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 FIFTEEN
CICERO LEANS ON THE DYNASTS

ATTICUS returned from Buthrotum by the end of January.1 Ptolemy Auletes, the last adult king of Egypt of that Greek dynasty, had been compelled in 57 to flee from Alexandria. His rule had been oppressive. His installation had cost him vast sums paid to Roman politicians. The Egyptians certainly did did not wish to receive him back. A delegation had come to Rome from Alexandria to counteract his efforts. The most eminent member of it was the philosopher Dio, whom the king caused to be poisoned in Rome. The king's chief agent was a certain Hammonius. (Fam. 1, 1, 1.) On January 13th (Fam. 1, 2, 1) Cicero himself took part in the debate, making a long speech.2 Ancient commentators understood many of the bitterest passages as meaning Crassus, particularly those arraigning cupidity and greed. We know that the great financier, when Censor in 65 B. C., nine years before (Plut. Crass. 13), had set out to have Egypt made a province of the empire, but was foiled by the opposition of his colleague, Lutatius Catulus. Of course now under a king restored by Rome, Egypt would be little more than a tutelary domain, the king being beholden to certain powerful politicians. Crassus had openly come out for armed intervention (fragm. 6, Müller), citing as a precedent the war with Jugurtha, the usurper of Numidia. Cicero openly attacked, for it was rife and palpable, the idea, that, as far as the senate was concerned, it was simply a question of bargain and sale. Incidentally3 Cicero said that the king's annual revenue was not less than 12,500 talents. The task of this "restoration" then was not great, but the wealth in prospect for the restorer was sure to be great. Lentulus, consul of 57, to whom Cicero owed so much, was going or had gone out to Cilicia as proconsul. That diocese of the empire was reasonably near to Alexandria. Len-

____________________
1
56 B. C.
2
Which he afterwards published as: De Rege Alexandrino. Schol. Bob. 349 sq.
3
Strabo, 17, 13, p. 798 C.

-223-

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