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,182
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 boasted183
that he had received more than 20,000,000 sesterces from this source.
And one of his legacies, from the philosopher Diodotus,184
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.185
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,186
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 residences187
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,188
his generous mode of living, his openhandedness to friends and clients, and his social ambition for his son and daughter,189
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,190
or still worse by his political enemy Caesar191
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.192
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 himself193 ;
he dictated to the secretary of Atticus a letter in praise of
Caelius and then read it to Caelius as an authentic epistle from Atticus194 ;
in another letter he even speculates upon the feasibility of disavowing an oration which had offended Curio.195
The question of ethics involved in the defense of Catiline scarcely belongs here and has been discussed else-where.196
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,197
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,198
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,199
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
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,201
in November his son Marcus left Rome to pursue his studies in Athens,202
and, hardest of all to bear, in Feb., 45 B.C., his beloved daughter Tullia died.203
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.
Cicero's Family and Friends.
Terentia and Publilia.
52. A fair knowledge of the relations existing between Cicero and his wife
Terentia may be gained from the letters of Bk. 14, ad Fam. all of
which are addressed to her. In the early letters of this correspondence
written in 58 B.C., after twenty years of married life, Cicero
expresses himself in most affectionate terms. After this date, with the
exception of one letter in 50 B.C., which is mainly upon business
matters, there are no letters to Terentia up to 49 B.C., although this
interval includes the period of his proconsulship, when he wrote so many
letters to his personal and political friends. Even the letters of the year
49, when Cicero was in so much anxiety, are very infrequent. The rest of the
letters of Bk. 14, belonging to the next two years, are brief and formal. It
appears that an estrangement gradually grew up between them which culminated in
their divorce in the early part of 46 B.C. In December of the same year
he married his rich ward Publilia204 ;
but Publilia could not conceal her chagrin at finding herself second to Tullia in his affection, and when she evinced joy
a few months later at Tullia's death, Cicero sent her to her mother and could
not be induced to receive her back into his favor.205