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Книга Imperium. Содержание - Roll XIV

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As he watched him go, Cicero frowned and shook his head. Not comprehending politics nearly as well as I should have done, even after thirteen years in his service, I was at a loss to understand why he should have found this conversation so troubling. But he certainly was shaken, and as soon as we were back on the Via Sacra, he drew me out of the keen hearing of the proximus lictor and said, “This is a serious development, Tiro. I should have seen this coming.” When I asked why it mattered to him whether Catilina was prosecuted or not, he replied, in a withering tone, “Because, bird-brain, it is illegal to stand for election if you have charges pending against you. Which means that if the Africans do find a champion, and if a charge is laid against Catilina, and if it drags on into next summer, he will be barred from standing for the consulship until the case is resolved. Which means that if by any chance he is acquitted, I shall have to fight him in my year.”

I doubt whether there was another senator in Rome who would have tried to peer so far into the future-who would have piled up so many ifs and discerned a reason for alarm. Certainly, when he explained his anxiety to Quintus, his brother dismissed it with a laugh: “And if you were struck by lightning, Marcus, and if Metellus Pius were able to remember what day of the week it was…” But Cicero continued to fret, and he made discreet inquiries about the progress of the African delegation as they searched for a credible advocate. However, as he suspected, they were finding it hard going, despite the immense amount of evidence they had collected of Catilina’s wrong-doing, and the fact that Pius had carried a resolution in the Senate censuring the former governor. No one was anxious to take on such a dangerous opponent and risk being discovered floating facedown in the Tiber late one night. So, for the time being at least, the prosecution languished, and Cicero put the matter to the back of his mind. Unfortunately, it was not to remain there for long.

Roll XIV

AT THE END OF HIS TERM AS PRAETOR, Cicero was entitled to go abroad and govern a province for a year. This was the normal practice in the republic. It gave a man the opportunity to gain administrative experience, and also to replenish his coffers after the expense of running for office. Then he would come home, assess the political mood, and, if all seemed promising, stand for the consulship that summer. Antonius Hybrida, for example, who had obviously incurred tremendous financial liabilities from the cost of his Games of Apollo, went off to Cappadocia to see what he could steal. But Cicero waived his right to a province. For one thing, he did not want to put himself in a position where a trumped-up charge might be laid against him and he would find himself with a special prosecutor dogging his footsteps for months. For another, he was still haunted by that year he had spent as a magistrate in Sicily, and ever afterwards he had hated to be away from Rome for longer than a week or two. There can seldom have been a more urban creature than Cicero. It was from the bustle of the streets and the courts, the Senate and the Forum, that he drew his energy, and the prospect of a year of dreary provincial company, however lucrative, in Cilicia or Macedonia, was anathema to him.

Besides, he had committed himself to an immense amount of advocacy, starting with the defense of Caius Cornelius, Pompey’s former tribune, whom the aristocrats had charged with treason. No fewer than five of the great patrician senators-Hortensius, Catulus, Lepidus, Marcus Lucullus, and even old Metellus Pius-lined up to prosecute Cornelius for his part in advancing Pompey’s legislation, charging him with illegally ignoring the veto of a fellow tribune. Faced with such an onslaught, I was sure that he was bound to be sent into exile. Cornelius thought so, too, and had packed up his house and was ready to leave. But Cicero was always inspired by the sight of Hortensius and Catulus on the other side, and he rose to the occasion, making a most effective closing speech for the defense. “Are we really to be lectured,” he demanded, “on the traditional rights of the tribunes by five gentlemen, all of whom supported the legislation of Sulla abolishing exactly those rights? Did any of these illustrious figures step forward to support the gallant Gnaeus Pompey when, as the first act of his consulship, he restored the tribunes’ power of veto? Ask yourself, finally, this: is it really a newfound concern for the traditions of the tribunes which drags them from their fishponds and private porticoes into court? Or is it, rather, the product of certain other ‘traditions’ much dearer to their hearts-their tradition of self-interest and their traditional desire for revenge?”

There was more in a similar vein, and by the time he had finished, the five distinguished litigants (who had made the mistake of all sitting in a row) were looking half their previous size, especially Pius, who obviously found it hard to keep up, and who had his hand cupped to his ear and kept twisting in his seat as his tormentor prowled around the court. This was to be one of the old soldier’s last appearances in public before the long twilight of his illness descended upon him. After the jury had voted to acquit Cornelius of all the charges, Pius left the court to jeers and mocking laughter, wearing an expression of elderly bafflement which I fear nowadays I recognize all too well as the natural set of my own features. “Well,” said Cicero, with a certain satisfaction, as we prepared to walk home, “at any rate, I believe that now he knows who I am.”

I shall not mention every case which Cicero took on at this time because there were dozens, all part of his strategy to place as many influential men as possible under an obligation to support him at the consular election, and to keep his name constantly in the voters’ minds. He certainly chose his clients carefully, and four of them at least were senators: Fundanius, who controlled a big voting syndicate; Orchivius, who had been one of his colleagues as praetor; Gallius, who was planning to run for a praetorship; and Mucius Orestinus, charged with robbery, who was hoping to become tribune, and whose case tied up the practice for many days.

I believe that never before had any candidate approached the business of politics as exactly that-a business-and every week a meeting was convened in Cicero’s study to review the campaign’s progress. Participants came and went, but the inner core consisted of five: Cicero himself, Quintus, Frugi, myself, and Cicero’s legal apprentice, Caelius, who, although still very young (or perhaps because of it), was adept at picking up gossip around the city. Quintus was once again the campaign manager and insisted on presiding. He liked to suggest, by the occasional indulgent smile or raised eyebrow, that Cicero, genius though he was, could be something of an airy-fairy intellectual, and needed the blunt common sense of his brother to keep his feet on the earth; and Cicero, with a reasonably good grace, played along.

It would make an interesting study, if only I had the life left in me to write it: the story of brothers in politics. There were the Gracchi, of course, Tiberius and Caius, who devoted themselves to distributing wealth from the rich to the poor, and who both perished violently as a result. And then in my own time there were Marcus and Lucius Lucullus, patrician consuls in successive years, as well as any number of siblings from the Metellus and Marcellus clans. In a sphere of human activity in which friendships are transitory and alliances made to be broken, the knowledge that another man’s name is forever linked to yours, however the fates may play, must be a powerful source of strength. The relationship between the Ciceros, like that between most brothers, I expect, was a complicated mixture of fondness and resentment, jealousy and loyalty. Without Cicero, Quintus would have been a dull and competent officer in the army, and then a dull and competent farmer in Arpinum, whereas Cicero without Quintus would still have been Cicero. Knowing this, and knowing that his brother knew it, too, Cicero went out of his way to conciliate him, generously wrapping him in the glittering mantle of his fame.

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