Romans hailed him as the saviour and father of his country, as another Romulus or Camillus; but this was in a fit of transient enthusiasm for the past, when their minds were recurring for a moment to their early founders and preservers. It was still to the future that their eyes were constantly directed; and it was not till the genius of Cæsar burst upon them, with all the rapidity and decision of its movements, that they could recognise in any of the aspirants to power the true captain, and lawgiver, and prophet of the age.'

VOL. XCII. NO. CLXXXV.

tion and expans Marian party. In the second perioAips,

and, in partise of the citials, the purod to the

das ted the franchis civilised. G. the second scribed by

The career of Cæsar was divided into three distinct periods, moulded, however, into an organic whole by central ideas of amalgamation and expansion. In the first period he was the restorer and leader of the Marian party, recently proscribed by Sulla and still crushed by the oligarchy. In the second period, in which he conquered and, in part, civilised Gaul beyond the Alps, and wholly imparted the franchise of the city to Gaul within the Alps, he acted as the patron of the provincials, the purveyor at once of civilisation to the subject, and of fresh life-blood to the dominant race. In the third period, the epoch of consummation, he appeared in his full and proper dimensions, as the founder of a new career for Rome, the Romulus of the empire, the Camillus of its third and final metempsychosis.

The Marian party, which Cæsar resuscitated, was the Gracchine party under a new name. The elder Marius was an able soldier, but as blunt and incapable a statesman as Marshal Blucher himself. He had been wafted into power at the close of the Social War by the full tide of the Italian confederacy. Death, perhaps inflicted by his own hand, removed the conqueror of Jugurtha and the Cimbri from a crisis and a rival he was quite unequal to deal with. The Italian party, indeed, possessed no leader, with the exception of Sertorius, of either mark or likelihood - Cinna, Carbo, and the younger Marius, being, in comparison with Sulla, what Goring, Newcastle, and Rupert were, in comparison with Cromwell. They were accordingly vanquished by the oligarchy; and, for a while, the Cornelian constitution seemed to have stifled effectually the popular movement. The Sullan government, however, was a palace of ice, clear, stately, and imposing; but it rested on the sliding flood, and was built with materials of dissolution. His inflexible defiance of an inflexible despot marked Cæsar out from the first as the genuine successor of C. Gracchus. If even our cold northern temperaments are susceptible of appeals to the eye, and ear, such appeals fall upon the more lively and passionate genius of the south with irresistible and immediate effect; and the restoration of the Cimbrian trophies and the triumphal statue of Marius to their pediments in the capitol, inflamed the civic and Italian population with new zeal for their cause, and with devotion to its rising champion. Cæsar was borne into office as triumphantly as Cicero himself; and in his consulship he began that series of measures for renovating the commonwealth which were the labour of his own life and his bequest to his political pupil and successor. No taunt was ever less applicable to its object than Lucan's reproach to Cæsar — that he delighted to advance over the breach and ruins of the constitu

« 上一頁繼續 »