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ART. VI.-1. Cæsar, a Sketch. By J. A. Froude, M.A. London, 1879.
2. The Correspondence of M. Tullius Cicero, arranged according to its Chronological Order. By R. Y. Tyrrell, M.A. Vol. Ï. Dublin University Press Series, 1879.
THE two books whose titles we have placed at the head of this article, published as they have been during the present year, are an evidence of the undiminished interest which attaches to the last act in the tragedy of the Roman Republic. This period, more perhaps than any other in ancient history, is marked out for the labours of modern scholars and writers, not only because of the importance of its subject matter, but because of the form in which its records have been preserved to us. No great contemporary writer has left us a full history of the time. The modern author who attempts to write the history of the Persian or the Peloponnesian War cannot hope to rival Herodotus and Thucydides. All that is left to us is to paraphrase, supplement, abridge, and rearrange, happy if we do not mar in re-touching it, the beauty of the design traced for us long ago. But in Cicero's speeches and letters we have an inheritance of another sort. Here are clay and straw in abundance, but the tale of bricks is required at the hands of the labourer. We work in no baffling twilight of historical doubt; the facts are accessible to us almost as they were accessible to contemporaries. But we must ourselves select the materials, ourselves trace the main lines of the history, ourselves judge of the persons and the actions presented to us. Nowhere can we find a more fruitful or a more stimulating task for historical research.
Professor Tyrrell gives us a first instalment of what promises to be the most important work on Cicero's letters which has yet appeared in English. We need not linger over the criticism of this book. It is an admirable piece of work in every respect, full of sound learning and sound historical judgment. The difficulties, both of text and matter, are thoroughly and fairly treated, yet the Commentary is neither long nor wearisome, and the pitfall of dulness into which most Ciceronian commentators stumble is skilfully avoided. Students of Roman history will join us in the hope that Mr. Tyrrell may be able to give us the succeeding portions of his work as rapidly as is consistent with maintaining the high standard of excellence set in this first volume.*
* We will suggest one improvement. In his Introduction Mr. Tyrrell gives dates according to the years of the city, without so much as putting the years
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It is a much harder task to criticize fairly and justly the work of Mr. Froude. He styles it modestly a Sketch' of Cæsar; and the book possesses the first merit of a sketch; it is boldly and freely drawn, and we get a strong, definite view of the man and the time. Mr. Froude never fears to commit himself; he never takes refuge, as weak writers do, behind a multitude of unimportant facts; he never leaves us in doubt as to the main lines of his picture, and his work never fails from want of vigour and interest. We have to thank him likewise for laying hold on one of the most interesting features of the time of which he writes, namely, the resemblance which its difficulties and dangers present to those of our own day. It was an age,' writes Mr. Froude, when men thought as we think, doubted where we doubt, argued as we argue, aspired and struggled after the same objects' (p. 5). How to prevent the wreck of morality at a time when religious convictions are loosened, how to reconcile the position of an imperial power with liberty and self-government, how to make an efficient army without placing a weapon in the hands of a despot, how to allow free play to the economic forces which tend to accumulate property in a few hands, and at the same time to avoid the dangers implied in the divorce of the peasantry from the soil; all these are problems which the Roman republic failed to solve, and which are now again presented to the nations of Europe, and above all to England. It cannot be said that Mr. Froude's Sketch' works out fully the lines of thought suggested by this analogy, but at least he keeps the analogy in mind, and the most instructive paragraphs of his book are those in which he touches on some of these questions. So true a lover of his country as Mr. Froude will not however dissent from us when we express the hope, that in one respect his anticipations may prove to have been too gloomy.
'Parliaments and senates,' he writes (p. 172), 'may represent the general will of the community, and may pass laws and administer them as public sentiment approves. But such bodies can preside successfully only among subjects who are directly represented in them. They are too ignorant, too selfish, too divided, to govern others; and Imperial aspirations draw after them by obvious necessity Imperial rule.'
If there be one lesson which history clearly teaches, it is this, that free nations cannot govern subject provinces' (p. 1).
before Christ in the margin. Dates are at best a sore burden to the student; but to have a peculiar reckoning for Roman History is wantonly to increase the difficulties of a difficult subject. We are required either to tax the memory with an unnecessary quantity of meaningless figures, or else to do a series of subtraction sums before we can understand what we read.
The words raise at once in our minds the picture of England and India. May we not cherish the hope that the seeming impossibility is but a difficulty capable of being overcome by a nation resolved to make its duty to its subjects the first rule of action?
Mr. Froude excels in bright and graphic description. His account of Cæsar's Gallic campaigns carries the reader along, and gives him a clear and sufficient idea of the eight years of hard marching and fighting which established the Roman dominion in the north-west of Europe. It is no easy thing to write after Cæsar. Cicero declares that the perfection of his 'Commentaries' was such as to warn all subsequent writers off the ground. Mr. Froude has shown himself not unworthy to enter the forbidden precinct. He follows Cæsar, as Cæsar would have wished to be followed, in a simple and lucid narrative, in which the events speak for themselves, unencumbered by pedantic disquisition or rhetorical ornament. When we
turn from the Camp to the Forum, we find the stir and whirl of party-contest, and the throng of personages that crowd the stage, presented to us in the bright and attractive colours of which Mr. Froude is master. Mr. Froude has taken to heart the ancient precept, as salutary for the historian as for the philosopher to whom it was originally addressed, 'to steep his words in meaning.' The book throughout deserves to be read, and will be read, as placing the main events of a momentous epoch in a lively and entertaining shape before English readers.
On the other hand, it must be confessed that there is much to desire in the work before us. Mr. Froude has rightly judged that the picture of the time cannot be sufficiently given without large extracts from Cicero's letters. But an author who resolves to draw from writings so difficult is bound to take heed that mistranslations and misunderstandings do not creep into his text; and in this respect Mr. Froude is far too often found tripping.* In like manner, though antiquarian discussions would be out of place in such a book as this, it is all the more necessary that the casual references to points of constitutional antiquities should be correct. It is vexatious to find the agrarian controversies of the time of Cicero treated as if they were the
* We will quote only one passage in illustration of what we mean. Cicero says (ad Att. X. viii. 2), 'The last alternative is that, supposing the Republicans are beaten in Spain, I should remain quiet in Italy. I hold just the contrary. I judge that Cæsar ought to be abandoned if he be conqueror, &c. (Relinquitur ut, si vincimur in Hispania quiescamus: id ego contra puto; istum enim victorem magis relinquendum puto quam victum,' &c.) Mr. Froude writes, If Cæsar conquers in Spain, it is thought we may have peace; but I consider, on the other hand, that it would be more decent to forsake Cæsar in success,' &c.
same which had agitated the State in the time of the Gracchi, and to see notions about patricians and plebeians, proper to the century that followed the Licinian Rogations, imported with an anachronism of two hundred years into the story of the later Roman Republic. These and other similar flaws impair the beauty and symmetry of the work, and they are needlessly irritating to the reader, who requires to remind himself that the mistakes do not after all affect the main lines of the argument, and that his judgment on the book as a contribution to history ought to be determined on other grounds. We look on Mr. Froude as an advocate holding a brief in a bad cause, and defending that cause with singular vigour and ability. Thousands of Englishmen and Englishwomen, who have not leisure or inclination to study the works of Mommsen or Napoleon III., will accept Mr. Froude's 'Sketch' as a faithful picture of Cæsar and his work. It is our object to grapple fairly with Mr. Froude in this the heart of his position, and we could wish that the decks were cleared for action, and all this hamper of questions of translation and antiquities were swept out of sight. A little care in revising a second edition will suffice to present Mr. Froude's plea for Cæsar, as it deserves to be presented, purged from accidental blemishes, and liable to be judged on its own merits. Meanwhile we gladly leave the ungracious task of pointing out minor deficiencies, and proceed to the discussion of the great political issues of the time and the characters of the men who took the leading part in the struggles of the Roman Revolution.
As our main information comes from the letters and speeches of Cicero, it is difficult to avoid making Cicero himself the central figure in our picture. Every situation is treated, and every event recorded, as it appears to one of the actors, and he not the most important. If we wish to look on the scene as it appeared to an impartial spectator, we must somewhat shift the point of view, so as to bring into focus the figure not of Cicero, but of Pompey. The main lines of policy and of principle are expressed for us in the lives and characters of Cæsar and of Cato; but none the less is Pompey the centre round which events group themselves. From the death of Sulla to the battle of Pharsalia, Pompey is by universal acknowledgment the first man in the Roman State; he fills the largest space in the thoughts of his contemporaries; his opinions, his intentions, his relations to the various parties, are at each particular moment the main factors in the political
*The instances are strewn up and down throughout the work. Perhaps the most striking are the remarks on M. Calpurnius Bibulus (p. 123), and those on the adoption of Clodius (p. 187).
situation. Our space will not permit us to attempt a full analysis of the life and character of Pompey: we must confine ourselves to one or two incidents, which throw light upon the career of Cæsar.
Pompey was a soldier from his youth up. He had won the consulate, not as the crowning point of an official career, but as a reward for his military services while yet in the station of a Roman knight. After a few years came other calls to service, first against the pirates, then against Mithridates. At the conclusion of the Mithridatic war (B.C. 62) Pompey is seen as the beloved commander of the only important army, the representative of that new military power, the dreadful secret of whose overwhelming force had been revealed by Marius and by Sulla. Over against this material force was an unarmed government, strong neither in administrative efficiency nor in the personal character of its members, strong only in the fact that it represented the law, that the loyalty which a citizen owes to his state was due to it, that submission to it was the alternative to a military revolution. For the time these safeguards proved sufficient. Pompey disbanded his troops the moment he arrived in Italy, and appeared before the gates of Rome divested of all unconstitutional force. What are we to say of this renunciation?* Contemporary opinion furnishes us with no guide. So far as we are aware, there is no reference to the matter in Cicero. fear that Pompey might use his sword to destroy the Republic was probably oftener felt than avowed; and when he had obeyed the law, his obedience could hardly be taken otherwise than as a matter of course; it would have been scarcely decent either for enemies or friends to express aloud their satisfaction that Pompey had not proved a rebel and a traitor. Later authors, such as Plutarch, are more outspoken in their praises, and modern historians have generally followed them. But is not the conduct of Pompey at this crisis a tacit condemnation of that of Cæsar at a later time? If Cæsar is to be lauded, must not Pompey be found wanting? Mr. Froude is silent, but Mommsen's trumpet gives no uncertain sound. He heaps every sort of contumely on the man who had despotic power within his grasp and who refused to seize on it.
'On those who lack courage the gods lavish every favour and every gift in vain. The parties breathed freely. Pompeius had abdicated a second time: his already vanquished competitors might once more begin the race-in which doubtless the strangest thing was that Pompeius was again a rival runner.'
What courage, it may be asked, in reply, is necessary for an armed attack on an unarmed town? To coerce peaceful citizens