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Cicero everywhere speaks in the most eulogistic terms of Laelius' character. All authorities were unanimous as to his unswerving rectitude'. His self-control and moderation were remarkable? Like Socrates, he never shewed in his face throughout life the effect produced on his mind by changes of fortune. His gentleness and affability were great". His cheerfulness and humour were famous 5.
During his life and after his death Laelius bore the title sapiens or 'the wise,' a title which implies more of practical than intellectual wisdom, though it would not have been given to any one who was destitute of culture and literary excellence. Altogether Laelius is Cicero's typical example of the best results of cultivation acting on a character which exhibited in their fullest extent the ideal Roman virtues. He is introduced as an ínterlocutor into two other dialogues, the Cato maior (De senectute) and the De re publica (along with Scipio, Fannius, and Scaevola).
The friendship of Laelius and Scipio was one of the most famous in antiquity. Laelius, says Cicero, reverenced Scipio as a god; Scipio looked up to Laelius (his senior) as a parent”. The views of friendship which Laelius gives in the dialogue are said by him to be mainly those of Scipio.
The other interlocutors are the two sons-in-law of Laelius, Q Mucius Scaevola8 and Gaius Fannius. Scaevola belonged to a family of lawyers', and was himself exceedingly distinguished for his knowledge of the law. He was born about 157 and
lived till 88 B.C. In 121 he was praetor, after which he was governor of Asia. On his return a malicious prosecution was set on foot against him on a charge of malversation (repetundarum), but on this he was acquitted. Soon afterwards he was elected consul for the year 117. He seems to have had but little of political ambition, though owing to his high character and his freedom from partisanship he exercised in the senate and in private a great political influence. His house was daily thronged by the leading men of Rome?
The wit as well as the learning of Scaevola was renowneda, and he was noted for sweetness and affability of demeanour3. Cicero, who was in early life placed under his guardianship, along with Atticus, always speaks of him with great affection and admiration. Scaevola appears also as one of the interlocutors in the De oratore and in the De re publica (along with Scipio and Laelius).
Gaius Fannius served with distinction under Scipio in the Third Punic War. He and Tiberius Gracchus were the first to mount the walls of Carthage when it was stormed. He served again in Spain, but seems not to have been successful in political life. He was a man of considerable cultivation and literary activity, and wrote a history, the style of which is very faintly praised by Cicero though its accuracy was highly estimated by Sallust. His character seems to have been somewhat severe4 He appears with Scipio and Laelius and Scaevola as one of the interlocutors in the De re publica.
f. The Scipionic circle. The age of the younger Africanus was remarkable for the rapid spread of Hellenism among the educated Romans. Scipio formed the centre of a great and influential circle composed partly of Roman admirers of Greek art and literature, partly of Greek and Latin men of letters. Hellenism had been powerful for many generations in Latin literature and in social life, but in the Hellenism of the Scipionic circle not only were old tendencies quickened, but a new and
i De'Or. 1, 200; Phil. 8, 31.
4 Brut. 101, where Cicero speaks of a coolness between l'annius and Laelius.
important influence was added, that of the Greek philosophy. Although the wisdom of the Greeks was known in part to the Romans at a much earlier time its practical power over them dates from the famous Athenian embassy of 153 B.C. composed of the three great philosophers Carneades the Academic, Diogenes the Stoic, and Critolaus the Peripatetic. After this time all the Greek systems struck root at Rome, but by far the greatest influence was exerted by Stoicism, of which nearly all the members of Scipio's society had a more or less strong tincture. Thus Scipio himself was devoted to the society of the Stoic philosopher Panaetius; Laelius had learned Stoicism both from Panaetius and Diogenes. There are many tinges of Stoicism traceable in our dialogue. These noble Romans, however, adopted the Stoic philosophy more on account of its utility in supplying a foundation for theories of law and government than as a form of faith. The Stoicism they professed was also a Stoicism deprived of its paradoxes and specially adapted to Roman tastes. In this form it ultimately exercised a profound influence on the national life of Rome.
Though the prevalent bent of the Scipionic circle was towards Stoicism, it was far from rejecting the society of those who adhered to other systems. Thus Clitomachus, the New Academic, was the friend of many Romans of high station in his time.
On the literary side the circle of Scipio and Laelius was strong. To it belonged Polybius, the great historian, Lucilius the satirist, and the dramatists Terence and Pacuvius, with many others scarcely less distinguished.
We cannot here give any detailed account of the persons who formed this brilliant society, but must confine ourselves to such information as is necessary to illustrate the Laelius. In şu of the dialogue we have some of the chief events of Scipio's life indicated. Born in 185 B.C., the son of L. Aemilius Paullus the conqueror of Macedonia, he became the adopted son of the son of the elder Africanus, just before the outbreak of the Third Punic War. His services in a subordinate position in that war, as well as in previous wars, produced such a conviction of his
ability, that in 148, when he was only a candidate for the aedileship, the laws were suspended in order to elect him consul and place him in command of the army before Carthage. At the end of his year of office his command was prolonged for another year, during the course of which he took Carthage and reduced Africa to the condition of a Roman province. In 142 he was censor, and in 134, though not a candidate, was elected to the consulship and put in command of the Roman army then besieging the city of Numantia in Spain. The war of which this siege formed a part had been going on for some years most disastrously for the Romans, but Scipio speedily brought it to a conclusion in 133 B.C. While before Numantia he received the news of the murder of Ti. Gracchus, whose sister he had married and whose cousin he had become by adoption, but whose policy he had on the whole opposed, though he had occasionally coquetted with the democrats. He merely quoted the Homeric line ως απόλοιτο και άλλος ότις τοιαύτά γε ρέζοι, so may een another perish, whoso dares such deeds as he.' On his return to Rome Scipio strongly resisted the democratic proposals of Carbo and the other leaders of the party of the Gracchi. In 129 B.C. a most violent scene occurred in the senate between him and Carbo in consequence of a proposal made by Scipio which was intended to render the execution of the great agrarian law of Ti. Gracchus impracticable. At the end of the sitting he was escorted triumphantly home by a crowd mainly composed of Latins and Italians, whose properties were threatened by the law. In the morning he was found dead in his
Opinion in Rome was at the time and remained divided as to the cause of his death. In the Laelius the death is assumed to have been from natural causes? Elsewhere however Cicero adopts the views of many of Scipio's friends that Carbo murdered him?. Carbo afterwards lent colour to the suspicions by putting himself to death, in order, as was supposed, to avoid a direct prosecution. Even Gaius Gracchus was in ancient times suspected of having thus avenged his
i For the interpretation of $ 41 2 De Or. 2, 170; Fam. 9, 21, 3; see my nn. there.
Qu. Fr. 2, 3, 3.
brother's death, but no modern scholar of any rank has countenanced the suspicion.
I proceed to speak of some other friends of Scipio who are mentioned in our dialogue. Chief of these is L. Furius Philus?, consul of the year 136, a man of great knowledge, and high character, and a friend and patron of Greek literati. He is thought worthy by Cicero to rank beside Cato and Laelius?, and is one of the interlocutors in the De re publica.
P. Rupilius was consul in 132 and exercised great severity against the partisans of Ti. Gracchus. His consulship is said to have been due to the aid of Scipio3. He commanded in Sicily against the insurgent slaves and established a code of laws for the administration of that province.
M’. Manilius4, consul in 149, commanded in Africa for some time against the Carthaginians with Scipio as one of his officers. He was a very eminent lawyer, and a close friend of Laelius and Scipio, appearing in the De re publica along with them.
Spurius Mummius“ seems to have been a very different man from his brother the destroyer of Corinth. He had both wit and literary ability, which recommended him to the very intimate friendship of Scipio, with whom he is joined in Cicero's De re publica. When, to secure Scipio's safety, the senate dispatched him on an embassy to Asia, Mummius was his. companion. Mummius spent some time in Achaia as legatus to his brother and thence sent witty epistles in verse to his friends at home. Apparently he was unpopular and unsuccessful as a politician and devoted himself to study, becoming a strong Stoic. We hear of him that he was particularly noted for his detestation of the teachers of Rhetoric.
1 $$ 14, 21, 69, 105.
2 Leg. agr. 2, 64 Phili Catones Laelii.
3 Lael. 88 63, 101.
4 Lael. § 14.
SS 69, 101.