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endeavoured in these volumes to trace the history of Rome from the reforms of the Gracchi through a turbulent period of nearly one hundred years, a period of oligarchal tyranny and factious quarrels, to the inevitable end, the establishment of a monarchy in fact, but not in name. In this way, says Appian in the Introduction to his Civil Wars, "the Roman State was restored to tranquillity, and the Government became a monarchy." He adds, "and how this came about I have explained and have brought together the events, which are well worth the study of those who wish to be acquainted with ambition of men unbounded, love of power excessive, endurance unwearied, and forms of suffering infinite." The rise and decay of modern political systems are not exactly the same in modern States and in the great military and conquering Republic; but human passions and human folly, and even human wisdom and foresight are ever the same, and under different circumstances they work out like results. I therefore maintain what I said in the beginning of this work (vol. i. p. 2), that "all political systems contain within them the principles of their own death; and political progress, as we call it, is only the slower road to that end, to which all human institutions, so far as we have yet had experience, must come at last." "Time," says Bacon (Essays, Of Innovations), "is the greatest innovator; and if time of course alter things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end?"
The events contained within this volume relate principally to one man, the greatest of all the Romans in military and civil capacity; but there is another man whose relation to Caesar from the year B.C. 59 to his death makes him conspicuous in this history. I have said (vol. v. p. 466) that I have told the truth about Caesar, as far as we know the truth, and have told it with perfect impartiality. I have treated Cicero in the same way, though I do not expect that all persons will think that I have; but if they shall think
otherwise, I reply that they are either deficient in the power of forming an impartial judgment, or they have not taken pains to examine the evidence. I have observed in the Preface to the Third Volume, that "We learn Cicero's character best from his own letters, which are the strongest evidence that we have against him." I mean the strongest evidence against him as a public man. It is his own evidence that condemns him, not the evidence of his enemies, who were many. letters also, while they often show him in a favourable light as a friend, a just provincial governor, a lover of letters, and a man of taste, also prove that he was vain, querulous, spiteful, and often ungenerous. His private character was not noble, or elevated.
A good Life of Cicero is still wanted; and when it shall be written, we shall see whether the writer has the capacity of rightly estimating Cicero's political character, and particularly his behaviour towards Caesar in the few years which preceded the Dictator's death, and whether the writer has also the power of forming a just judgment on Cicero's great talents and his literary merits. Some persons would allow him even small merit as a writer, but here I think that they are much mistaken. Cicero was both a great actor in the public events of his time and an important witness; and his life proves that, like many other men of ability, he had his weaknesses, and even his vices, and that no intellectual greatness is a security against such failings. Caesar Augustus, who knew Cicero well during the last year of his life, is reported to have found one of his own grandsons reading one of Cicero's writings, and to have taken the book from him and read a good part of it while he was standing. At last he returned the book to his grandson and said, "A wise man, my boy; a wise man and a lover of his country" (Plutarch, Cicero, c. 49). Perhaps Augustus allowed too much credit for wisdom to Cicero, whom he had himself so easily deceived; but he did him justice when he said that Cicero was a lover of his country.
I have now finished a work which has employed me more than twelve years, a work of great labour, for which I have. examined all the ancient authorities, and I have used them as well as I could, and with perfect integrity and singleness of purpose. No man can know the defects of my work better than I do. Those who know what such labour is, how insufficient many of the ancient authorities are, and the difficulty of combining and using them, will be the fairest judges of what I have attempted to do.
The Index to the five volumes has been made by a young friend, Mr. Ernest Bell, to save an old man a tiresome task. If the Index had been larger, it might have contained references to more of the varied matter which is in these volumes. But it will still be useful. I have examined it with great care, and I believe that few errors will be discovered.