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 FIVE
THE YOUNG PLEADER BEGINS HIS CAREER DURING SULLA'S DICTATORSHIP

83-81 B. C.

A NEW order and an apparent settlement of government and laws came with Sulla's return from the East. That dynast landed at Brundisium with a fleet of twelve hundred transports. At Eleusis he had been initiated in the Mysteries of Demeter and Kora. On July 6th there was a great conflagration on the Capitol, when the most august sanctuary of the Roman commonwealth was destroyed. Cinna, the dynast of Italy, had perished in a mutiny at the hands of his own soldiery, in the preceding year. The machinery of the government, the Curia and consuls, were still in the hands of the popular faction. The class represented by large business and finance on the whole dreaded Sulla. As for Cinna, his very name had come to be a synonym for autocratic rule, for tyranny.1 With what feelings, with what sympathies or dread, did the little family in the Carinae follow this fresh civil war? If they had learned anything from the course of events, perhaps also from the conduct of Atticus, it was to hold aloof. It is quite difficult to surmise, let alone to determine, what convictions, what attitude toward current events, prevailed there. The brothers certainly were not compelled to enlist in any of the armies which marched out of Rome to dispute with the conservative invader the possession and the control of the government and the laws. Carbo, the successor to Cinna, as factional leader went to the North. His quaestor Verres funds, deserted his principal and joined the invader.2 Above all, the policy of young Pompey whom the nascent orator had come to know and esteem with an affectionate regard, was among the most decisive in furthering Sulla's success. We will notice but two incidents which came home to Marcus Cicero and his father and brother with peculiar force and concern.

____________________
1
Victorinus, 1, 70 tyrannumque et Cinnam appellantes.
Verr. 1, 34.

-39-

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