Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
The First Triumvirate
By Conyers Middleton (16831750)
From the Life of Cicero
IN the midst of these transactions, Julius Cæsar returned from the government of Spain, which had been allotted to him for his prætorship, with great fame, both for his military and political acts. He conquered the barbarous nations by his arms, and civilised them by his laws; and having subdued the whole country as far as the ocean, and being saluted emperor by the soldiers, came away in all haste to Rome, to sue, at the same time, for the double honour of a triumph and the consulship. He designed L. Lucceius for his colleague, and privately joined interests with him, on condition that Lucceius, who was rich, should furnish money sufficient to bribe the centuries. But the senate, always jealous of his designs, and fearing the effects of his power, when supported by a colleague subservient to his will, espoused the other candidate, Bibulus, with all their authority, and made a common purse, to enable him to bribe as high as his competitors; which Cato himself is said to have approved. By this means they got Bibulus elected, to their great joy; a man firm to their interests, and determined to obstruct all the ambitious attempts of Cæsar.
Upon Cæsars going to Spain, he had engaged Crassus to stand bound for him to his creditors, who were clamorous and troublesome, as far as two hundred thousand pounds sterling: so much did he want to be worth nothing, as he merrily said of himself. Crassus hoped, by the purchase of his friendship, to be able to make head against Pompey in the administration of public affairs; but Cæsar, who had been long courting Pompey, and labouring to disengage him from a union with Cicero, and the aristocratical interest, easily saw, that as things then stood, their joint strength would avail but little towards obtaining what they aimed, unless they could induce Pompey also to join with them: on pretence, therefore, of reconciling Pompey and Crassus, who had been constant enemies, he formed the project of a triple league between the three, by which they should mutually oblige themselves to promote each others interest, and to act, nothing but by common agreement: to this Pompey easily consented, on account of the disgust which the senate had impolitically given him, by their perverse opposition to everything which he desired or attempted in the state.
This is commonly called the first triumvirate; which was nothing else, in reality, but a traitorous conspiracy of three, the most powerful citizens of Rome, to extort from their country, by violence, what they could not obtain by law. Pompeys chief motive was to get his acts confirmed by Cæsar in his consulship; Cæsars, by giving way to Pompeys glory, to advance his own; and Crassuss, to gain that ascendant, which he could not sustain alone, by the authority of Pompey and the vigour of Cæsar. But Cæsar, who formed the scheme, easily saw that the chief advantage of it would necessarily redound to himself: he knew that the old enmity between the other two, though it might be palliated, could never be healed without leaving a secret jealousy between them; and as, by their common help, he was sure to make himself superior to all others, so, by managing the one against the other, he hoped to gain, at last, a superiority also over them both. To cement this union therefore the more strongly, by the ties of blood, as well as interest, he gave his daughter Julia, a beautiful and accomplished young lady, in marriage to Pompey: and, from this era, all the Roman writers date the origin of the civil wars which afterwards ensued, and the subversion of the Republic, in which they ended.
tu causa malorum
Facta tribus dominis communis Roma.Lucan, i. 85.
Hence flowed our ills, hence all that civil flame,
When Rome the common slave of three became.Cicero.
Cicero might have made what terms he pleased with the triumvirate; been admitted even a partner of their power and a fourth in their league, which seemed to want a man of his character to make it complete. For while the rest were engaged in their governments, and the command of armies abroad, his authority would have been of singular use at home, to manage the affairs of the city, and solicit what they had to transact with the senate or people. Cæsar, therefore, was extremely desirous to add him to the party, or to engage him rather in particular measures with himself; and no sooner entered into the consulship, than he sent him word, by their common friend, Balbus, that he would be governed in every step by him and Pompey, with whom he would endeavour to join Crassus too. But Cicero would not enter into any engagements, jointly with the three, whose union he abhorred; nor into private measures with Cæsar, whose intentions he always suspected. He thought Pompey the better citizen of the two; took his views to be less dangerous and his temper more tractable; and imagined that a separate alliance with him would be sufficient to screen him from the malice of his enemies. Yet this put him under no small difficulty; for, if he opposed the triumvirate, he could not expect to continue well with Pompey; or if he served it, with the senate; in the first, he saw his ruin, in the second, the loss of his credit. He chose, therefore, what the wise will always choose in such circumstances, a middle way; to temper his behaviour so, that, with the constancy of his duty to the Republic, he might have a regard also to his safety, by remitting somewhat of his old vigour and contention, without submitting to the meanness of consent or approbation; and when his authority could be of no use to his country, to manage their new masters so as not to irritate their power to his own destruction; which was all that he desired. This was the scheme of politics, which, as he often laments, the weakness of the honest, the perverseness of the envious, and the hatred of the wicked, obliged him to pursue.