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 NINE
THE GREAT CASE OF VERRES

IT is not easy for us, in our later day, to gain and hold a true vision of the current sentiments which prevailed in Rome on January 1st, 70 B. C. The two men then who were inaugurated on the Capitol were as unlike as possible. Pompey was the morning star of that firmament. The extraordinary and the unique fascinated his ambition. Sulla, in spite of himself, had granted the young man his first triumph, when Pompey returned from Africa, in 81, but twenty-five years old. In December 71, on the very last day of the civil year, Pompey, at thirty-five, had celebrated his second triumph, this time out of Spain. Eagles and veterans had been stronger than the limitations or postulates of the age set down in the Lex Villia Annalis. A mere Roman knight who had never sat in the senate even, attired in the golden garb of triumphator, he had ridden to the foot of the Capitoline stairs, the most brilliant and the most conspicuous personage in all public life. In that parade it was recorded that 876 towns1 and fortified places had surrendered to him in the Iberian peninsula. Even then, the older man, Crassus, howbeit more eminent in wealth and pedigree, had to be content with the minor honor of Ovatio. The very candidacy for the consulate of Crassus had depended on Pompey's consent. On the morrow of Pompey's brilliant pageant he and Crassus took control of the government. Many traditions were shattered or set aside; the troops were not yet discharged. The most incisive of Sulla's measures were on the eve of dissolution or abrogation. The senatorial aristocracy were but third in the prevailing estimate of forces.

During the same year, by the initiative of the Junior consul the constitutional power of the tribunate2 was fully restored. This was an act which Cicero in his political conception of things never3 approved, however highly he rated the Irresistible and

____________________
1
Plin. H. N. 7, 26.
Plut. Pomp. 21.
de Legg. 3, 22.

-68-

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