Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Private Life of Cicero.




The Private Life of Cicero. 45. Cicero's father was in moderate circumstances, and from him Cicero inherited the family estate at Arpinum and a house in the Carinae. The dowery of his wife Terentia amounted to 480,000 sesterces,1 but the larger part of his income was derived from legacies left to him by admirers or by men to whom he had rendered professional service. In 44 B.C. Cicero boasted2 that he had received more than 20,000,000 sesterces from this source. And one of his legacies, from the philosopher Diodotus,3 is said to have amounted to 10,000,000 sesterces. Possibly Cicero received also a share of the profits which C. Antonius, his colleague in the consulship, made in his province.4 Cicero did not apparently increase his property to any great extent by productive investments. A large part of it in fact was invested in houses and villas in Rome and in the country districts of Italy. Besides his town house upon the Palatine, which he bought of M. Crassus in 62 B.C. for 3,500,000 sesterces,5 Cicero owned villas at Arpinum, Tusculum, Antium, Astura, Formiae, Cumae, Puteoli, and Pompeii, and lodges along some of the more frequented Italian roads. Large sums of money were spent in decorating and furnishing these different residences6 and upon their proper maintenance. When, in addition to these heavy expenses, we bear in mind his great fondness for works of art and literature,7 his generous mode of living, his openhandedness to friends and clients, and his social ambition for his son and daughter,8 it is evident that even the enormous sums stated would be scarcely sufficient to meet his needs. 46. In fact Cicero was frequently in great financial difficulty, and was relieved only by loans made to him by his friend Atticus, or by P. Sulla,9 or still worse by his political enemy Caesar10 or by the money-lenders at Rome. With skilful management probably his fortune would have been sufficient to meet the demands made upon it, but he was so much engrossed in politics, literature, and the practice of his profession that he had little time or inclination for business affairs. Then, too, during his exile and during his absence at the outbreak of the civil war, his finances were wretchedly muddled by Terentia and her untrustworthy steward Philotimus.11 47. In his financial dealings Cicero was honorable and high-minded. He declined to make money, as even his friends Atticus and M. Brutus did, by loaning money at usurious rates. His upright management of Cilicia was in marked contrast to the almost universal practices of his contemporaries. He paid his debts conscientiously, although not always with promptness, because of his frequent financial embarrassment. In some other points Cicero does not show as strict a sense of honor: he did not scruple to open certain letters from his brother Quintus to a third person, which fell into his hands, and which, as he suspected, contained slanderous statements in regard to himself12; he dictated to the secretary of Atticus a letter in praise of Caelius and then read it to Caelius as an authentic epistle from Atticus13; in another letter he even speculates upon the feasibility of disavowing an oration which had offended Curio.14 The question of ethics involved in the defense of Catiline scarcely belongs here and has been discussed else-where.15 It should be remembered in partial extenuation of these facts that the code of honor in such matters was not so strict in Cicero's day as it is in our own, and that his lot was cast in times when life and fortune hung by a slender thread. 48. Cicero's enthusiastic study of Greek and Latin literature at Rome, and later at Athens and Rhodes, has already been noted (§§ 1, 2). These habits of study continued throughout his life, and gave him such a fund of general information as few of his contemporaries possessed. Still he was not a man of profound learning, even in his chosen profession. He was rather a man of cultivated tastes and broad sympathies. Of his knowledge of the literature, history, and antiquities of Greece and Rome, his letters, especially those to Atticus, offer constant illustration. He prided himself upon the fluency with which he could use Greek in speaking and writing. He was an insatiable book-buyer and a connoisseur in art (§ 45 n. 3). The circle of his friends included every one worth knowing at Rome, —politicians, whether of the aristocratic or democratic factions, literary men, business men, and men of leisure. No better proof could be desired of Cicero's sympathetic nature and manysidedness than the fact that he drew to himself persons of all tastes, beliefs, and ages. He was a friend not only of the eminent jurist Servius Sulpicius Rufus, and the learned antiquary Varro, but also of Caesar's witty aide-de-camp Trebatius, of the clever young politician Caelius, and the accomplished Caerellia. 49. In his family relations Cicero was a true and courteous husband, a father indulgent to his children, but wisely thoughtful for their interests. In his relations with his wife Terentia he stands in honorable contrast to many prominent men of his time, and his divorce from her, which took place after a married life of thirty years, was the almost inevitable result of the lack of sympathy existing between two such opposite natures; and a knowledge of the great frequency of divorce in his day may properly modify the severity of our judgment upon him in this matter. His second wife Publilia, who was much younger than himself, he probably married for her money,16 and the union proved utterly disagreeable to him. All the wealth of his affection was bestowed upon his daughter Tullia. Her nature was impressionable like his own, so that she understood her father and sympathized with him in his periods of exaltation and depression, while the unhappiness which followed her through life only served to bring out her father's tenderness. No one could have been more unlike Cicero than his only son Marcus, and it would be humorous, if it were not pathetic to see the orator hopefully instructing the would-be soldier in the mysteries of philosophy and law. But when the boy had taken up the profession of arms under Brutus, and thus brought to naught the father's hope that his son would succeed him at the bar and in the senate, Cicero gracefully accepted the inevitable. He followed his son's movements with the liveliest interest, and heard with paternal pride the reports of his prowess. To his brother Quintus, Cicero was always loyal and devoted. Their friendly relations were broken but once,17 and then only for a brief period. They were men of very different temperaments. Marcus acted in general with deliberation; sometimes, in fact, he hesitated too long. Quintus was nervous and impulsive. One dwells, however, with most pleasure upon Cicero's treatment of his personal dependents. Not only his favorite freedman Tiro, but the very slaves of his household enjoyed his kindness and generosity. 50. This sympathetic sensitiveness in Cicero's nature gives to his character its special charm, and constitutes at the same time its principal weakness. Those moments of exaltation and of depression, those periods when he helplessly fluctuates between different courses of action,18 find their explanation in this quality. His humor is determined by the circumstances of the moment. He lacks, therefore, the calm poise of the less impressionable nature. He fails to give things their proper proportions, and consequently his forecasts of the future are generally either too sanguine or too gloomy. It was this quality, of course, which made him an opportunist in politics. A man so constituted could find real pleasure only in Rome. He was charmed for a time with the new sensations which country life gave him, but it soon became irksome. Of all his villas, the Tusculanum, perched upon one of the hills which overlook Rome, and within easy reach of all the political and social news of the city, was his favorite, and we are not surprised when he writes from Cilicia: “urbem, urbem, mi Rufe, cole et in ista luce vive: omnis peregrinatio — quad ego ab adulescentia iudicavi — obscura et sordidast.”19 51. No sketch, however brief, of Cicero's private life would be complete without some reference to the connection between it and his philosophical work. In the early part of the year 46 B.C. he was divorced from Terentia,20 in November his son Marcus left Rome to pursue his studies in Athens,21 and, hardest of all to bear, in Feb., 45 B.C., his beloved daughter Tullia died.22 Cicero was overwhelmed with grief, and at his lonely villa upon a little island in the river Astura, gave himself up to the perusal of such books as he thought would help him to bear his loss 5; and as he gradually gained some control over his feelings, he began the composition of works in a similar vein. His purpose gradually widened until it included the development of a complete philosophical system, and for twelve months he wrote and published philosophical works with incredible rapidity; but the impulse to the work is to be found in the domestic misfortunes which befell him in the autumn and winter of 46-45 B.C., and the personal element is noticeable in all of his philosophical work, especially in the Tusculan Disputations. We find also in studying his domestic life the main factor which determined his philosophical attitude. He could not accept the doctrines of either of the two most influential schools in his day, - the Epicurean and the Stoic, — because his tender recollections of Tullia made him recoil from the materialism of the one and the coldness of the other. He became, therefore, an eclectic.