Under the Triumvirate.
(Aet. 51-55. B.C. 56-52. Epist. XV.-Epist. XXVIII.)
18. Circumstances at this time conspired to raise the political hopes of Cicero
and the Optimates. The people in Rome and throughout Italy had shown great
delight on the occasion of Cicero's return. His recall was not only a
personal victory for him, but also a political victory for the Optimates.
Through the favorable action of the pontifices, Cicero had recovered his
building site on the Palatine and damages for the loss of his house and villas.
The unanimous acquittal, in Mar., 56 B.C., of P. Sestius, Cicero's
foremost champion in 57 B.C., who was prosecuted on a charge de ambitu et de vi,
was a decided triumph for Cicero and the Boni.
Furthermore, there was a lack of harmony in the party of the triumvirs. Emboldened by this
state of things, the senate, on Apr. 5, 56 B.C., adopted Cicero's motion
ut de agro Campano . . . Idibus Maiis referretur.
The law at which this
motion to reconsider was directed was Caesar's agrarian law of 59 B.C.,
assigning lands in Campania to Pompey's veterans. Success in repealing
this law would also undoubtedly lead to an attack upon all the legislation of
the year 59 B.C.
19. The sequel of his motion in the senate is best told by Cicero himself
(Fam. 1.9.9): Quem 48 cum in Sardinia Pompeius, paucis
post diebus quam Luca 49 discesserat,
convenisset, 'te,' inquit, 'ipsum cupio; nihil opportunius potuit accidere:
nisi cum Marco fratre diligenter egeris, dependendum tibi est, quod mihi pro
illo spopondisti.' Quid multa? questus est graviter; sua merita commemoravit;
quid egisset saepissime de actis Caesaris cum ipso meo fratre quidque sibi is
de me recepisset, in memoriam redegit seque, quae de mea salute egisset,
voluntate Caesaris egisse ipsum meum fratrem testatus est: cuius causam
dignitatemque mihi ut commendaret, rogavit, ut eam ne oppugnarem, si nollem aut
non possem tueri. This important passage furnishes the explanation of that
remarkable change which Cicero's political attitude underwent in 56 B.C.
Quintus had promised Pompey that his brother, if recalled, would not oppose the
triumvirs. As a man of honor,
Marcus could not but recognize the binding force of this promise made in his
behalf made, though it was, in a moment of weakness and despair. To this
consideration must also be added Cicero's positive gratitude for Pompey's
services in securing his recall, and his recognition of the power of the
triumvirs to punish him severely if he persisted in his independent course.
Cicero withdrew his motion,
and, for the next five years, gave up all
opposition to the plans of the triumvirs. Other circumstances conspired to
make this the only feasible course for Cicero to pursue. The policy of the
Optimates was hopelessly selfish and headstrong, while they themselves showed
that petty jealousy of Cicero which had characterized their conduct on many
51 ; and finally, when Quintus Cicero took service with Caesar
in 54 B.C.,
political opposition to Caesar might have proved the ruin
These circumstances may justify Cicero's failure to oppose the triumvirs, but
they cannot fully excuse the subservient attitude which he assumed toward them
from the summer of 56 to the close of 52 B.C., notably, in defending Vatinius
at Caesar's request
and Gabinius at Pompey's,
in 54 B.C., and in heaping
praises upon Caesar in his oration de Prov. Cons., in 56 B.C.
Cicero's own statement in Fam. 1.9, of his attitude during this period should be
read in this connection.
20. The compact between Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus was renewed at Luca in
Apr., 56 B.C.,
and, in accordance with its terms, Pompey and Crassus were
elected to the consulship for the following year, and, during their term of
office, secured the passage of laws assigning Spain to
and Syria to Crassus57
for five years, and prolonging
Caesar's proconsulship for the same period.
Cicero took little part in politics during the years 55 and 54 B.C., and
his letters exhibit his discouragement in regard to them.58
They indicate, however, the growth of a cordial feeling between him and Caesar.59
Much of Cicero's attention was given to literature. To this period belong the De
Oratore, the De Re Publica,60
and several speeches; among them, one
in defense of Cn. Plancius, who received Cicero so generously at Thessalonica
during the latter's exile.
21. The violence and disorder, with their accompaniment of bribery and
which had prevailed almost uninterruptedly from midsummer
of the year 54 B.C., reached its climax in Jan., 52 B.C., in a riotous contest
between the followers of Clodius and Milo, which resulted in the death of the former,62
and, as a last resort, Pompey was elected sole consul on the 24th of
the intercalary month of this year.63
This sudden elevation to extraordinary
power completed the separation of Pompey from Caesar.
Several circumstances which occurred during the previous two years had paved
the way for this result. First of all the death of Julia, Caesar's daughter and
Pompey's wife, in 54 B.C.,64
and the subsequent refusal of Pompey to enter into another family
alliance with Caesar, severed a link which
had bound the two men together; but a still more important factor was the
defeat and death of Crassus in the East in 53 B.C.65
continuance of a triumvirate was possible, but the existence of a duumvirate
and the time seemed to Pompey ripe for strengthening himself and humbling his
rival. He was practically dictator in Rome, and still retained his
governorship of Spain, while his rival, Caesar, was far away in Gaul, engaged
with Vercingetorix, his bravest and ablest enemy, in a life and death
which might end with him as the Parthian campaign had ended with Crassus.
After assuming office Pompey secured the passage of laws imposing heavier
penalties for bribery and violence,67
prolonging his proconsulship of Spain for five years,68
and a law de jure magistratuum,69
providing that candidates for office must appear in person a certain number of days before the election,
and that those who had held office in Rome must wait five years before assuming
the government of a province. Caesar was, however, exempted from the operation
of the first clause of this law by a special measure,70
and also by a provision unconstitutionally appended to the law itself
as an afterthought by Pompey.71
The second provision in the law was, however, intended to bring Caesar low.
Even if he should succeed in securing an election to the consulship, it would
be easy, after his term of office had expired, to prosecute him and to convict
him of using violence in his candidacy for the consulship in 60 B.C., under the
new law de vi, which was retroactive.