The consulship of Caesar was the last chance for the Roman aristocracy. He was not a revolutionist. Revolutions are the last desperate remedy when all else has failed. They may create as many evils as they cure, and wise men always hate them. But if revolution was to be escaped, reform was inevitable, and it was for the Senate to choose between the alternatives. Could the noble lords have known then, in that their day, the things that belonged to their peace--could they have forgotten their fish-ponds and their game-preserves, and have remembered that, as the rulers of the civilized world, they had duties which the eternal order of nature would exact at their hands--the shaken constitution might again have regained its stability, and the forms and even the reality of the Republic might have continued for another century.
It was not to be. Had the Senate been capable of using the opportunity, they would long before have undertaken a reformation for themselves. Even had their eyes been opened, there were disintegrating forces at work which the highest political wisdom could do no more than arrest; and little good is really effected by prolonging artificially the lives of either constitutions or individuals beyond their natural period. From the time when Rome became an empire, mistress of provinces to which she was unable to extend her own liberties, the days of her self-government were numbered. A homogeneous and vigorous people may manage their own affairs under a popular constitution so long as their personal characters remain undegenerate. Parliaments and Senates may represent the general will of the community, and may pass laws and administer them as public sentiment approves. But such bodies can preside successfully only among subjects who are directly represented in them. They are too ignorant, too selfish, too divided, to govern others; and imperial aspirations draw after them, by obvious necessity, an imperial rule. Caesar may have known this in his heart, yet the most far-seeing statesman will not so trust his own misgivings as to refuse to hope for the regeneration of the institutions into which he is born. He will determine that justice shall be done. Justice is the essence of government, and without justice all forms, democratic or monarchic, are tyrannies alike. But he will work with the existing methods till the inadequacy of them has been proved beyond dispute. Constitutions are never overthrown till they have pronounced sentence on themselves.
Caesar accordingly commenced office by an endeavor to conciliate. The army and the moneyed interests, represented by Pompey and Crassus, were already with him; and he used his endeavors, as has been seen, to gain Cicero, who might bring with him such part of the landed aristocracy as were not hopelessly incorrigible. With Cicero he but partially succeeded. The great orator solved the problem of the situation by going away into the country and remaining there for the greater part of the year, and Caesar had to do without an assistance which, in the speaking department, would have been invaluable to him. His first step was to order the publication of the "Acta Diurna," a daily journal of the doings of the Senate. The light of day being thrown in upon that august body might prevent honorable members from laying hands on each other as they had lately done, and might enable the people to know what was going on among them--on a better authority than rumor. He then introduced his agrarian law, the rough draft of which had been already discussed, and had been supported by Cicero in the preceding year. Had he meant to be defiant, like the Gracchi, he might have offered it at once to the people. Instead of doing so, he laid it before the Senate, inviting them to amend his suggestions, and promising any reasonable concessions if they would co-operate. No wrong was to be done to any existing occupiers. No right of property was to be violated which was any real right at all. Large tracts in Campania which belonged to the State were now held on the usual easy terms by great landed patricians. These Caesar proposed to buy out, and to settle on the ground twenty thousand of Pompey's veterans. There was money enough and to spare in the treasury, which they had themselves brought home. Out of the large funds which would still remain land might be purchased in other parts of Italy for the rest, and for a few thousand of the unemployed population which was crowded into Rome. The measure in itself was admitted to be a moderate one. Every pains had been taken to spare the interests and to avoid hurting the susceptibilities of the aristocrats. But, as Cicero said, the very name of an agrarian law was intolerable to them. It meant in the end spoliation and division of property, and the first step would bring others after it. The public lands they had shared conveniently among themselves from immemorial time. The public treasure was their treasure, to be laid out as they might think proper. Cato headed the opposition. He stormed for an entire day, and was so violent that Caesar threatened him with arrest. The Senate groaned and foamed; no progress was made or was likely to be made; and Caesar, as much in earnest as they were, had to tell them that if they would not help him he must appeal to the assembly. "I invited you to revise the law," he said; "I was willing that if any clause displeased you it should be expunged. You will not touch it. Well, then, the people must decide."
The Senate had made up their minds to fight the battle. If Caesar went to the assembly, Bibulus, their second consul, might stop the proceedings. If this seemed too extreme a step, custom provided other impediments to which recourse might be had. Bibulus might survey the heavens, watch the birds, or the clouds, or the direction of the wind, and declare the aspects unfavorable; or he might proclaim day after day to be holy, and on holy days no legislation was permitted. Should these religious cobwebs be brushed away, the Senate had provided a further resource in three of the tribunes whom they had bribed. Thus they held themselves secure, and dared Caesar to do his worst. Caesar on his side was equally determined. The assembly was convoked. The Forum was choked to overflowing. Caesar and Pompey stood on the steps of the Temple of Castor, and Bibulus and his tribunes were at hand ready with their interpellations. Such passions had not been roused in Rome since the days of Cinna and Octavius, and many a young lord was doubtless hoping that the day would not close without another lesson to ambitious demagogues and howling mobs. In their eyes the one reform which Rome needed was another Sylla.
Caesar read his law from the tablet on which it was inscribed; and, still courteous to his antagonist, he turned to Bibulus and asked him if he had any fault to find. Bibulus said sullenly that he wanted no revolutions, and that while he was consul there should be none. The people hissed; and he then added in a rage, "You shall not have your law this year though every man of you demand it." Caesar answered nothing, but Pompey and Crassus stood forward. They were not officials, but they were real forces. Pompey was the idol of every soldier in the State, and at Caesar's invitation he addressed the assembly. He spoke for his veterans. He spoke for the poor citizens. He said that he approved the law to the last letter of it.
"Will you then," asked Caesar, "support the law if it be illegally opposed?" "Since," replied Pompey, "you consul, and you my fellow- citizens, ask aid of me, a poor individual without office and without authority, who nevertheless has done some service to the State, I say that I will bear the shield if others draw the sword." Applause rang out from a hundred thousand throats. Crassus followed to the same purpose, and was received with the same wild delight. A few senators, who retained their senses, saw the uselessness of the opposition, and retired. Bibulus was of duller and tougher metal. As the vote was about to be taken, he and his tribunes rushed to the rostra. The tribunes pronounced their veto. Bibulus said that he had consulted the sky; the gods forbade further action being taken that day, and he declared the assembly dissolved. Nay, as if a man like Caesar could be stopped by a shadow, he proposed to sanctify the whole remainder of the year, that no further business might be transacted in it. Yells drowned his voice. The mob rushed upon the steps; Bibulus was thrown down, and the rods of the lictors were broken; the tribunes who had betrayed their order were beaten. Cato held his ground, and stormed at Caesar till he was led off by the police, raving and gesticulating. The law was then passed, and a resolution besides that every senator should take an oath to obey it.
So in ignominy the Senate's resistance collapsed: the Caesar whom they had thought to put off with their "woods and forests" had proved stronger than the whole of them; and, prostrate at the first round of the battle, they did not attempt another. They met the following morning. Bibulus told his story and appealed for support. Had the Senate complied, they would probably have ceased to exist. The oath was unpalatable, but they made the best of it. Metellus Celer, Cato, and Favonius, a senator whom men called Cato's ape, struggled against their fate, but, "swearing they would ne'er consent, consented." The unwelcome formula was swallowed by the whole of them; and Bibulus, who had done his part and had been beaten and kicked and trampled upon, and now found his employers afraid to stand by him, went off sulkily to his house, shut himself up there, and refused to act as consul further during the remainder of the year.
There was no further active opposition. A commission was appointed by Caesar to carry out the land act, composed of twenty of the best men that could be found, one of them being Atius Balbus, the husband of Caesar's only sister, and grandfather of a little child now three years old, who was known afterward to the world as Augustus. Cicero was offered a place, but declined. The land question having been disposed of, Caesar then proceeded with the remaining measures by which his consulship was immortalized. He had redeemed his promise to Pompey by providing for his soldiers. He gratified Crassus by giving the desired relief to the farmers of the taxes. He confirmed Pompey's arrangements for the government of Asia, which the Senate had left in suspense. The Senate was now itself suspended. The consul acted directly with the assembly, without obstruction and without remonstrance, Bibulus only from time to time sending out monotonous admonitions from within doors that the season was consecrated, and that Caesar's acts had no validity. Still more remarkably, and as the distinguishing feature of his term of office, Caesar carried, with the help of the people, the body of admirable laws which are known to jurists as the "Leges Juliae," and mark an epoch in Roman history. They were laws as unwelcome to the aristocracy as they were essential to the continued existence of the Roman State, laws which had been talked of in the Senate, but which could never pass through the preliminary stage of resolutions, and were now enacted over the Senate's head by the will of Caesar and the sovereign power of the nation. A mere outline can alone be attempted here. There was a law declaring the inviolability of the persons of magistrates during their term of authority, reflecting back on the murder of Saturninus, and touching by implication the killing of Lentulus and his companions. There was a law for the punishment of adultery, most disinterestedly singular if the popular accounts of Caesar's habits had any grain of truth in them. There were laws for the protection of the subject from violence, public or private; and laws disabling persons who had laid hands illegally on Roman citizens from holding office in the Commonwealth. There was a law, intended at last to be effective, to deal with judges who allowed themselves to be bribed. There were laws against defrauders of the revenue; laws against debasing the coin; laws against sacrilege; laws against corrupt State contracts; laws against bribery at elections. Finally, there was a law, carefully framed, De repetundis, to exact retribution from proconsuls or propraetors of the type of Verres who had plundered the provinces. All governors were required, on relinquishing office, to make a double return of their accounts, one to remain for inspection among the archives of the province, and one to be sent to Rome; and where peculation or injustice could be proved, the offender's estate was made answerable to the last sesterce. 1
Such laws were words only without the will to execute them; but they affirmed the principles on which Roman or any other society could alone continue. It was for the officials of the constitution to adopt them, and save themselves and the Republic, or to ignore them as they had ignored the laws which already existed, and see it perish as it deserved. All that man could do for the preservation of his country from revolution Caesar had accomplished. Sylla had re-established the rule of the aristocracy, and it had failed grossly and disgracefully. Cinna and Marius had tried democracy, and that had failed. Caesar was trying what law would do, and the result remained to be seen. Bibulus, as each measure was passed, croaked that it was null and void. The leaders of the Senate threatened between their teeth that all should be undone when Caesar's term was over. Cato, when he mentioned the "Leges Juliae," spoke of them as enactments, but refused them their author's name. But the excellence of these laws was so clearly recognized that they survived the irregularity of their introduction; and the "Lex de Repetundis" especially remained a terror to evil-doers, with a promise of better days to the miserable and pillaged subjects of the Roman Empire.
So the year of Caesar's consulship passed away. What was to happen when it had expired? The Senate had provided "the woods and forests" for him. But the Senate's provision in such a matter could not be expected to hold. He asked for nothing, but he was known to desire an opportunity of distinguished service. Caesar was now forty-three. His life was ebbing away, and, with the exception of his two years in Spain, it had been spent in struggling with the base elements of Roman faction. Great men will bear such sordid work when it is laid on them, but they loathe it notwithstanding, and for the present there was nothing more to be done. A new point of departure had been taken. Principles had been laid down for the Senate and people to act on, if they could and would. Caesar could only wish for a long absence in some new sphere of usefulness, where he could achieve something really great which his country would remember.
And on one side only was such a sphere open to him. The East was Roman to the Euphrates. No second Mithridates could loosen the grasp with which the legions now held the civilized parts of Asia. Parthians might disturb the frontier, but could not seriously threaten the Eastern dominions; and no advantage was promised by following on the steps of Alexander and annexing countries too poor to bear the cost of their maintenance. To the west it was different. Beyond the Alps there was still a territory of unknown extent, stretching away to the undefined ocean, a territory peopled with warlike races, some of whom in ages long past had swept over Italy and taken Rome, and had left their descendants and their name in the northern province, which was now called Cisalpine Gaul. With these races the Romans had as yet no clear relations, and from them alone could any serious danger threaten the State. The Gauls had for some centuries ceased their wanderings, had settled down in fixed localities. They had built towns and bridges; they had cultivated the soil, and had become wealthy and partly civilized. With the tribes adjoining Provence the Romans had alliances more or less precarious, and had established a kind of protectorate over them. But even here the inhabitants were uneasy for their independence, and troubles were continually arising with them; while into these districts and into the rest of Gaul a fresh and stormy element was now being introduced. In earlier times the Gauls had been stronger than the Germans, and not only could they protect their own frontier, but they had formed settlements beyond the Rhine. These relations were being changed. The Gauls, as they grew in wealth, declined in vigor. The Germans, still roving and migratory, were throwing covetous eyes out of their forests on the fields and vineyards of their neighbors, and enormous numbers of them were crossing the Rhine and Danube, looking for new homes. How feeble a barrier either the Alps or the Gauls themselves might prove against such invaders had been but too recently experienced. Men who were of middle age at the time of Caesar's consulship could still remember the terrors which had been caused by the invasion of the Cimbri and Teutons. Marius had saved Italy then from destruction, as it were, by the hair of its head. The annihilation of those hordes had given Rome a passing respite. But fresh generations had grown up. Fresh multitudes were streaming out of the North. Germans in hundreds of thousands were again passing the Upper Rhine, rooting themselves in Burgundy, and coming in collision with tribes which Rome protected. There were uneasy movements among the Gauls themselves, whole nations of them breaking up from their homes and again adrift upon the world. Gaul and Germany were like a volcano giving signs of approaching eruption; and at any moment, and hardly with warning, another lava-stream might be pouring down into Venetia and Lombardy.
To deal with this danger was the work marked out for Caesar. It is the fashion to say that he sought a military command that he might have an army behind him to overthrow the constitution. If this was his object, ambition never chose a more dangerous or less promising route for itself. Men of genius who accomplish great things in this world do not trouble themselves with remote and visionary aims. They encounter emergencies as they rise, and leave the future to shape itself as it may. It would seem that at first the defence of Italy was all that was thought of. "The woods and forests" were set aside, and Caesar, by a vote of the people, was given the command of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria for five years; but either he himself desired, or especial circumstances which were taking place beyond the mountains recommended, that a wider scope should be allowed him. The Senate, finding that the people would act without them if they hesitated, gave him in addition Gallia Comata, the land of the Gauls with the long hair, the governorship of the Roman province beyond the Alps, with untrammelled liberty to act as he might think good throughout the country which is now known as France and Switzerland and the Rhine provinces of Germany.
He was to start early in the approaching year. It was necessary before he went to make some provision for the quiet government of the capital. The alliance with Pompey and Crassus gave temporary security. Pompey had less stability of character than could have been wished, but he became attached to Caesar's daughter Julia; and a fresh link of marriage was formed to hold them together. Caesar himself married Calpurnia, the daughter of Calpurnius Piso. The Senate having temporarily abdicated, he was able to guide the elections; and Piso and Pompey's friend Gabinius, who had obtained the command of the pirate war for him, were chosen consuls for the year 58. Neither of them, if we can believe a tithe of Cicero's invective, was good for much; but they were stanch partisans, and were to be relied on to resist any efforts which might be made to repeal the "Leges Juliae." These matters being arranged, and his own term having expired, Caesar withdrew, according to custom, to the suburbs beyond the walls to collect troops and prepare for his departure. Strange things, however, had yet to happen before he was gone.
[B. C. 58.] It is easy to conceive how the Senate felt at these transactions, how ill they bore to find themselves superseded and the State managed over their heads. Fashionable society was equally furious, and the three allies went by the name of Dynasts, or "Reges Superbi." After resistance had been abandoned, Cicero came back to Rome to make cynical remarks from which all parties suffered equally. His special grievance was the want of consideration which he conceived to have been shown for himself. He mocked at the Senate; he mocked at Bibulus, whom he particularly abominated; he mocked at Pompey and the agrarian law. Mockery turned to indignation when he thought of the ingratitude of the Senate, and his chief consolation in their discomfiture was that it had fallen on them through the neglect of their most distinguished member. "I could have saved them if they would have let me," he said. "I could save them still if I were to try; but I will go study philosophy in my own family." 2 "Freedom is gone," he wrote to Atticus; "and if we are to be worse enslaved, we shall bear it. Our lives and properties are more to us than liberty. We sigh, and we do not even remonstrate." 3
Cato, in the desperation of passion, called Pompey a dictator in the assembly, and barely escaped being killed for his pains. 4 The patricians revenged themselves in private by savage speeches and plots and purposes. Fashionable society gathered in the theatres and hissed the popular leaders. Lines were introduced into the plays reflecting on Pompey, and were encored a thousand times. Bibulus from his closet continued to issue venomous placards, reporting scandals about Caesar's life, and now for the first time bringing up the story of Nicomedes. The streets were impassable where these papers were pasted up, from the crowds of loungers which were gathered to read them, and Bibulus for the moment was the hero of patrician saloons. Some malicious comfort Cicero gathered out of these manifestations of feeling. He had no belief in the noble lords, and small expectations from them. Bibulus was, on the whole, a fit representative for the gentry of the fish-ponds. But the Dynasts were at least heartily detested in quarters which had once been powerful, and might be powerful again; and he flattered himself, though he affected to regret it, that the animosity against them was spreading. To all parties there is attached a draggled trail of disreputables, who hold themselves entitled to benefits when their side is in power, and are angry when they are passed over.
"The State," Cicero wrote in the autumn of 59 to Atticus, "is in a worse condition than when you left us; then we thought that we had fallen under a power which pleased the people, and which, though abhorrent to the good, yet was not totally destructive to them. Now all hate it equally, and we are in terror as to where the exasperation may break out. We had experienced the ill-temper and irritation of those who in their anger with Cato had brought ruin on us; but the poison worked so slowly that it seemed we might die without pain. I hoped, as I often told you, that the wheel of the constitution was so turning that we should scarcely hear a sound or see any visible track; and so it would have been could men have waited for the tempest to pass over them. But the secret sighs turned to groans, and the groans to universal clamor; and thus our friend Pompey, who so lately swam in glory and never heard an evil word of himself, is broken-hearted and knows not whither to turn. A precipice is before him, and to retreat is dangerous. The good are against him; the bad are not his friends. I could scarce help weeping the other day when I heard him complaining in the Forum of the publication of Bibulus. He who but a short time since bore himself so proudly there, with the people in raptures with him, and with the world on his side, was now so humble and abject as to disgust even himself, not to say his hearers. Crassus enjoyed the scene, but no one else. Pompey had fallen down out of the stars--not by a gradual descent, but in a single plunge; and as Apelles if he had seen his Venus, or Protogenes his Ialysus, all daubed with mud, would have been vexed and annoyed, so was I grieved to the very heart to see one whom I had painted out in the choicest colors of art thus suddenly defaced. 5 Pompey is sick with irritation at the placards of Bibulus. I am sorry about them. They give such excessive annoyance to a man whom I have always liked; and Pompey is so prompt with his sword, and so unaccustomed to insult, that I fear what he may do. What the future may have in store for Bibulus I know not. At present he is the admired of all." 6
"Sampsiceramus," Cicero wrote a few days later, "is greatly penitent. He would gladly be restored to the eminence from which he has fallen. Sometimes he imparts his griefs to me, and asks me what he should do, which I cannot tell him." 7
Unfortunate Cicero, who knew what was right, but was too proud to do it! Unfortunate Pompey, who still did what was right, but was too sensitive to bear the reproach of it, who would so gladly not leave his duty unperformed, and yet keep the "sweet voices" whose applause had grown so delicious to him! Bibulus was in no danger. Pompey was too good-natured to hurt him; and Caesar let fools say what they pleased, as long as they were fools without teeth, who would bark but could not bite. The risk was to Cicero himself, little as he seemed to be aware of it. Caesar was to be long absent from Rome, and he knew that as soon as he was engaged in Gaul the extreme oligarchic faction would make an effort to set aside his land commission and undo his legislation. When he had a clear purpose in view, and was satisfied that it was a good purpose, he was never scrupulous about his instruments. It was said of him that when he wanted any work done he chose the persons best able to do it, let their general character be what it might. The rank and file of the patricians, proud, idle, vicious, and self-indulgent, might be left to their mistresses and their gaming-tables. They could do no mischief unless they had leaders at their head who could use their resources more effectively than they could do themselves. There were two men only in Rome with whose help they could be really dangerous--Cato, because he was a fanatic, impregnable to argument, and not to be influenced by temptation of advantage to himself; Cicero, on account of his extreme ability, his personal ambition, and his total want of political principle. Cato he knew to be impracticable. Cicero he had tried to gain; but Cicero, who had played a first part as consul, could not bring himself to play a second, and, if the chance offered, had both power and will to be troublesome. Some means had to be found to get rid of these two, or at least to tie their hands and to keep them in order. There would be Pompey and Crassus still at hand. But Pompey was weak, and Crassus understood nothing beyond the art of manipulating money. Gabinius and Piso, the next consuls, had an indifferent reputation and narrow abilities, and at best they would have but their one year of authority. Politics, like love, makes strange bedfellows. In this difficulty accident threw in Cesar's way a convenient but most unexpected ally.
Young Clodius, after his escape from prosecution by the marvellous methods which Crassus had provided for him, was more popular than ever. He had been the occasion of a scandal which had brought infamy on the detested Senate. His offence in itself seemed slight in so loose an age, and was as nothing compared with the enormity of his judges. He had come out of his trial with a determination to be revenged on the persons from whose tongues he had suffered most severely in the senatorial debates. Of these Cato had been the most savage; but Cicero had been the most exasperating, from his sarcasms, his airs of patronage, and perhaps his intimacy with his sister. The noble youth had exhausted the common forms of pleasure. He wanted a new excitement, and politics and vengeance might be combined. He was as clever as he was dissolute, and, as clever men are fortunately rare in the licentious part, of society, they are always idolized, because they make vice respectable by connecting it with intellect. Clodius was a second, an abler Catiline, equally unprincipled and far more dexterous and prudent. In times of revolution there is always a disreputable wing to the radical party, composed of men who are the natural enemies of established authority, and these all rallied about their new leader with devout enthusiasm. Clodius was not without political experience. His first public appearance had been as leader of a mutiny. He was already quaestor, and so a senator; but he was too young to aspire to the higher magistracies which were open to him as a patrician. He declared his intention of renouncing his order, becoming a plebeian, and standing for the tribuneship of the people. There were precedents for such a step, but they were rare. The abdicating noble had to be adopted into a plebeian family, and the consent was required of the consuls and of the Pontifical College. With the growth of political equality the aristocracy had become more insistent upon the privilege of birth, which could not be taken from them; and for a Claudius to descend among the canaille was as if a Howard were to seek adoption from a shopkeeper in the Strand.
At first there was universal amazement. Cicero had used the intrigue with Pompeia as a text for a sermon on the immoralities of the age. The aspirations of Clodius to be a tribune he ridiculed as an illustration of its follies, and after scourging him in the Senate, he laughed at him and jested with him in private. 8 Cicero did not understand with how venomous a snake he was playing. He even thought Clodius likely to turn against the Dynasts, and to become a serviceable member of the conservative party. Gradually he was forced to open his eyes. Speeches were reported to him as coming from Clodius or his allies threatening an inquiry into the death of the Catilinarians. At first he pushed his alarms aside, as unworthy of him. What had so great a man as he to fear from a young reprobate like "the pretty boy"? The "pretty boy," however, found favor where it was least looked for. Pompey supported his adventure for the tribuneship. Caesar, though it was Caesar's house which he had violated, did not oppose. Bibulus refused consent, but Bibulus had virtually abdicated and went for nothing. The legal forms were complied with. Clodius found a commoner younger than himself who was willing to adopt him, and who, the day after the ceremony, released him from the new paternal authority. He was now a plebeian, and free. He remained a senator in virtue of his quaestorship, and he was chosen tribune of the people for the year 58.
Cicero was at last startled out of his security. So long as the consuls, or one of them, could be depended on, a tribune's power was insignificant. When the consuls were of his own way of thinking, a tribune was a very important personage indeed. Atticus was alarmed for his friend, and cautioned him to look to himself. Warnings came from all quarters that mischief was in the wind. Still it was impossible to believe the peril to be a real one. Cicero, to whom Rome owed its existence, to be struck at by a Clodius! It could not be. As little could a wasp hurt an elephant.
There can be little doubt that Caesar knew what Clodius had in his mind; or that, if the design was not his own, he had purposely allowed it to go forward. Caesar did not wish to hurt Cicero. He wished well to him, and admired him; but he did not mean to leave him free in Rome to lead a senatorial reaction. A prosecution for the execution of the prisoners was now distinctly announced. Cicero as consul had put to death Roman citizens without a trial. Cicero was to be called to answer for the illegality before the sovereign people. The danger was unmistakable; and Caesar, who was still in the suburbs making his preparations, invited Cicero to avoid it, by accompanying him as second in command into Gaul. The offer was made in unquestionable sincerity. Caesar may himself have created the situation to lay Cicero under a pressure, but he desired nothing so much as to take him as his companion, and to attach him to himself. Cicero felt the compliment and hesitated to refuse, but his pride again came in his way. Pompey assured him that not a hair of his head should be touched. Why Pompey gave him this encouragement Cicero could never afterwards understand. The scenes in the theatres had also combined to mislead him, and he misread the disposition of the great body of citizens. He imagined that they would all start up in his defence, Senate, aristocracy, knights, commoners, and tradesmen. The world, he thought, looked back upon his consulship with as much admiration as he did himself, and was always contrasting him with his successors. Never was mistake more profound. The Senate, who had envied his talents and resented his assumption, now despised him as a trimmer. His sarcasms had made him enemies among those who acted with him politically. He had held aloof at the crisis of Caesar's election and in the debates which followed, and therefore all sides distrusted him; while throughout the body of the people there was, as Caesar had foretold, a real and sustained resentment at the conduct of the Catiline affair. The final opinion of Rome was that the prisoners ought to have been tried; and that they were not tried was attributed not unnaturally to a desire, on the part of the Senate, to silence an inquiry which might have proved inconvenient.
Thus suddenly out of a clear sky the thunder-clouds gathered over Cicero's head. "Clodius," says Dion Cassius, "had discovered that among the senators Cicero was more feared than loved. There were few of them who had not been hit by his irony, or irritated by his presumption." Those who most agreed in what he had done were not ashamed to shuffle off upon him their responsibilities. Clodius, now omnipotent with the assembly at his back, cleared the way by a really useful step; he carried a law abolishing the impious form of declaring the heavens unfavorable when an inconvenient measure was to be stopped or delayed. Probably it formed a part of his engagement with Caesar. The law may have been meant to act retrospectively, to prevent a question being raised on the interpellations of Bibulus. This done, and without paying the Senate the respect of first consulting it, he gave notice that he would propose a vote to the assembly, to the effect that any person who had put to death a Roman citizen without trial, and without allowing him an appeal to the people, had violated the constitution of the State. Cicero was not named directly; every senator who had voted for the execution of Cethegus and Lentulus and their companions was as guilty as he; but it was known immediately that Cicero was the mark that was being aimed at; and Caesar at once renewed the offer, which he made before, to take Cicero with him. Cicero, now frightened in earnest, still could not bring himself to owe his escape to Caesar. The Senate, ungrateful as they had been, put on mourning with an affectation of dismay. The knights petitioned the consuls to interfere for Cicero's protection. The consuls declined to receive their request. Caesar outside the city gave no further sign. A meeting of the citizens was held in the camp. Caesar's opinion was invited. He said that he had not changed his sentiments. He had remonstrated at the time against the execution. He disapproved of it still, but he did not directly advise legislation upon acts that were past. Yet, though he did not encourage Clodius, he did not interfere. He left the matter to the consuls, and one of them was his own father-in-law, and the other was Gabinius, once Pompey's favorite officer. Gabinius, Cicero thought, would respect Pompey's promise to him. To Piso he made a personal appeal. He found him, he said afterwards, 9 at eleven in the morning, in his slippers, at a low tavern. Piso came out, reeking with wine, and excused himself by saying that his health required a morning draught. Cicero attempted to receive his apology, and he stood for a while at the tavern door, till he could no longer bear the smell and the foul language and expectorations of the consul. Hope in that quarter there was none. Two days later the assembly was called to consider Clodius's proposal. Piso was asked to say what he thought of the treatment of the conspirators; he answered gravely, and, as Cicero described him, with one eye in his forehead, that he disapproved of cruelty. Neither Pompey nor his friends came to help. What was Cicero to do? Resist by force? The young knights rallied about him eager for a fight, if he would but give the word. Sometimes as he looked back in after-years he blamed himself for declining their services, sometimes he took credit to himself for refusing to be the occasion of bloodshed. 10
"I was too timid," he said once; "I had the country with me, and I should have stood firm. I had to do with a band of villains only, with two monsters of consuls, and with the male harlot of rich buffoons, the seducer of his sister, the high-priest of adultery, a poisoner, a forger, an assassin, a thief. The best and bravest citizens implored me to stand up to him. But I reflected that this Fury asserted that he was supported by Pompey and Crassus and Caesar. Caesar had an army at the gates. The other two could raise another army when they pleased; and when they knew that their names were thus made use of, they remained silent. They were alarmed perhaps, because the laws which they had carried in the preceding year were challenged by the new praetors, and were held by the Senate to be invalid; and they were unwilling to alienate a popular tribune." 11
And again elsewhere: "When I saw that the faction of Catiline was in power, that the party which I had led, some from envy of myself, some from fear for their own lives, had betrayed and deserted me; when the two consuls had been purchased by promises of provinces, and had gone over to my enemies, and the condition of the bargain was that I was to be delivered over, tied and bound, to my enemies; when the Senate and knights were in mourning, but were not allowed to bring my cause before the people; when my blood had been made the seal of the arrangement under which the State had been disposed of; when I saw all this, although 'the good' were ready to fight for me, and were willing to die for me, I would not consent, because I saw that victory or defeat would alike bring ruin to the Commonwealth. The Senate was powerless. The Forum was ruled by violence. In such a city there was no place for me." 12
So Cicero, as he looked back afterwards, described the struggle in his own mind. His friends had then rallied; Caesar was far away; and he could tell his own story, and could pile his invectives on those who had injured him. His matchless literary power has given him exclusive command over the history of his time. His enemies' characters have been accepted from his pen as correct portraits. If we allow his description of Clodius and the two consuls to be true to the facts, what harder condemnation can be pronounced against a political condition in which such men as these could be raised to the first position in the State? 13 Dion says that Cicero's resolution to yield did not wholly proceed from his own prudence, but was assisted by advice from Cato and Hortensius the orator. Anyway, the blow fell, and he went down before the stroke. His immortal consulship, in praise of which he had written a poem, brought after it the swift retribution which Caesar had foretold. When the vote proposed by Clodius was carried, he fled to Sicily, with a tacit confession that he dared not abide his trial, which would immediately have followed. Sentence was pronounced upon him in his absence. His property was confiscated. His houses in town and country were razed. The site of his palace in Rome was dedicated to the Goddess of Liberty, and he himself was exiled. He was forbidden to reside within four hundred miles of Rome, with a threat of death if he returned; and he retired to Macedonia, to pour out his sorrows and his resentments in lamentations unworthy of a woman.
 See a list of the Leges Juliae in the 48th Book of the Corpus Juris Civilis.
 To Atticus, ii. 16.
 "Tenemur undique, neque jam, quo minus serviamus, recusamus, sed mortem et ejectionem quasi majora timemus, quae multo sunt minora. Atque hic status, qui una voce omnium gemitur neque verbo cujusdam sublevatur."--To Atticus, ii. 18.
 "In concionem ascendit et Pompeium privatus dictatorem appellavit. Propius nihil est factum quam ut occideretur."--Cicero, Ad Quintum Fratrem, i. 2.
 To Athens, ii, 21. In this comparison Cicero betrays his naļve conviction that Pompey was indebted to him and to his praises for his reputation. Here, as always, Cicero was himself the centre round which all else revolved or ought to revolve.
 To Atticus, ii. 22.
 "Jam familiariter cum illo etiam cavillor ac jocor."--To Atticus, ii. 1.
 Oratio in L. Pisonem.
 He seems to have even thought of suicide.--To Atticus, iii. 9.
 Abridged from the Oratio pro P. Sextio.
 Oratio post reditum ad Quirites.
 In a letter to his brother Quintus, written at a time when he did not know the real feelings of Caesar and Pompey, and had supposed that he had only to deal with Clodius, Cicero announced a distinct intention of resisting by force. He expected that the whole of Italy would be at his side. He said: "Si diem nobis Clodius dixerit, tota Italia concurret, ut multiplicatā gloriā discedamus. Sin autem vi agere conabitur, spero fore, studiis non solum amicorum, sedetiam alienorum, ut vi resistamus. Omnes et se et suos liberos, amicos, clientes, libertos, servos, pecunias denique suas pollicentur. Nostra antiqua manus bonorum ardet studio nostri atque amore. Si qui antea aut alieniores fuerant, ant languidiores, nunc horum regum odio se cum bonis conjungunt. Pompeius omnia pollicetur et Caesar, do quibus ita credo, ut nihil de meā comparatione deminuam."--Ad Quintum Fratrem, i. 2.