Cicero of Arpinum: A Political and Literary Biography Being a Contribution to the History of Ancient Civilization and a Guide to the Study of Cicero's Writings

By E. G. Sihler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
TOGA VIRILIS. ITALIAN WAR. FURTHER STUDIES

IT was after the death of the orator Crassus, after September 20th, 91 B. C., that Cicero was given the freedom of movement and the badge of incipient manhood which the Romans bestowed through the toga virilis.1 If this domestic event was set for the next Liberalia, that would have been March 17th of the next year 90 B. C. Howsoever that may have been then, as for the matters of public concern, the most important was the tremendous struggle known as the War of the Allies, the Marsian War. The noble reformer Livius Drusus had perished through political assassination,2 not many weeks before his year of office expired, i.e., before December 10th, 91 B. C. On and after that date began a period of tribulation for the optimates. The capitalistic class had found a vigorous and a reckless tool in one of the new tribunes inaugurated on that date. This was Quintus Varius, a man not of Roman, nay not even of Italian birth. Even then ten thousand Marsians under Pompaedius Silo had been advancing upon Rome, but were induced by the persuasion of C. Domitius to retreat. Varius had now passed a Plebiscitum3 quite irregularly, but he was borne forward on the seething billows of the political tide then running. In this Lex Varia it was provided, that trials for high treason (maiestatis) should be instituted against those men through whose felonious action (dolo malo) the allies had been induced to resort to arms. Had Drusus lived he would have been the first to be indicted. The equestrian class in solid array was behind those prosecutions. What young Cicero particularly observed and followed with consuming interest, was the trials themselves, partly for the pleadings and the forensic happenings, partly because some of the foremost

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1
Cic. Brut. 303: hoc (Hortensio) igitur floreseente Crassus est mortuus. . . . nos in forum venimus.
2
Appian, B. C. 1, 36. In Cicero's later life the settled opinion was, that the tribune Varius was personally responsible for the murder, Cic. N. Deor. 3, 81.
contra intercessionem collegarum, Valer. Max. 8, 6, 4.

-17-

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