Caesar or Pompey?
(Aet. 58-59. B.C. 49-48. Epist. XLII.-LIII.)
26. Cicero, upon his arrival, found political affairs in a turmoil. The lex
Vatinia of 59 B.C. ( 13) had assigned Gallia Cisalpina
and Illyricum to Caesar for a period of five years, dating from Mar. 1, 59 B.C.
By the lex Pompeia Licinia, passed in 55 B.C.
( 20), Caesar's term of office was extended for a period of five years,
probably, therefore, to Mar. 1, 49 B.C.
Special legislation of the year 52 B.C.
had allowed Caesar to sue, in 49 B.C., for the consulship, without
personally attending the canvass ( 2 i). His successor in the
provinces would not naturally begin his term of office until Jan. 1, 48 B.C., and in accordance with the regular practice in such cases, Caesar
might count upon holding his provinces until that time, when he would pass from
the provincial government to the consulship at Rome, and thus avoid the snares
which his enemies at Rome would otherwise have set for him. But to frustrate
this plan, M. Marcellus, the consul, a bitter opponent of Caesar, attempted on
Dec. 10, 50 B.C. to induce the senate to pass the
senatus consultum ultimum. Failing in this, he proceeded to Naples, and on his own motion
requested Pompey to take charge of the legions near Luceria
and defend the state. Pompey accepted the command of the legions.
27. This overt act hastened the course of events. On Dec. 21 Curio, Caesar's
agent, left Rome to go to Caesar,
and returned in time to present a formal
Epist. XLII., intr.) to the senate Jan. 1, 49 B.C., when the consuls L. Lentulus Crus and C. Claudius Marcellus assumed office. Caesar's proposals
were not accepted, and a resolution was passed declaring that he would be
acting adversus rem publicam if he did not give up his army by July 1, 49 B.C.95 ;
and on Jan. 7 the senatus consultum ultimum96
was passed, upon which the tribunes Antonius and Cassius,97
as well as Curio and Caelius, set out for Caesar's camp.
28. Cicero's position made him an eminently fit person to effect a compromise.98
He proposed that Pompey should go to Spain, and that Caesar should not be
compelled to attend his canvass in person99 ;
but his efforts were fruitless. On Jan. 10 Caesar crossed the Rubicon100
with five cohorts and marched toward Rome, taking Pisaurum, Fanum, and Ancona on his way. On Jan. 14 the senate
passed the decretum tumultus,101
but the news of Caesar's rapid advance forced Pompey, the consuls, and senators to leave Rome,102
Jan.17, and hurry southward.
29. Cicero left the city the same day. The senate had assigned the Campanian
district to him, but he saw that little could be done,103
because the inhabitants of Campania had many of them received their lands through Caesar's law
( 13). Furthermore he hoped for peace, and thought that neutrality
on his part would best fit him to act as mediator between the opposing forces;
and to maintain his neutral position, he gave up his appointment in Campania
just before leaving the city, and took charge, in a civil capacity, of the
Roman Campagna and the coast of Latium.104
The Pompeians, after planning a rendezvous at Luceria,105
hurried toward Brundisium, whither Pompey peremptorily summoned Cicero.106
Nevertheless he remained in Formiae, hoping still to effect a reconciliation between Caesar and Pompey,107
and, with this hope in mind, he had an interview with Caesar at Formiae,108
Mar. 28. In this interview Caesar requested him to go to Rome and
use his best efforts to secure peace, but when Cicero mentioned the terms which
he should propose, Caesar refused to accept them.
30. This meeting put an end to his hesitation. He felt sure that all hope of a
reconciliation was gone, as neither party would submit terms which the other
could accept. Cicero has been often accused of indecision during this period,
but unjustly so. In his opinion there was right and wrong with each party, and
civil war was an evil to be avoided at all hazards. He used every possible
means, therefore, to avert the catastrophe, but without success. Recognizing
the inevitable, he cast in his lot with the man to whom he personally owed most;
for the choice lay, not between Caesar and the Republic, but between Caesar
and Pompey; nec mehercule hoc facio rei publicae causa, quam funditus
deletam puto, sed ne quis me putet ingratum in eum qui me levavit iis
incommodis (i.e. of exile) quibus idem adfecerat (Att. 9.19.2).
31. On June 7, 49 B.C., Cicero, accompanied by his brother, his son, and
his nephew, sailed from Formiae to join Pompey near Dyrrachium,109
which place he reached, after stopping for several months on the estate of Atticus in Epirus,
toward the close of the year 49 B.C., some eight
or nine months after the arrival of the Pompeian forces.110
In the meantime Caesar, displaying extraordinary energy,111
tact, and consideration,112
had made himself master of Italy, where he found the people kindly disposed toward him,
had restored order at Rome, had defeated the Pompeian lieutenants, Afranius,
Petreius, and Varro, in Spain; and in Jan., 48 B.C., he crossed the Adriatic
and began the offensive operations against Pompey which ended in the victory
near Pharsalus, Aug. 9, 48 B.C. Pompey fled, but was murdered about three
weeks later, while landing at Pelusium in Egypt.113
Cicero had been coldly received by the Pompeians at Dyrrachium,114
and had little to do with the preparation for the struggle.115
A serious indisposition also kept him at Dyrrachium, so that he was not present at the battle of Pharsalus.116