CICERO AND ANTONY. It remained for Cicero yet to take a part in one more great national struggle--the last for Rome and for himself. No doubt there was some grandeur in the cause which he once more so vigorously espoused--the recovery of the liberties of Rome. But all the thunders of Cicero's eloquence, and all the admiration of modern historians and poets, fail to enlist our hearty sympathies with the assassins of Caesar. That "consecration of the dagger" to the cause of liberty has been the fruitful parent of too much evil ever since to make its use anything but hateful. That Cicero was among the actual conspirators is probably not true, though his enemies strongly asserted it. But at least he gloried in the deed when done, and was eager to claim all the honours of a tyrannicide. Nay, he went farther than the actual conspirators, in words at least; it is curious to find him so careful to disclaim complicity in the act. "Would that you had invited me to that banquet on the Ides of March! there would then have been no leavings from the feast",--he writes to Cassius. He would have had their daggers turned on Antony, at all events, as well as on Caesar. He wishes that "the gods may damn Caesar after he is dead;" professing on this occasion a belief in a future retribution, on which at other times he was sceptical. It is but right to remember all this, when the popular tide turned, and he himself came to be denounced to political vengeance. The levity with which he continually speaks of the assassination of Caesar--a man who had never treated _him_, at any rate, with anything but a noble forbearance--is a blot on Cicero's character which his warmest apologists admit. The bloody deed in the Capitol was done--a deed which was to turn out almost what Goethe called it--"the most absurd that ever was committed". The great Dictator who lay there alone, a "bleeding piece of earth", deserted by the very men who had sought of late to crown him, was perhaps Rome's fittest master; certainly not the worst of the many with whom a personal ambition took the place of principle. Three slaves took up the dead body of their master, and carried it home to his house. Poor wretches! they knew nothing about liberty or the constitution; they had little to hope, and probably little to fear; they had only a humble duty to do, and did it. But when we read of them, and of that freedman who, not long before, sat by the dead body of Pompey till he could scrape together wreck from the shore to light some sort of poor funeral-pile, we return with a shudder of disgust to those "noble Romans" who occupy at this time the foreground of history. Caesar had been removed, but it is plain that Brutus and Cassius and their party had neither the ability nor the energy to make any real use of their bloody triumph. Cicero soon lost all hope of seeing in them the liberators of his country, or of being able to guide himself the revolution which he hoped he had seen begun. "We have been freed", he writes to Atticus, "but we are not free". "We have struck down the tyrant, but the tyranny survives". Antony, in fact, had taken the place of Caesar as master of Rome--a change in all respects for the worse. He had surrounded himself with guards; had obtained authority from the Senate to carry out all decrees and orders left by the late Dictator; and when he could not find, amongst Caesar's memoranda, materials to serve his purpose, he did not hesitate to forge them. Cicero had no power, and might be in personal danger, for Antony knew his sentiments as to state matters generally, and more particularly towards himself. Rome was no longer any place for him, and he soon left it--this time a voluntary exile. He wandered from place to place, and tried as before to find interest and consolation in philosophy. It was now that he wrote his charming essays on 'Friendship' and on 'Old Age', and completed his work 'On the Nature of the Gods', and that on 'Divination'. His treatise 'De Officiis' (a kind of pagan 'Whole Duty of Man') is also of this date, as well as some smaller philosophical works which have been lost. He professed himself hopeless of his country's future, and disgusted with political life, and spoke of going to end his days at Athens. But, as before and always, his heart was in the Forum at Rome. Political life was really the only atmosphere in which he felt himself breathe vigorously. Unquestionably he had also an earnest patriotism, which would have drawn him back to his country's side at any time when he believed that she had need of his help. He was told that he was needed there now; that there was a prospect of matters going better for the cause of liberty; that Antony was coming to terms of some kind with the party of Brutus,--and he returned. For a short while these latter days brought with them a gleam of triumph almost as bright as that which had marked the overthrow of Catiline's conspiracy. Again, on his arrival at Rome, crowds rushed to meet him with compliments and congratulations, as they had done some thirteen years before. And in so far as his last days were spent in resisting to the utmost the basest of all Rome's bad men, they were to him greater than any triumph. Thenceforth it was a fight to the death between him and Antony; so long as Antony lived, there could be no liberty for Rome. Cicero left it to his enemy to make the first attack. It soon came. Two days after his return, Antony spoke vehemently in the Senate against him, on the occasion of moving a resolution to the effect that divine honours should be paid to Caesar. Cicero had purposely stayed away, pleading fatigue after his journey; really, because such a proposition was odious to him. Antony denounced him as a coward and a traitor, and threatened to send men to pull down his house about his head--that house which had once before been pulled down, and rebuilt for him by his remorseful fellow-citizens. Cicero went down to the Senate the following day, and there delivered a well-prepared speech, the first of those fourteen which are known to us as his 'Philippics'--a name which he seems first to have given to them in jest, in remembrance of those which his favourite model Demosthenes had delivered at Athens against Philip of Macedon. He defended his own conduct, reviewed in strong but moderate terms the whole policy of Antony, and warned him--still ostensibly as a friend--against the fate of Caesar. The speaker was not unconscious what his own might possibly be. "I have already, senators, reaped fruit enough from my return home, in that I have had the opportunity to speak words which, whatever may betide, will remain in evidence of my constancy in my duty, and you have listened to me with much kindness and attention. And this privilege I will use so often as I may without peril to you and to myself; when I cannot, I will be careful of myself, not so much for my own sake as for the sake of my country. For me, the life that I have lived seems already well-nigh long enough, whether I look at my years or my honours; what little span may yet be added to it should be your gain and the state's far more than my own". Antony was not in the house when Cicero spoke; he had gone down to his villa at Tibur. There he remained for a fortnight, brooding over his reply--taking lessons, it was said, from professors in the art of rhetorical self-defence. At last he came to Rome and answered his opponent. His speech has not reached us; but we know that it contained the old charges of having put Roman citizens to death without trial in the case of the abettors of Catiline, and of having instigated Milo to the assassination of Clodias. Antony added a new charge--that of complicity with the murderers of Caesar. Above all, he laughed at Cicero's old attempts as a poet; a mode of attack which, if not so alarming, was at least as irritating as the rest. Cicero was not present--he dreaded personal violence; for Antony, like Pompey at the trial of Milo, had planted an armed guard of his own men outside and inside the Senate-house. Before Cicero had nerved himself to reply, Antony had left Rome to put himself at the head of his legions, and the two never met again. The reply, when it came, was the terrible second Philippic; never spoken, however, but only handed about in manuscript to admiring friends. There is little doubt, as Mr. Long observes, that Antony had also some friend kind enough to send him a copy; and if we may trust the Roman poet Juvenal, who is at least as likely to have been well informed upon the subject as any modern historian, this composition eventually cost the orator his life. It is not difficult to understand the bitter vindictiveness of Antony. Cicero had been not merely a political opponent; he had attacked his private character (which presented abundant grounds for such attack) with all the venom of his eloquence. He had said, indeed, in the first of these powerful orations, that he had never taken this line. "If I have abused his private life and character, I have no right to complain if he is my enemy: but if I have only followed my usual custom, which I have ever maintained in public life,--I mean, if I have only spoken my opinion on public questions freely,--then, in the first place, I protest against his being angry with me at all: or, if this be too much to expect, I demand that he should be angry with me only as with a fellow-citizen". If there had been any sort of reticence on this point hitherto on the part of Cicero, he made up for it in this second speech. Nothing can equal its bitter personality, except perhaps its rhetorical power. He begins the attack by declaring that he will not tell all he knows--"in order that, if we have to do battle again hereafter, I may come always fresh-armed to the attack; an advantage which the multiplicity of that man's crimes and vices gives me in large measure". Then he proceeds: "Would you like us, then, to examine into your course of life from boyhood? I conclude you would. Do you remember that before you put on the robe of manhood, you were a bankrupt? That was my father's fault, you will say. I grant it--it is a defence that speaks volumes for your feelings as a son. It was your own shamelessness, however, that made you take your seat in the stalls of honourable knights, whereas by law there is a fixed place for bankrupts, even when they have become so by fortune's fault, and not their own. You put on the robe which was to mark your manhood,--on your person it became the flaunting gear of a harlot". It is not desirable to follow the orator through some of his accusations; when he had to lash a man whom he held to be a criminal, he did not much care where or how he struck. He even breaks off himself--after saying a good deal. "There are some things, which even a decent enemy hesitates to speak of.... Mark, then, his subsequent course of life, which I will trace as rapidly as I can. For though these things are better known to you than even to me, yet I ask you to hear me with attention--as indeed you do; for it is right that in such cases men's feelings should be roused not merely by the knowledge of the facts, but by calling them back to their remembrance; though we must dash at once, I believe, into the middle of his history, lest we should be too long in getting to the end". The peroration is noble and dignified, in the orator's best style. He still supposes himself addressing his enemy. He has warned Antony that Caesar's fate may be his: and he is not unconscious of the peril in which his own life may stand. "But do you look to yourself--I will tell you how it stands with me. I defended the Commonwealth when I was young--I will not desert it now I am old. I despised the swords of Catiline--I am not likely to tremble before yours. Nay, I shall lay my life down gladly, if the liberty of Rome can be secured by my death, so that this suffering nation may at last bring to the birth that which it his long been breeding. If, twenty years ago, I declared in this house that death could never be said to have come before its time to a man who had been consul of Rome, with how much more truth, at my age, may I say it now! To me indeed, gentlemen of the Senate, death may well be a thing to be even desired, when I have done what I have done and reaped the honours I have reaped. Only two wishes I have,--the one, that at my death I may leave the Roman people free--the immortal gods can give me no greater boon than this; the other, that every citizen may meet with such reward as his conduct towards the state may have deserved". [Footnote 1: _I.e._, the making away with Antony.] The publication of this unspoken speech raised for the time an enthusiasm against Antony, whom Cicero now openly declared to be an enemy to the state. He hurled against him Philippic after Philippic. The appeal at the end of that which comes the sixth in order is eloquent enough. "The time is come at last, fellow-citizens; somewhat too late, indeed, for the dignity of the people of Rome, but at least the crisis is so ripe, that it cannot now be deferred an instant longer. We have had one calamity sent upon us, as I may say, by fate, which we bore with--in such sort as it might be borne. If another befalls us now, it will be one of our own choosing. That this Roman people should serve any master, when the gods above have willed us to be the masters of the world, is a crime in the sight of heaven. The question hangs now on its last issue. The struggle is for our liberties. You must either conquer, Romans,--and this, assuredly, with such patriotism and such unanimity as I see here, you must do, or you must endure anything and everything rather than be slaves. Other nations may endure the yoke of slavery, but the birthright of the people of Rome is liberty". Antony had left Rome, and thrown himself, like Catiline, into the arms of his soldiers, in his province of Cisalpine Gaul. There he maintained himself in defiance of the Senate, who at last, urged by Cicero, declared him a public enemy. Caesar Octavianus (great-nephew of Julius) offered his services to the state, and with some hesitation they were accepted. The last struggle was begun. Intelligence soon arrived that Antony had been defeated at Mutina by the two last consuls of the Republic, Hirtius and Pansa. The news was dashed, indeed, afterwards by the further announcement that both consuls had died of their wounds. But it was in the height of the first exultation that Cicero addressed to the Senate his fourteenth Philippic--the last oration which he was ever to make. For the moment, he found himself once more the foremost man at Rome. Crowds of roaring patriots had surrounded his house that morning, escorted him in triumph up to the Capitol, and back to his own house, as they had done in the days of his early glory. Young Caesar, who had paid him much personal deference, was professing himself a patriot; the Commonwealth was safe again--and Cicero almost thought that he again himself had saved it. But Rome now belonged to those who had the legions. It had come to that: and when Antony succeeded in joining interests with Octavianus (afterwards miscalled Augustus)--"the boy", as both Cicero and Antony called him--a boy in years as yet, but premature in craft and falsehood--who had come "to claim his inheritance", and succeeded in rousing in the old veterans of his uncle the desire to take vengeance a on his murderers, the fate of the Republic and of Cicero was sealed. It was on a little eyot formed by the river Reno, near Bologna, that Antony, young Caesar, and Lepidus (the nominal third in what is known as the Second Triumvirate) met to arrange among themselves the division of power, and what they held to be necessary, to the securing it for the future--the proscription of their several enemies. No private affections or interests were to be allowed to interfere with this merciless arrangement. If Lepidus would give up his brother, Antony would surrender an obnoxious uncle. Octavianus made a cheaper sacrifice in Cicero, whom Antony, we may be sure, with those terrible Philippics ringing in his ears, demanded with an eager vengeance. All was soon amicably settled; the proscription-lists were made out, and the Triumvirate occupied Rome. Cicero and his brother--whose name was known to be also on the fatal roll--heard of it while they were together at the Tusculan villa. Both took immediate measures to escape. But Quintus had to return to Rome to get money for their flight, and, as it would appear, to fetch his son. The emissaries of the Triumvirate were sent to search the house: the father had hid himself, but the son was seized, and refusing to give any information, was put to the torture. His father heard his cries of agony, came forth from his hiding-place, and asked only to be put to death first. The son in his turn made the same request, and the assassins were so far merciful that they killed both at once. Cicero himself might yet have escaped, but for some thing of his old indecision. He had gone on board a small vessel with the intention of joining Brutus in Macedonia, when he suddenly changed his mind, and insisted on being put on shore again. He wandered about, half-resolving (for the third) time on suicide. He would go to Rome, stab himself on the altar-hearth in young Caesar's house, and call down the vengeance of heaven upon the traitor. The accounts of these last hours of his life are, unfortunately, somewhat contradictory, and none of the authorities to be entirely depended on; Abeken has made a careful attempt to harmonise them, which it will be best here to follow. Urged by the prayers of his slaves, the faithful adherents of a kind master, he once more embarked, and once more (Appian says, from sea-sickness, which he never could endure) landed near Caieta, where be had a seaside villa. Either there, or, as other accounts say, at his house at Formiae, he laid himself down to pass the night, and wait for death. "Let me die", said he, "in my own country, which I have so often saved". But again the faithful slaves aroused him, forced him into a litter, and hurried him down through the woods to the sea-shore--for the assassins were in hot pursuit of him. They found his house shut up; but some traitor showed them a short cut by which to overtake the fugitive. As he lay reading (it is said), even during these anxious moments, a play of his favourite Euripides, every line of whom he used to declare contained some maxim worth remembering, he heard their steps approaching, and ordered the litter to be set down. He looked out, and recognised at the head of the party an officer named Laenas, whom he had once successfully defended on a capital charge; but he saw no gratitude or mercy in the face, though there were others of the band who covered their eyes for pity, when they saw the dishevelled grey hair and pale worn features of the great Roman (he was within a month of sixty-four). He turned from Laenas to the centurion, one Herennius, and said, "Strike, old soldier, if you understand your trade!" At the third blow--by one or other of those officers, for both claimed the evil honour--his head was severed. They carried it straight to Antony, where he sat on the seat of justice in the Forum, and demanded the offered reward. The triumvir, in his joy, paid it some ten times over. He sent the bloody trophy to his wife; and the Roman Jezebel spat in the dead face, and ran her bodkin through the tongue which had spoken those bold and bitter truths against her false husband. The great orator fulfilled, almost in the very letter, the words which, treating of the liberty of the pleader, he had put into the mouth of Crassus--"You must cut out this tongue, if you would check my free speech: nay, even then, my very breathing should protest against your lust for power". The head, by Antony's order, was then nailed upon the Rostra, to speak there, more eloquently than ever the living lips had spoken, of the dead liberty of Rome.