Cicero's public life in Rome corresponded to the last four decades of the Roman Republic. He was a young man during the proscriptions of Sulla and Marius, and an old man at the Death of Julius Caesar. Although he did not write any comprehensive history himself, his speeches and letters give great insight into the goings-on of the times. This collection of anecdotes is mostly derived from the writings of Cicero and refer to characters with whom he had personal interactions.
This book does not claim to be a life of Cicero or a history of the last days of the Roman Republic. Still less does it pretend to come into comparison with such a work as Becker's Gallus, in which on a slender thread of narrative is hung a vast amount of facts relating to the social life of the Romans. I have tried to group round the central figure of Cicero various sketches of men and manners, and so to give my readers some idea of what life actually was in Rome, and the provinces of Rome, during the first six decades—to speak roughly—of the first century B.C.I speak of Cicero as the "central figure," not as judging him to be the most important man of the time, but because it is from him, from his speeches and letters, that we chiefly derive the information of which I have here made use. Hence it follows that I give, not indeed a life of the great orator, but a sketch of his personality and career. I have been obliged also to trespass on the domain of history: speaking of Cicero, I was obliged to speak also of Cæsar and of Pompey, of Cato and of Antony, and to give a narrative, which I have striven to make as brief as possible, of their military achievements and political action. I must apologize for seeming to speak dogmatically on some questions which have been much disputed. It would have been obviously inconsistent with the character of the book to give the opposing arguments; and my only course was to state simply conclusions which I had done my best to make correct.
I have to acknowledge my obligations to Marquardt's Privat-Leben der Romer, Mr. Capes' University Life in Ancient Athens, and Mr. Watson's Select Letters of Cicero. I have also made frequent use of Mr. Anthony Trollope's Life of Cicero, a work full of sound sense, though curiously deficient in scholarship.
The publishers and myself hope that the illustrations, giving as there is good reason to believe they do the veritable likenesses of some of the chief actors in the scenes described, will have a special interest. It is not till we come down to comparatively recent times that we find art again lending the same aid to the understanding of history.
Some apology should perhaps be made for retaining the popular title of one of the illustrations. The learned are, we believe, agreed that the statue known as the "Dying Gladiator" does not represent a gladiator at all. Yet it seemed pedantic, in view of Byron's famous description, to let it appear under any other name.
|ALFRED J. CHURCH|
October 8, 1883.