Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO ON THE SUBJECT OF THE CONSULAR PROVINCES. - Orations vol. 3: Containing the Orations for his House, Plancius, Sextius, Coelius, Milo, Ligarius, etc.
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THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO ON THE SUBJECT OF THE CONSULAR PROVINCES. - Marcus Tullius Cicero, Orations vol. 3: Containing the Orations for his House, Plancius, Sextius, Coelius, Milo, Ligarius, etc. 
The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, trans. C.D. Yonge (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1913-21). Vol. 3.
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THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO ON THE SUBJECT OF THE CONSULAR PROVINCES.
This speech was delivered about the middle of the year of the consulship of Cnæus Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus, and Lucius Marcius Philippus, a.u.c. 698. Before the new consuls were elected, the senate assembled to deliberate on what provinces should be allotted to them on the expiration of their year of office. The provinces about which the question really was were the two Gauls which Cæsar had, and Macedonia and Syria, which had been given to Lucius Calpurnius Piso Cæsonius, and to Aulus Gabinius, the consuls of the year 696. Several senators had spoken when Cicero rose; and had all, except Servilius, advocated the taking one or both of the Gauls from Cæsar, which was in fact what the senate was desirous to do; but Cicero, who had himself been treated with the greatest indignity by Piso and Gabinius, was anxious instead to get them recalled with some marks of disgrace, and to have their provinces assigned to the consuls; and he urged also that Cæsar’s command should be continued to him till he had finished the war which he was carrying on with such success, and till he had settled the conquered countries. This was much against the wishes of the senate, and even of the existing consuls, who were principally concerned in the matter; so that Philippus reproached Cicero, and reminded him that he had received worse treatment from Cæsar than he had even from Gabinius, since Cæsar had been the real author of the calamities which had befallen him. But Cicero replied that his object was not the satisfying of his own private resentment, but the promotion of the real interests of the republic; that Cæsar was deserving well of his country; that if he remained in his province he would soon reduce all Gaul to subjection; but that Piso and Gabinius were only tyrannising over and draining their provinces, while they were objects of contempt to all foreign enemies.
The result was, that he brought the senate entirely over to this opinion, and they continued Cæsar’s command in Gaul, and recalled Piso and Gabinius from their provinces, which were given to the new consuls.1
I.If any one of you, O conscript fathers, is waiting to see what provinces I shall propose to decree to the consuls, let him consider in his own mind what men I must think it most desirable to recal from the provinces; and then he will not have any doubt what ought to be my sentiments, when he has once seriously thought what it is absolutely inevitable that they should be. And if I were the first to deliver the opinion which I am about to state, you would in truth praise it; if I were to stand alone in it, at all events you would pardon me. Even if my opinion were to appear to you on the whole somewhat ineligible, still you would make some allowance for my just indignation. But, as the case stands at present, O conscript fathers, I feel no ordinary delight because it is so entirely for the advantage of the republic that Syria and Macedonia should be the provinces decreed to the consuls, that my own private feelings are in no respect at variance with the general good; and because also I can cite the authority of Publius Servilius, who has delivered his opinion before me, a most illustrious man, and of singular good faith and attachment both to the republic in general, and to my safety in particular. And if he, both just now, and whenever he has had any opportunity or possibility of speaking on the subject, has thought it his duty to brand not only with his adverse opinion but with the greatest severity of language, Gabinius and Piso, as the two monsters who have been almost the destruction of the republic, both on other accounts, and also most especially because of their extraordinary wickedness and unseemly inhumanity towards me, with what feelings ought I myself to be actuated towards those men,—I whose safety they devoted and ruined for the gratification of their own evil passions?
But in declaring my sentiments at this time, I will not be guided by my indignation, nor will I make my speech subservient to my enmity. The same feelings which every individual among you ought to entertain towards those men, shall influence me also. My own predominant and peculiar feeling of private indignation, which, however, you have always considered as belonging to yourselves in common with me, I will put aside while delivering my opinion, and reserve for a more fitting opportunity of revenge.
II. There are four provinces, O conscript fathers, concerning which I understand that opinions have as yet been delivered: the two Gauls, which at present we see united under one command; and Syria; and Macedonia; which, against your will, and when you were suffering under oppression and constraint, those pernicious consuls seized on as their reward for having overturned the republic. According to the provisions of the Sempronian law, we have now to decree two to the consuls. How is it possible for us to doubt about Syria and Macedonia being these two? I say nothing of the fact that those men are holding them at present who procured them in such a way, that they did not get them till they condemned this order of ours, till they had destroyed your authority and put an end to it in the state; till they had destroyed all public credit and good faith, endangered the lasting safety of the Roman people, and harassed me and all my friends and relations in the most shameful and barbarous manner.
All these private matters, all these transactions which took place in the city, I say nothing about; though they are of such a nature that Hannibal himself never wished so much evil to this city, as those men have done. I come to the case of the provinces themselves, of which Macedonia, which was formerly fortified not by the towers built, but by the trophies erected by numbers of our generals, which had long ago been reduced to a state of tranquillity by many victories and triumphs, is now so harassed by the barbarians, who are not allowed to rest in peace in consequence of the avarice of the late consul, that the people of Thessalonica, placed in the lap as it were of our empire, are compelled to abandon their town and to fortify their citadel; that that military road of ours, which reaches all through Macedonia as far as the Hellespont, is not only infested by the incursions of the barbarians, but is even studded with and divided among Thracian encampments. And so, those nations which had given large sums of money to our illustrious commanders, to purchase the blessings of peace, in order to be able to replenish their houses which had been thus drained, instead of the peace which they had purchased, have waged against us what is little short of a regular war. And now that very army of ours, collected by a most splendid enlistment, and by a very rigid levy, has almost entirely perished. I say this with the most real grief.
III. The soldiers of the Roman people have been taken prisoners, put to death, abandoned, and dispersed in a most miserable manner. They have been wasted away by neglect, by famine, by disease, by every sort of disaster; so that (and it is a most scandalous thing) the wickedness of the general appears NA* * * to have been chastised by the punishment of the army. And this Macedonia, as all the neighbouring nations had been subdued, and all the barbarians checked, we used to be able to preserve by its own resources, in a peaceable state, and in perfect tranquillity, with a very slight garrison, and a small army, even without a commander-in-chief, by means of lieutenants, and by the bare name of the Roman people. And yet now, when there is a man there with consular command and a consular army, it is so harassed that it is scarcely able to recruit its strength by a peace of any duration. And in the meantime who is there of you who has not heard and who does not know that the Achæans are every year paying a vast sum to Lucius Piso? that all the revenues and harbour duties of the Dyrrachians have been converted to a source of profit for this one man? that the city of the Byzantines, a city most loyal to you and to this empire, is harassed as if it belonged to an enemy? to which city he, after he could no longer squeeze anything out of them, because of the poverty to which he had reduced them, and could not by any acts of violence extort anything more from them, miserable as they were, sent his cohorts into winter quarters, and gave them commanders whom he thought likely to be his most complying and diligent agents in wickedness, and ministers to his desires.
I say nothing of the way in which he exercised his jurisdiction in a free city contrary to the laws and to the resolutions of the senate. I pass over his murders, I omit all mention of his acts of lust; of which there is a most bitter token, for the lasting recollection of his infamy, and almost bringing even our sovereignty into just odium, in the fact that it is notorious that some virgins of the noblest birth threw themselves into wells, and by a voluntary death escaped from otherwise inevitable disgrace. Nor do I omit them now because they are not most enormous atrocities, but because I am speaking without the support of any witnesses.
IV. But who is there who is ignorant that the city of the Byzantines was entirely filled and superbly decorated with statues? which the citizens, even when exhausted by the great expenses of important wars, while sustaining the attacks of Mithridates, and the whole force of Pontus, boiling over and pouring itself over all Asia, which they repulsed with difficulty at their own great risk,—even then, I say, and afterwards, the Byzantines preserved those statues and all the other ornaments of their city, and guarded them most religiously. But when you, O most unhappy and most infamous of men, became the commander there, O Cæsoninus Calventius, then a free city, and one which had been made so by the senate and people of Rome, on account of its recent services, was so plundered and stripped of everything, that, if Caius Virgilius the lieutenant, a very brave and incorruptible man, had not interfered, the Byzantines would not have retained one single statue out of all their great number.
What temple in all Achaia, what spot, or what grove in the whole of Greece, was there of such sanctity that a single statue or a single ornament has been left in it? You purchased from a most infamous tribune of the people, at the time of that general shipwreck of the city, which you, the very man who were bound to govern it rightly, had been the main agent in overturning; you purchased, I say, at that time, for an immense sum of money, the power of pronouncing judgment on the people of the free cities, with respect to the moneys which had been advanced, contrary to the resolutions of the senate, and the law of your own son-in-law. What you had bought, you sold in such a manner that you either never gave any decision at all, or else you deprived Roman citizens of their property. But I am not bringing forward these facts at this moment, O conscript fathers, as charges against this man; I am merely arguing with respect to the province. Therefore, I pass over all those things which you have often heard of, and which you are well aware of, even when you do not hear of them. I say nothing of his audacious conduct in the city, which he has fixed deep in the recollection of your eyes and minds; I say nothing of his arrogance, of his insolence, of his cruelty. Let those dark acts of lust of his lie hid, acts which he tried to conceal by his stern countenance and supercilious look, not by modesty and temperance. I am arguing about the province, the welfare of which is at stake in this matter. Will you not send a successor to such a man as this? Will you allow him to remain any longer? a man whose fortune, from the very moment that he first reached the province, has so vied with his wickedness, that no one could decide whether he was more undeserving or more unfortunate.
But as for Syria, is that Semiramis any longer to be retained there? a man whose march into the province bore the appearance of king Ariobarzanes having hired your consul to come and commit murder, as if he were some Thracian. His very first arrival in Syria was signalized by the destruction of the cavalry; after that, all his best cohorts were cut to pieces. Therefore, in Syria, since he has been the commander-in-chief, nothing has been done beyond making money-bargains with tyrants, and selling decisions, and committing robbery and piracy and massacre; while the general of the Roman people, with his army in battle array, stretching forth his right hand, did not exhort his soldiers to the pursuit of glory, but only kept crying out that everything had been bought by him and was to be bought still.
V. And as for the miserable farmers of the revenue, (miserable man that I also am, when I see the miseries and sufferings of those men who have deserved so well at my hands,) he handed them over as slaves to the Jews and Syrian nations, themselves born for slavery. He laid down as a rule from the very beginning, and he persevered in it, never to decide an action in favour of a farmer of the revenue; he rescinded covenants that had been made without any injustice, he took away all the garrisons established for their protection; he released many people who were subject to pay tributes and taxes from such payments; whatever town he was living in or whatever town he arrived at, there he forbade any farmer of the revenue or any servant of such farmer to remain. Why need I enlarge on this? He would be considered a cruel man if he had shown such a disposition towards our enemies, as he did show towards Roman citizens, especially towards those of that order which has hitherto always been maintained by its own dignity and by the goodwill of the magistrates.
Therefore, O conscript fathers, you see that the farmers of the revenue were ground down and nearly ruined, not by any rashness with which they had entered into their contracts, nor by any ignorance of the proper methods of transacting business, but by the avarice, the pride, and the cruelty of Gabinius. And to their assistance indeed, in the present difficulties of the treasury, it is actually indispensable that you should come. Although there are many of them whom you cannot now relieve; men who, by the means of that enemy of the senate, of that most bitter foe of the equestrian order and of all virtuous men, wretched that they are, have lost not only their property but their honourable position; men whom neither parsimony, nor temperance, nor virtue, nor labour, nor respectability of character, have been able to protect against the audacity of that glutton and robber.
What are we to do? shall we suffer those men to perish, who are even now supporting themselves on the resources of their patrimony, or on the liberality of their friends? Or, suppose any man has been prevented by the enemies’ means from enjoying his public rights, is that man protected by the law of the censors? but in the case of a man who is prevented by one who is an enemy, though he may not be actually called one, is that a man whom we ought not to assist? Retain, then, in the province a little longer that man who makes covenants with the enemy respecting the allies, and with the allies respecting the citizens,—who thinks himself a more important man than his colleague on this account, that he has deceived you by his morose appearance and by his countenance, while he himself has never once pretended to be less worthless than he really is. But Piso boasts in another sort of fashion, that he in a very short time has brought it to pass that Gabinius is not thought the most infamous of all men.
VI. Do not you think that you ought to recal these men from their provinces, even if you had no one to send thither in their places? Would you, could you retain there these two pests of the allies, these men who are the destruction of the soldiers, the ruin of the farmers of the revenue, the desolators of the provinces, the disgracers of the empire? But you, yourselves, in the preceding year, did recal these very men, when they had only just arrived in the provinces. And, if at that time your judgment had been unfettered, and if the matter had not been so frequently adjourned, and, at the last, taken wholly out of your hands, you would have restored your authority, as you were most anxious to do, recalling those men by whom it had been lost, and compelling them to render up the rewards which they had received, and which had been conferred on them in return for their wickedness and for the overthrow of their country. And if they at that time escaped from that punishment, through no merit of their own, but through the influence of others, greatly against your consent, still they have undergone a much greater and severer punishment.
For what severer punishment could befal any one, in whom there exists, if not any respect for his reputation, at all events some fear of punishment, than to have those letters of theirs utterly disbelieved which announced that the republic had been very successful in war? The senate decided this, when in a very full house it refused Gabinius a supplication; they decided, in the first place, that no belief at all could be given to a man polluted with every sort of guilt and wickedness; and, secondly, that the affairs of the republic could not possibly be managed successfully by a traitor, especially by that man who was known to be at the time an enemy of the republic; and, lastly, that even the immortal gods themselves did not choose their temples to be thrown open, and supplications to be addressed to them in the name of a most profligate and wicked man.
Therefore, that other man is either himself a learned man, and one well instructed by his Greek slaves, with whom he now sups behind the scenes, as he used to do before the curtain, or else he has wiser friends than Gabinius, from whom no letters are produced.
VII. Shall we then have these men for our generals? the one of whom does not venture to inform us whether NA* * * * he is styled Imperator; and the other must in a few days repent of having ventured to mention such a thing to us, if his clerks do not tire of writing. And if that man has any friends, or indeed, if it be possible that any one should be a friend to so savage and foul a brute, they comfort themselves with this consolation, that this senatorial order once refused an application to Titus Albucius. But, first of all, the cases are very unlike. The proprætor had had a battle with one auxiliary cohort against a lot of banditti clad in sheepskins in Sardinia. And a war against the mightiest nations and tyrants of Syria was brought to a termination by means of a consular army, and a magistrate invested with the supreme miltary command. In the next place, Albucius had had already decreed to himself in Syria the same thing which he was soliciting from the senate. For it was notorious that he, like a Greek, and like a light-headed inconsiderate man as he was, had celebrated something like a triumph in the province itself. And therefore the senate marked their displeasure at this precipitate conduct of his, by the refusal of a supplication. But let him, in truth, enjoy this as some comfort; and let him think this very eminent mark of disgrace all the less considerable, because it has been inflicted on himself alone; provided only that he is content to expect the same end as that man by whose precedent he consoles himself. Especially as Albucius was not liable to the reproach of either Piso’s lust, or Gabinius’s audacity, and yet fell by this one blow, the infamy with which he was branded by the senate.
But the man who proposes to decree the two Gauls to the two consuls, would retain both these men in their provinces. But he who proposes to decree them one of the Gauls, and either Syria or Macedonia, still would retain one of these men; and while they are both equal in wickedness, he proposes to make their future condition unequal. No, I will make them, says he, prætorian provinces, in order that Piso and Gabinius may have successors appointed immediately. Yes; if you are allowed to do so. For then the tribune will be able to intercede with his veto; but at present he cannot do so. Therefore, I myself, who now propose to decree to the consuls who are to be elected, Syria and Macedonia, am prepared also to make them prætorian provinces, in order that the prætors may have their provinces for a year, and that we may see those men among us as soon as possible whom we cannot see at all with any equanimity.
VIII. But believe me, those men will never have successors appointed to them, except when a motion shall be made in accordance with the provisions of that law by which it is unlawful for any one to interpose his veto while the debate is pending about the provinces; therefore, as this opportunity is lost, you must now wait an entire year; during which interval the calamities of the citizens, the miseries of the allies, and the impunity of the most wicked men may be extended.
But even if they were the most excellent of men, still, in my opinion, it could never be advisable to appoint a successor to Caius Cæsar. Now, concerning this matter, O conscript fathers, I shall declare my real sentiments, and I shall not be disconcerted by that interruption of my most intimate friend, who did a little while ago interrupt my speech, as you heard. That excellent man says that I ought not to be more hostile to Gabinius than to Cæsar; for that all that storm, to which I yielded, was raised by the instigation and assistance of Cæsar. And if I were in the first instance to reply that I was having regard to the common advantage, and not to my own private sufferings, could I not establish that, when I say that I am doing what I well may do according to the example of other most valiant and most illustrious citizens? Did Tiberius Gracchus (I am speaking of the father, and would that his son had never degenerated from that father’s virtue!) gain such great glory because he, while tribune of the people, was the only one of the whole college who was any assistance to Lucius Scipio, though he was the bitterest possible enemy, both to him and to his brother Africanus; and did he not swear in the public assembly that he had by no means become reconciled to him, but that it seemed to him quite inconsistent with the dignity of the empire that, after the generals of the enemy had been led to prison while Scipio was celebrating his triumph, the very man also who had triumphed should be led to the same place?
Who had a greater number of enemies than Caius Marius? There were Lucius Crassus, Marcus Scaurus, (were there no more?) and all the Metelli. But those men not only forbore to recal that enemy of theirs from Gaul by their votes, but also, out of consideration for the Gallic war, they even voted him the province out of the regular order. A most important war has been waged in Gaul; very mighty nations have been subdued by Cæsar; but they are not yet established with laws, or with any fixed system of rights, or by a peace which can be very thoroughly depended on. We see that the war has been carried on, and, to say the truth, nearly brought to a conclusion; but we shall only see it all actually terminated in a successful manner, if the man who commenced it remains to follow it up to the last. If a successor is appointed to him, there is great danger that we may hear that the embers of this momentous war are again fanned into a flame and rekindled. Therefore I, a senator, an enemy, if you please, of the man himself, feel it my duty to be, as I always have been, a friend to the republic. What if I lay aside my enmity itself for the sake of the republic, who, I should like to know, would have a right to blame me? especially as I have at all times thought that I ought to seek for the models for all my intentions and for all my actions in the conduct of the most illustrious men.
IX. Was not, I should like to know, was not that great man Marcus Lepidus, who was twice consul, and also Pontifex Maximus, praised not only by the evidence of men’s recollection, but also in the records of our annals, and by the voice of an immortal poet, because on the day that he was made censor, he immediately, in the Campus Martius, reconciled himself to Marcus Fulvius, his colleague, a man who was his bitterest enemy, in order that they might perform their common duty devolving on them in the censorship with one common feeling and union of good-will? And to pass over ancient instances, of which there is no end, did not your own father, O Philippus, did not he become reconciled at one and the same time with all his greatest enemies? to all of whom the same attachment to the republic now reconciled him which had previously separated him from them. I pass over many instances, because I see before me these lights and ornaments of the republic, Publius Servilius and Marcus Lucullus; would that that great man, Lucius Lucullus, were still alive! What enmities were ever more bitter in this city that those which subsisted between the Luculli and the Servilii? But in those most gallant men the welfare of the republic, and their own dignity, not only put an end to that ill-feeling, but even changed it into friendship and intimacy. What? did not Quintus Metellus Nepos, while consul, in the temple of the all-good and all-powerful Jupiter, influenced by your authority, and also by the incredible dignity of eloquence of that same Publius Servilius, become reconciled to me though I was far away, and do me the greatest possible service? Is it possible for me to be an enemy to this man, by whose letters, by whose glory, and by whose messengers my ears are every day saluted with previously unknown names of tribes, and nations, and places? I burn, believe me, O conscript fathers, (as indeed you do believe of me, and as you feel yourselves,) with an incredible love for my country; which love compelled me formerly to encounter most terrible dangers which were hanging over it, at the risk of my own life; and again, when I saw every sort of weapon aimed from all quarters against my country, drove me to put myself in their way, and to expose myself singly to their blows on behalf of the whole body of citizens. And this, my ancient and perpetual disposition towards the republic, now reunites and reconciles me to and unites me in friendship with Caius Cæsar. In short, let men think what they please; it is impossible for me to be other than a friend to one who deserves well of his country.
X. In truth, if I have not only taken on myself the enmity of, but have declared and waged open war against those men who wished to destroy all these things with fire and sword; though some of them were my own personal acquaintances, and some had been saved on capital trials through my defence of them; why should not the same republic which was able to make me hostile to my friends, be able also to reconcile me to my enemies? What reason had I for hating Publius Clodius, except that I thought him likely to prove a mischievous citizen to my country, inasmuch as, inflamed by the most infamous lust, he trampled under foot by one crime two most holy considerations, religion and chastity? Is it, therefore, doubtful from these actions, which he has done and which he is doing every day, that I in opposing him was consulting the interests of the republic more than my own tranquillity; but that some others, who defended him, thought more of their own ease than they did of the peace of the community?
I admit that I was of a different opinion to Cæsar with respect to the affairs of the republic, and that I agreed with all of you: but now I am agreeing also with you with whom I felt in common before. For you,—to whom Lucius Piso does not venture to send letters respecting his exploits,—you who have condemned the letters of Gabinius with a most remarkable stigma, and an unprecedented mark of disgrace, have decreed supplications to Caius Cæsar in such number, as were never decreed before to any one in one war, and with such attending circumstances of honour as were never voted to any one at all. Why, then, need I wait for any man to act as a mediator between us, in order to reconcile me to him? This most honourable order has mediated between us; that order which is the instigator and the leader both of the public counsels and of all my own designs. I am following you, O conscript fathers, I am obeying you, I am adopting your opinions;—yours, I say, who, as long as you had no very favourable opinion of the designs of Caius Cæsar with respect to the republic, saw that I too was very little connected with him; since you changed your opinions and inclinations on account of his great achievements, you have seen me also not only the sharer of your sentiments, but also the panegyrist and advocate of them.
XI. But what is the reason why in this cause men so exceedingly marvel at and find fault with my opinions, when I also before now proposed and voted for many things which concerned that man’s dignity, more than they did the safety of the republic? I proposed and carried a supplication of fifteen days in Cæsar’s honour, the bill being passed in the terms which I drew up. It would have been sufficient for the good of the republic, to have had it last only the same number of days as the supplication in honour of Caius Marius. That could not have been accounted by the immortal gods a scanty thanksgiving, which was as great as had heretofore been offered in the most important wars. Therefore, that increased number of days was given to the dignity of the man. And in respect of that, I, who as consul brought forward the motion, first, for decreeing a supplication of ten days to Cnæus Pompeius, after Mithridates had been slain and the Mithridatic war been terminated,—I, in compliance with whose opinion it was that the ordinary number of days that a supplication in honour of a consul lasted, was doubled, (for you all agreed with me, when, having had the letters of that same Pompeius read, and knowing that all wars both by sea and land were happily terminated, you decreed a supplication of twelve days,)—I, I say, admired the virtue and greatness of mind of Pompeius, in that, when he himself had hitherto been preferred to all other men in every sort of honour, he now was giving a more ample honour to another than he himself had received. Therefore, in that supplication which I proposed, the honour was paid to the immortal gods, and to the established usages of our ancestors, and to the welfare of the republic. But the dignity of the language in which the decree was couched, and the honour, and the novelty of the attendant circumstances, and the number of the days,1 was meant as a compliment to the renown and glory of Cæsar himself.
A motion was lately brought forward before our body concerning the pay of the army. I not only voted for it myself, but I laboured earnestly to induce you to vote for it; I replied to many of the arguments of those who objected to it; I supported it also by writing. In that case also, I was rather considering the dignity of the man who commanded the army, than any particular necessity that existed for the measure. For I thought that he, even without this additional supply of money, was able to maintain his army with the booty that he had already acquired, and to terminate the war. But I thought it would be unbecoming to diminish the glory and splendour of that triumph of his by any parsimony on our part.
A discussion took place also about the ten lieutenants whom he wished to have appointed; and some voted altogether against giving them, others asked for precedents, others wished to adjourn the consideration of the question, and others declared their opinion in favour of it without any complimentary expressions to Cæsar himself. But on that occasion, I spoke in such a manner as to let all men see that, though I thought the measure advantageous to the republic, I was promoting it more cordially out of a desire to pay due honour to the dignity of Cæsar.
XII. And I, who have been received in all those discussions with silent attention, now that the question is about the provinces which are to be decreed to the consuls, am interrupted; though in all the former transactions it was only a compliment to an individual that I urged, while now I have no motive but the consideration of the war, and the general welfare of the republic. For, as for Cæsar himself, what reason can there be why he should wish any longer to remain in the province, except for the purpose of not giving over to the republic the measures which have been undertaken by him before they are completely consummated? It is the delightful nature of the country, I suppose, and the splendour of the cities, and the civilized state and accomplished habits of those nations and natives,—it is a desire for victory, it is a wish to extend the boundaries of our empire, that detains him there! What is there anywhere more severe than those countries? what more uncivilized than their towns? what more barbarous than their citizens? Moreover, what can be imagined more desirable than the victories which he has already gained, or what can be discovered beyond the ocean? Is his return to his country likely to be disagreeable to any one? Can it be so either to the people by whom he was sent on his command, or to the senate from whom he has received so many distinctions? Does time foster his wish to see his country again, or does it rather increase his forgetfulness of it? And do those laurels of his which he has gained amid such dangers, lose their greenness by the time that elapses after their acquisition? If, then, there be any one who is not attached to that man, still such an one has no reason for recalling him from his province. It is only recalling him to glory, to triumph, to receive congratulations, to receive the highest honours which the senate can bestow, to receive the thanks of the equestrian order, and to become the object of the devoted affection of the people.
But if he, out of his regard for the interests of the republic, does not hasten to the enjoyment of that extraordinary good fortune which is in store for him, preferring to remain and finish everything; what ought I to do as a senator,—I, who ought to think only of the advantage of the republic, even if his wishes were opposed to it? For I feel, O conscript fathers, that we at this time, while engaged in decreeing provinces to the consuls, ought to have a regard to the preservation of perpetual peace. For who is there who is not aware that all our other possessions are safe from all danger, and even from all suspicion of war? We have for some time seen that immense sea,—by the disturbed condition of which not only our voyages by sea were impeded, but even our cities and our military marches and roads were exposed to annoyance,—now, in consequence of the valour of Cnæus Pompeius, possessed from the ocean to the very extremity of Pontus, like one vast harbour in a safe and defensible state; and as for those nations, which by their mere numbers and the immensity of their population were sufficient to overflow our provinces, we have seen some of them so thinned in numbers, and others so severely checked by that same man, that Asia, which was formerly the limit of our empire, is now itself bounded on the further side by three of our provinces. I might go on speaking of every region and of every race of men. There is no nation which is not either so far destroyed as scarcely to have any existence at all, or so utterly subdued as to be quite tranquil; or else so entirely at peace with us, as to share our exultation at our victories and at the extension of our empire.
XIII. The war with Gaul, O conscript fathers, has been carried on actively since Caius Cæsar has been our commander-in-chief; previously, we were content to act on the defensive, and to repel attacks. For our generals at all times thought it better to limit themselves to repulsing those nations, than to provoke their hostility by any attack of our own. Even that great man, Caius Marius, whose godlike and amazing valour came to the assistance of the Roman people in many of its distresses and disasters, was content to check the enormous multitudes of Gauls who were forcing their way into Italy, without endeavouring to penetrate himself into their cities and dwelling-places. And lately, that partner of my labours, and dangers, and counsels, Caius Pomptinus, that most gallant man, crushed in battle a war of the Allobroges which rose up suddenly against us, and which was excited by that impious conspiracy, and defeated those tribes who had provoked us, and then he remained quiet, contented with the victory by which he had delivered the republic from alarm.
But I see that the counsels of Caius Cæsar are widely different. For he thought it his duty, not only to war against those men whom he saw already in arms against the Roman people, but to reduce the whole of Gaul under our dominion. Therefore, he fought with the greatest success against those most valiant and powerful nations, the Germans and Helvetians; and the other nations he alarmed, and drove back, and defeated, and accustomed to yield to the supremacy of the Roman people; so that those districts and those nations which were previously known to us neither by any one’s letters, nor by the personal account of any one, nor even by vague report, have now been overrun and thoroughly examined by our own general, by our own army, and by the arms of the Roman people.
Hitherto, O conscript fathers, we have only known the road into Gaul. All other parts of it were possessed by nations which were either hostile to this empire, or treacherous, or unknown to us, or, at all events, savage, barbarian, and warlike;—nations which no one ever existed who did not wish to break their power and subdue: nor has any one, from the very first rise of this empire, ever carefully deliberated about our republic, who has not thought Gaul the chief object of apprehension to this empire. But still, on account of the power and vast population of those nations, we never before have had a war with all of them; we have always been content to resist them when attacked. Now, at last, it has been brought about that there should be one and the same boundary to our empire and to those nations.
XIV. Nature had previously protected Italy by the Alps, not without some especial kindness of the gods in providing us with such a bulwark. For if that road had been open to the savage disposition and vast numbers of the Gauls, this city would never have been the home and chosen seat of the empire of the world. Now, indeed, they are at liberty to sink down if they please; for there is nothing beyond those lofty heights as far as the ocean itself, which can be any object of fear to Italy. But still it will be the work of one or two summers finally to bind the whole of Gaul in everlasting chains either by fear, or hope, or punishment, or reward, or arms, or laws. And if our affairs there are left in an unfinished state, and while there is still some bitterness of feeling remaining, although the enemy may be pruned back severely for the present, still they will raise their heads again some time or other, and come forth with recruited strength to renew the war. Let, then, Gaul be left in the guardianship of that man to whose valour, and good faith, and good fortune it has already been entrusted. If, in truth, he, having been distinguished by such marked kindness of Fortune, were unwilling to risk the favour of that fickle goddess too often; if he were anxious himself to return to his country, to his household gods, to that dignity which he sees in store for him in this city, to his most charming children, and to his most illustrious son-in-law;1 if he were impatient to be borne in triumph as a conqueror to the Capitol, crowned with the illustrious laurel of victory; if, in short, he were apprehensive of some disaster, as no event can now add so much glory to him as a mishap might deprive him of; still it would be your duty to insist on all those affairs being brought to a termination by the same man who has begun them so successfully. But when he has not yet satisfied his own desire for glory and for the safety of the republic, and as he prefers coming at a later period to reap the rewards of his toils rather than not discharging to the full the duty which the republic has committed to him; then certainly, we, for our part, ought not to recal a general who is so eager to conduct the affairs of the republic gloriously, nor to throw into confusion and to hinder his plans for the whole Gallic war, which are now almost matured and accomplished.
XV. For I cannot at all approve of those opinions which have been expressed by some most illustrious men, one of whom proposes to give the consuls the further Gaul and Syria, and the other inclines to the nearer Gaul. He who proposes the further Gaul, throws all those matters into confusion about which I have just been speaking, and shows at the same time that he is advocating a law which he affirms to be no law at all; and that he is taking away that part of the province to which no interruption can be given, but is not touching that part which has a defender. The effect of his conduct also is not to meddle with that which has been conferred by the people, while at the same time he, a senator, is anxious to take away what has been given by the senate.
The other disregards all consideration of the Gallic war; he discharges the duty of a virtuous senator: though he thinks the law invalid, still he observes it; for he fixes beforehand a day for his successor to enter on his office. NA* * * But it seems to me that nothing is more inconsistent with the dignity and principles of our ancestors, than for the consul, who on the first of January is to have a province, to have it promised to him in this way, and not regularly decreed to him. Suppose he were during the whole of his consulship without a province, though, even before he was elected, a province was decreed to him, is he to cast lots for a province, or not? For it is absurd not to draw lots for one,—absurd also not to get that which one has drawn by lot. Is he to march out in the robe of a commander-in-chief? Whither is he to march? Why, to a place where he may not arrive before a certain fixed day. All January and February he is not to have a province. At last, on the first of March, up will spring a province for him all on a sudden. Nevertheless, if these sentiments prevail, Piso will remain in his province.
And though these are weighty considerations, still none of them are more serious than this—that it is an insulting thing for a commander-in-chief to be mulcted, as it were, by a diminution of his provinces; and we ought to take great care that such a thing should not be allowed to happen, not only not in the case of a most illustrious man, but not even in that of a man of moderate reputation.
XVI. I am well aware, O conscript fathers, that you have decreed many extraordinary honours to Caius Cæsar; honours which are almost unprecedented. In that he has amply merited them, you have been grateful; if I add, too, that he is a man most thoroughly attached to this order of the senate, you have been wise and provident. For this order has never heaped its distinctions and kindnesses on any one who has subsequently thought any dignity preferable to that which he had obtained by your favour. For it is not possible for any one to be the leading man in this body who has preferred courting the favour of the people. But all men who have done this, have either distrusted themselves on account of their consciousness of their want of worth, or else they have been driven away from a union with this order on account of the disparagement of their merits by the rest, and so they have been almost constrained to throw themselves out of this harbour on those stormy billows. And if, after they have been tossed about on those surges, and have become wearied of their voyage amid the whims of the people, having been successful in the conduct of the affairs of the republic, they show their faces again in the senate-house, and wish to gain the favours of this most honourable order, I say that they are not only not to be repelled, but are to be received with open arms, and courted.
We are warned by the bravest man and most admirable consul who has ever existed in the memory of man, to take care that the nearer Gaul be not decreed against our will to any one after the election of those consuls who are now about to be elected, and that it be not for the future occupied for ever by these men who are the constant attackers of this order, by some turbulent system of currying favour with the mob. And although I am not indifferent to the evil consequences of such a measure, O conscript fathers, especially when warned of them by a consul of the greatest wisdom, and one who is an especial guardian of peace and tranquillity, still I think that there is an evil to be regarded with even more apprehension than that,—the evil, I mean, of diminishing the honours of most illustrious and powerful citizens, and rejecting their zeal for the maintenance of this order.
For even supposing that Caius Julius, having been distinguished by all sorts of extraordinary and unprecedented honours by the senate, were compelled to deliver up this province to one whom you would be very unwilling to see there, still I cannot possibly be induced to suspect that he would deprive that body of liberty by which he himself had had the greatest glory conferred on him. Lastly, what disposition every one will have I know not; I am aware only of what my own hopes are. I, as a senator, am bound to take care, as far as I can, that no illustrious or powerful man shall appear to have any right to feel offended with this body. These sentiments I should express out of regard to the republic, even were I ever so great an enemy to Caius Cæsar.
XVII. But I do not think it foreign to the present discussion, with the object of being for the future less frequently interrupted by certain persons, or less reproved in the opinion of some who forbear to interrupt me, to explain briefly what is the nature of my relations with Cæsar. And in the first place, I pass over that period of familiarity and intimacy which existed between him and me, and my brother, and Caius Varro our cousin, from the time that we were all young men. After that I became deeply engaged in public affairs, my sentiments on matters of state were so different from his, that we were of entirely opposite public parties, though without any interruption of our private friendship. He, as consul, adopted measures in which he wished to have me for a partner; and if I was opposed to the measures themselves, still I could not avoid being pleased at the opinion of me which he displayed by that wish. He entreated me also to accept the office of quinquevir.1 He wished me to be one of three men of consular rank2 most closely connected with himself; and he offered me any lieutenancy or embassy I pleased, with as much honour and distinction as was agreeable to me. All which offers I rejected with great firmness in my own sentiments, but not without feeling obliged to him for them. How wisely I acted is not now the question; for many will not approve of my conduct. At all events, I acted with consistency and firmness, inasmuch as, though by accepting them I might have fortified myself by the most irresistible assistance against all the wickedness of my enemies, and should have been able to repel the attacks of popularity-hunters by the protection of popular men, I preferred to meet any fortune, to encounter any violence and any injury, rather than differ from the wise and righteous sentiments of the senate, or deviate from the line of conduct which I had marked out for myself.
But a man is bound to be grateful, not only if he has received a kindness, but if he has had an opportunity of receiving one. I did not think that all those compliments and distinctions with which he was loading me became me, or were suited to the exploits which I had performed. But I saw that he regarded me with the same friendly disposition with which he looked on that chief of the citizens, his own son-in-law. He afterwards assisted my great enemy in passing over to the ranks of the plebeians, either because he was angry with me when he saw that I could not be allured, not even by all his kindness, to unite with him, or because he was unable to withstand the entreaties of Clodius. And even that was no injury to me in his opinion; for he afterwards not only advised but actually entreated me to act as his lieutenant. Even that I would not accept; not because I thought it inconsistent with my dignity, but because I had no suspicion that such wicked designs against the republic were entertained by the succeeding consuls as afterwards proved to be.
XVIII. Therefore I have much more reason to fear that I may be blamed for arrogance of conduct with respect to his liberality towards me, than that I should be reproached with the injuries which he has done me in spite of our friendship.
Turn your eyes to that tempest,—to that season of darkness to all good men,—to that sudden and unforeseen danger which overwhelmed all things,—to that cloud which came over the republic,—to the ruin and conflagration of the city,—to the alarm given to Cæsar with respect to all the acts of his consulship,—to the fear of massacre with which all good men were struck,—to the wickedness, and covetousness, and indigence, and audacity of the consuls! If I was not aided by him then, he was under no obligation to aid me; if I was deserted by him, perhaps he was providing for his own safety; if I was even attacked by him, as some men think, or at all events wish me to think, then our friendship was violated, I received an injury, and he has deserved that I should be his enemy. I do not deny it; but still, if he was anxious for my safety when you were all regretting me like the dearest of your sons, and if you all at the same time thought it of great importance to my cause that the inclinations of Caius Cæsar should not be averse to my safety; and if I have his son-in-law as a witness of his good-will towards me at that time, who himself stirred up all Italy in the municipal towns, and the Roman people in the assembly, and you too, who were always most devoted to me, in the Capitol, to take measures for my safety; if, in short, Cnæus Pompeius is at the same time a witness to me of the good-will which Cæsar entertains for me, and a surety to him of my attachment to him; does it not appear to you that I ought rather to recollect the times that are long past, and also to remember this time which is nearest to us now, and by means of these memories to eradicate that middle time so full of infamy and misery, if not from the history of events, (which indeed may be impossible,) at all events from my own mind?
But I, if I may not (as some people think I ought not) boast that I have sacrificed my own private feelings of indignation and enmity to the republic, which it appears to me to be the duty of a great and wise man to do, will at all events avail myself of this plea,—which is of force not so much to gain praise as to avoid reproach,—namely, that I am a grateful person, and that I am inclined to be moved, not only by such exceeding services as his, but even by a moderate display of good-will towards me.
XIX. I entreat of some most gallant men, who have done me great service, that, if I have been unwilling that they should be partakers of my labours and distresses, they will also spare me from being the partaker of their enmities; especially as they have granted to me that I have a right to defend those acts of Cæsar’s which I neither attacked nor defended before. For the most eminent men of the state, by whose counsels I acted when I preserved the republic, and in deference to whose authority I avoided that union with Cæsar to which he invited me, deny that the Julian laws, and the others which were passed during his consulship, were legally passed at all. And at the same time they say that the bill for my proscription was passed in a manner contrary to the safety of the republic, but still without any illegal disregard of the auspices. Therefore a man of the highest authority, and of the greatest eloquence, said with great positiveness that that disaster of mine was a funeral of the republic, but a funeral performed with all regular solemnity. To me myself it is altogether excessively complimentary, that my departure should be called the funeral of the republic. His other expressions I do not find any fault with, but I will assume them as a foundation for the sentiments which I feel. For if men have ventured to say that that proposition was carried in a regular manner, for which there was no precedent, nor any law authorizing such a bill to be carried, merely because no one had been observing the heavens at the time, had they forgotten that, at the time that the man who carried this bill was made a plebeian by a lex curiata, it was announced that a magistrate was observing the heavens? And if it was absolutely irregular for him to be made a plebeian, how could he be made a tribune of the people? And if his tribuneship be declared valid, there is then no one of Cæsar’s acts which can possibly be invalid; and so, will not, not merely his tribuneship, but also other matters the most mischievous imaginable, appear to have been passed with proper regularity, if it be decided that the religious respect due to the auspices was preserved?
Wherefore you must decide either that the Ælian law still exists, that the Fufian law has not been abrogated, and that it is not lawful for a law to be passed on every one of the dies fasti; that, when a law is being passed, there is no objection to observations of the heavens being taken, or to such an announcement being made by the magistrates, or to any one interposing his veto; that the decisions and animadversions of the censors, and that most strict inspection of morals, has not been abolished in the city by nefarious laws; that if a patrician has been tribune of the people, he has been so in violation of the most sacred laws,—if a plebeian, in disregard of the auspices: or else men must grant to me that it is not necessary for me in the case of good measures to be bound by those rules which they themselves do not adhere to in shameful ones; especially as it has been a proposal made by them to Caius Cæsar several times, that he should carry the same measures in some other manner, (in some manner, that is, which the auspices required and which the law sanctioned;) and when, in the case of Clodius, the history of the auspices is just the same, and all the laws of the state have been overturned and destroved.
XX. This is the last thing which I have to say. If I had any enmity against Caius Cæsar, still at this time I ought to consult the interests of the republic, and to reserve my hostility for another time. I might even, following the precedent of most eminent men, lay aside my enmity altogether for the sake of the republic; but as I have never entertained any enmity to him, and as the idea of having been injured by him has been extinguished by services which he has done me, I, by my opinion, O conscript fathers, if the dignity of Caius Cæsar is at stake, shall vote for the man;—if any honour to be paid to him is under discussion, I shall consult the unanimous feeling of the senate;—if the authority of your decrees is the main point to be regarded, I shall uphold the consistency of our order by voting distinctions to this same commander-in-chief;—if the everlasting consideration of the Gallic war is to be taken into the account, I shall consult the interests of the republic;—if I may have respect to my own private duty, I shall show that I am not ungrateful.
And I wish, O conscript fathers, to induce you all to approve of my sentiments; but I shall not be greatly concerned if I fail to induce those men to approve of them who shielded my enemy in spite of your authority; or those who found fault with my reconciliation with their enemy, while they themselves do not hesitate to be reconciled both to my enemy and to their own.
[1 ]See the oration against Piso.
[1 ]A supplicatio was a solemn thanksgiving or supplication to the gods, decreed by the senate, when all the temples were opened, and the statues of the gods were frequently placed in public upon couches, (pulvinaria,) to which the people offered up their thanksgivings and prayers. (See Cic. in Cat. iii. 10.)
[1 ]Some read here vigentiviratum, referring it to the commission of twenty citizens for the division of the lands in Campania, a place in which was offered to Cicero, and refused by him. And Orellius thinks that reading not to be disregarded, but retains the one translated in the text (quinqueviratum), because (Epist. ad Att. ii. 7,) he also speaks of a quinqueviratus, which therefore Orellius thinks may refer to some project which was never brought to bear.
[2 ]Cicero speaks also, in his Letters to Atticus, (ii. 3,) of Cæsar’s overtures to him to join him and Pompeius and Crassus in their partition of all power between them; and of Cæsar’s sending him word by Balbus that he would be governed in all his proceedings by him and Pompeius and Crassus; but Cicero refused entering into any engagements with the three, whose union he thought dangerous to the state, and at that time too he certainly had great suspicions of Cæsar.