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

lication challenged and outshone them in a peculiar way. We cannot be in doubt as to the effectiveness of this novel activity. For most of those who had hitherto come forward as authors of prose works had been in the main eminent as men of affairs or resolute and determined politicians: it was a part of their political activity or it was a desire to add further to the renown of their particular family or branch of race, which induced them to bring forward some record of a speech, or some annalistic survey of Roman history. But the young patronus of Arpinum had brilliantly begun to spread abroad, through the pen of authorship, the force and novel grace of his oratory, and to begin at last to assume a position in his own generation unknown to Roman literary annals hitherto.

As to his motives for going abroad, Plutarch (c. 3) says it was fear of Sulla which made him go. As a man of sixty, surveying his professional life, Cicero speaks explicitly of his reasons for abandoning the forum awhile. (Brut. 313 sq.) He had become very thin, he was far from robust, the elocutional exertions in the regular form of public oratory had taxed his very constitution: his throat and neck were coming to be emaciated; his friends and physicians feared he might be going into a decline. Besides we know that the ambitious young man had worked very hard and quite incessantly now for many years. There is in the Vatican Museum a head of young Cicero which in a striking way bears out all these items of self-description.

It seemed to the young orator that he was indeed abandoning the path of glory which he had chosen for himself. He went away unwillingly but he went away. It is, for us, a matter of regret, that Cicero in his reminiscences in the Brutus does not digress a little more. It would be deeply interesting to us to hear how Athens impressed one who from infancy had sought his more serious training and almost all of his best culture, in Greek letters. Athens to him was indeed the wellspring of all truer and nobler humanity and civilization and endowed also with a venerable antiquity (Brut. 39), compared with which Rome was recent and modern. For the first six months his chief occupation was to receive the instruction of Antiochos of Askalon, then the official head (scholarchos) of the Academic sect. He was really an Eclectic, though he persisted in declaring that he was returning to the Old Academy.1 He was the successor of Philon whom

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1
Zeller, Philos. d. Griechen, III, 1, 3d ed. p. 598. Hirzel, Untersuchungen zu Ciceros philosophischen Schriften, vol. 3. Index.

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