Politics in ancient Rome

A Roman Politician

(Gaius Scribonius Curio)

The life of Gaius Scribonius Curio has so many points of interest for the student of Roman politics and society, that one is bewildered by the variety of situations and experiences which it covers. His private character is made up of a mélange  of contradictory qualities, of generosity, and profligacy, of sincerity and unscrupulousness. In his public life there is the same facile change of guiding principles. He is alternately a follower of Cicero and a supporter of his bitterest enemy, a Tory and a Democrat, a recognized opponent of Cæsar and his trusted agent and adviser. His dramatic career stirs Lucan to one of his finest passages, gives a touch of vigor to the prosaic narrative of Velleius, and even leads the sedate Pliny to drop into satire.116  Friend and foe have helped to paint the picture. Cicero, the counsellor of his youth, writes of him and to him; Cælius, his bosom friend, analyzes his character; Cæsar leaves us a record of his military campaigns and death, while Velleius and Appian recount his public and private sins. His story has this peculiar charm, that many of the incidents which make it up are related from day to day, as they occurred, by his contemporaries, Cicero and Cælius, in the confidential letters which they wrote to their intimate friends. With all the strange elements which entered into it, however, his career is not an unusual one for the time in which he lived. Indeed it is almost typical for the class to which he belonged, and in studying it we shall come to know something more of that group of brilliant young men, made up of Cælius, Antony, Dolabella, and others, who were drawn to Cæsar's cause and played so large a part in bringing him success. The life of Curio not only illuminates social conditions in the first century before our era, but it epitomizes and personifies the political history of his time and the last struggles of the Republic. It brings within its compass the Catilinarian conspiracy, the agitation of Clodius, the formation of the first triumvirate, the rivalry of Cæsar and Pompey, and the civil war, for in all these episodes Curio took an active part.

Students of history have called attention to the striking way in which the members of certain distinguished Roman families from generation to generation kept up the political traditions of the family. The Claudian family is a striking case in point. Recognition of this fact helps us to understand Curio. His grandfather and his father were both prominent orators and politicians, as Cicero tells us in his Brutus.117  The grandfather reached the praetorship in the year in which Gaius Gracchus was done to death by his political opponents, while Curio pater was consul, in 76 B.C., when the confusion which followed the breaking up of the constitution and of the party of Sulla was at its height. Cicero tells us that the second Curio had "absolutely no knowledge of letters," but that he was one of the successful public speakers of his day, thanks to the training which he had received at home. The third Curio, with whom we are concerned here, was prepared for public life as his father had been, for Cicero remarks of him that "although he had not been sufficiently trained by teachers, he had a rare gift for oratory."118

On this point Cicero could speak with authority, because Curio had very possibly been one of his pupils in oratory and law. At least the very intimate acquaintance which he has with Curio's character and the incidents of his life, the fatherly tone of Cicero's letters to him, and the fact that Curio's nearest friends were among his disciples make this a natural inference. How intimate this relation was, one can see from the charming picture which Cicero draws, in the introductory chapters of his Essay on Friendship, of his own intercourse as a young man with the learned Augur Scævola. Roman youth attended their counsellor and friend when he went to the forum to take part in public business, or sat with him at home discussing matters of public and private interest, as Cicero and his companions sat on the bench in the garden with the pontiff Scævola, when he set forth the discourse of Lælius on friendship, and thus, out of his experience, the old man talked to the young men about him upon the conduct of life as well as upon the technical points of law and oratory. So many of the brilliant young politicians of this period had been brought into close relations with Cicero in this way, that when he found himself forced out of politics by the Cæsarians, he whimsically writes to his friend Pætus that he is inclined to give up public life and open a school, and not more than a year before his death he pathetically complains that he has not leisure even to take the waters at the spa, because of the demands which are made upon him for lessons in oratory.

If it did not take us too far from our chosen subject, it would be interesting to stop and consider at length what effect Cicero's intimate relations with these young men had upon his character, his political views, his personal fortunes, and the course of politics. That they kept him young in his interests and sympathies, that they kept his mind alert and receptive, comes out clearly in his letters to them, which are full of jest and raillery and enthusiasm. That he never developed into a Tory, as Catulus did, or became indifferent to political conditions, as Lucullus did, may have been due in part to his intimate association with this group of enthusiastic young politicians. So far as his personal fortunes were concerned, when the struggle between Cæsar and Pompey came, these former pupils of Cicero had an opportunity to show their attachment and their gratitude to him. They  were followers of Cæsar, and he  cast in his lot with Pompey. But this made no difference in their relations. To the contrary, they gave him advice and help; in their most hurried journeys they found time to visit him, and they interceded with Cæsar in his behalf. To determine whether he influenced the fortunes of the state through the effect which his teachings had upon these young men would require a paper by itself. Perhaps no man has ever had a better opportunity than Cicero had in their cases to leave a lasting impression on the political leaders of the coming generation. Curio, Cælius, Trebatius, Dolabella, Hirtius, and Pansa, who were Cæsar's lieutenants, in the years when their characters were forming and their political tendencies were being determined, were moulded by Cicero. They were warmly attached to him as their guide, philosopher, and friend, and they admired him as a writer, an orator, and an accomplished man of the world. Later they at tached themselves to Cæsar, and while they were still under his spell, Cicero's influence over their political course does not seem to count for so much, but after Cæsar's death, the latent effect of Cicero's friendship and teaching makes itself clearly felt in the heroic service which such men as Hirtius and Pansa rendered to the cause of the dying Republic. Possibly even Curio, had he been living, might have been found, after the Ides of March, fighting by the side of Cicero.

Perhaps there is no better way of bringing out the intimate relations which Curio and the other young men of this group bore to the orator than by translating one of Cicero's early letters to him. It was written in 53 B.C., when the young man was in Asia, just beginning his political career as quæstor, or treasurer, on the staff of the governor of that province, and reads:119

"Although I grieve to have been suspected of neglect by you, still it has not been so annoying to me that my failure in duty is complained of by you as pleasant that it has been noticed, especially since, in so far as I am accused, I am free from fault. But in so far as you intimate that you long for a letter from me, you disclose that which I know well, it is true, but that which is sweet and cherished—your love, I mean. In point of fact, I never let any one pass, who I think will go to you, without giving him a letter. For who is so indefatigable in writing as I am? From you, on the other hand, twice or thrice at most have I received a letter, and then a very short one. Therefore, if you are an unjust judge toward me, I shall condemn you on the same charge, but if you shall be unwilling to have me do that, you must show yourself just to me.

"But enough about letters; I have no fear of not satisfying you by writing, especially if in that kind of activity you will not scorn my efforts. I did  grieve that you were away from us so long, inasmuch as I was deprived of the enjoyment of most delightful companionship, but now I rejoice because, in your absence, you have attained all your ends without sacrificing your dignity in the slightest degree, and because in all your undertakings the outcome has corresponded to my desires. What my boundless affection for you forces me to urge upon you is briefly put. So great a hope is based, shall I say, on your spirit or on your abilities, that I do not hesitate to beseech and implore you to come back to us with a character so moulded that you may be able to preserve and maintain this confidence in you which you have aroused. And since forgetfulness shall never blot out my remembrance of your services to me, I beg you to remember that whatever improvements may come in your fortune, or in your station in life, you would not have been able to secure them, if you had not as a boy in the old days followed my most loyal and loving counsels. Wherefore you ought to have such a feeling toward us, that we, who are now growing heavy with years, may find rest in your love and your youth."

In a most unexpected place, in one of Cicero's fiery invectives against Antony,120  we come upon an episode illustrating his affectionate care of Curio during Curio's youth. The elder Curio lies upon a couch, prostrate with grief at the wreck which his son has brought on the house by his dissolute life and his extravagance. The younger Curio throws himself at Cicero's feet in tears. Like a foster-father, Cicero induces the young man to break off his evil habits, and persuades the father to forgive him and pay his debts. This scene which he describes here, reminds us of Curio's first appearance in Cicero's correspondence, where, with Curio's wild life in mind, he is spoken of as filiola Curionis.121

It is an appropriate thing that a man destined to lead so stormy a life as Curio did, should come on the stage as a leader in the wild turmoil of the Clodian affair. What brought the two Curios to the front in this matter as champions of Cicero's future enemy Clodius, it is not easy to say. It is interesting to notice in passing, however, that our Curio enters politics as a Democrat. He was the leader, in fact, of the younger element in that party, of the "Catilinarian crowd," as Cicero styles them, and arrayed himself against Lucullus, Hortensius, Messala, and other prominent Conservatives. What the methods were which Curio and his followers adopted, Cicero graphically describes.122  They blocked up the entrances to the polling places with professional rowdies, and allowed only one kind of ballots to be distributed to the voters. This was in 61 B.C., when Curio can scarcely have been more than twenty-three years old.

In the following year Cæsar was back in Rome from his successful proprætorship in Spain, and found little difficulty in persuading Pompey and Crassus to join him in forming that political compact which controlled the fortunes of Rome for the next ten years. As a part of the agreement, Cæsar was made consul in 59 B.C., and forced his radical legislation through the popular assembly in spite of the violent opposition of the Conservatives. This is the year, too, of the candidacy of Clodius for the tribunate. Toward both these movements the attitude of Curio is puzzling. He reports to Cicero 123  that Clodius's main object in running for the tribunate is to repeal the legislation of Cæsar. It is strange that a man who had been in the counsels of Clodius, and was so shrewd on other occasions in interpreting political motives, can have been so deceived. We can hardly believe that he was double-faced toward Cicero. We must conclude, I think, that his strong dislike for Cæsar's policy and political methods colored his view of the situation. His fierce opposition to Cæsar is the other strange incident in this period of his life. Most of the young men of the time, even those of good family, were enthusiastic supporters of Cæsar. Curio, however, is bitterly opposed to him.124  Perhaps he resented Cæsar's repression of freedom of speech, for he tells Cicero that the young men of Rome will not submit to the high-handed methods of the triumvirs, or perhaps he imbibed his early dislike for Cæsar from his father, whose sentiments are made clear enough by a savage epigram at Cæsar's expense, which Suetonius quotes from a speech of the elder Curio.125  At all events he is the only man who dares speak out. He is the idol of the Conservatives, and is surrounded by enthusiastic crowds whenever he appears in the forum. He is now the recognized leader of the opposition to Cæsar, and a significant proof of this fact is furnished at the great games given in honor of Apollo in the summer of 59. When Cæsar entered the theatre there was faint applause; when Curio entered the crowd rose and cheered him, "as they used to cheer Pompey when the common wealth was safe."126  Perhaps the mysterious Vettius episode, an ancient Titus Oates affair, which belongs to this year, reflects the desire of the triumvirs to get rid of Curio, and shows also their fear of his opposition. This unscrupulous informer is said to have privately told Curio of a plot against the life of Pompey, in the hope of involving him in the meshes of the plot. Curio denounced him to Pompey, and Vettius was thrown into prison, where he was afterward found dead, before the truth of the matter could be brought out. Of course Curio's opposition to Cæsar effected little, except, perhaps, in drawing Cæsar's attention to him as a clever politician.

To Curio's quæstorship in Asia reference has already been made. It fell in 53 B.C., and from his incumbency of this office we can make an approximate estimate of his date of birth. Thirty or thirty-one was probably the minimum age for holding the quæstorship at this time, so that Curio must have been born about 84 B.C. From Cicero's letter to him, which has been given above, it would seem to follow that he had performed his duties in his province with eminent success. During his absence from Rome his father died, and with his father's death one stimulating cause of his dislike for Cæsar may have disappeared. To Curio's absence in his province we owe six of the charming letters which Cicero wrote to him. In one of his letters of this year he writes:127  "There are many kinds of letters, as you well know, but one sort, for the sake of which letter-writing was invented, is best recognized: I mean letters written for the purpose of informing those who are not with us of whatever it may be to our advantage or to theirs that they should know. Surely you are not looking for a letter of this kind from me, for you have correspondents and messengers from home who report to you about your household. Moreover, so far as my concerns go, there is absolutely nothing new. There are two kinds of letters left which please me very much: one, of the informal and jesting sort; the other, serious and weighty. I do not feel that it is unbecoming to adopt either of these styles. Am I to jest with you by letter? On my word I do not think that there is a citizen who can laugh in these days. Or shall I write something of a more serious character? What subject is there on which Cicero can write seriously to Curio, unless it be concerning the commonwealth? And on this matter this is my situation: that I neither dare to set down in writing that which I think, nor wish to write what I do not think."

The Romans felt the same indifference toward affairs in the provinces that we show in this country, unless their investments were in danger. They were wrapped up in their own concerns, and politics in Rome were so absorbing in 53 B.C. that people in the city probably paid little attention to the doings of a quæstor in the far-away province of Asia. But, as the time for Curio's return approached, men recalled the striking rôle which he played in politics in earlier days, and wondered what course he would take when he came back. Events were moving rapidly toward a crisis. Julia, Cæsar's daughter, whom Pompey had married, died in the summer of 54 B.C., and Crassus was defeated and murdered by the Parthians in 53 B.C. The death of Crassus brought Cæsar and Pompey face to face, and Julia's death broke one of the strongest bonds which had held these two rivals together. Cæsar's position, too, was rendered precarious by the desperate struggle against the Belgæ, in which he was involved in 53 B.C. In Rome the political pot was boiling furiously. The city was in the grip of the bands of desperadoes hired by Milo and Clodius, who broke up the elections during 53 B.C., so that the first of January, 52, arrived with no chief magistrates in the city. To a man of Curio's daring and versatility this situation offered almost unlimited possibilities, and recognizing this fact, Cicero writes earnestly to him,128  on the eve of his return, to enlist him in support of Milo's candidacy for the consulship. Curio may have just arrived in the city when matters reached a climax, for on January 18, 52 B.C., Clodius was killed in a street brawl by the followers of Milo, and Pompey was soon after elected sole consul, to bring order out of the chaos, if possible.

Curio was not called upon to support Milo for the consulship, because Milo's share in the murder of Clodius and the elevation of Pompey to his extra-constitutional magistracy put an end to Milo's candidacy. What part he took in supporting or in opposing Pompey's reform legislation of 52 B.C., and what share he had in the preliminary skirmishes between Cæsar and the senate during the early part of 51, we have no means of knowing. As the situation became more acute, however, toward the end of the year, we hear of him again as an active political leader. Cicero's absence from Rome from May, 51 to January, 49 B.C., is a fortunate thing for us, for to it we owe the clever and gossipy political letters which his friend Cælius sent him from the capital. In one of these letters, written August 1, 51 B.C., we learn that Curio is a candidate for the tribunate for the following year, and in it we find a keen analysis of the situation, and an interesting, though tantaizingly brief, estimate of his character. Coming from an intimate friend of Curio, it is especially valuable to us. Cælius writes:129  "He inspires with great alarm many people who do not know him and do not know how easily he can be influenced, but judging from my hopes and wishes, and from his present behavior, he will prefer to support the Conservatives and the senate. In his present frame of mind he is simply bubbling over with this feeling. The source and reason of this attitude of his lies in the fact that Cæsar, who is in the habit of winning the friendship of men of the worst sort at any cost whatsoever, has shown a great contempt for him. And of the whole affair it seems to me a most delightful outcome, and the view has been taken by the rest, too, to such a degree that Curio, who does nothing after deliberation, seems to have followed a definite policy and definite plans in avoiding the traps of those who had made ready to oppose his election to the tribunate—I mean the Lælii, Antonii, and powerful people of that sort." Without strong convictions or a settled policy, unscrupulous, impetuous, radical, and changeable, these are the qualities which Cælius finds in Curio, and what we have seen of his career leads us to accept the correctness of this estimate. In 61 he had been the champion of Clodius, and the leader of the young Democrats, while two years later we found him the opponent of Cæsar, and an ultra-Conservative. It is in the light of his knowledge of Curio's character, and after receiving this letter from Cælius, that Cicero writes in December, 51 B.C., to congratulate him upon his election to the tribunate. He begs him "to govern and direct his course in all matters in accordance with his own judgment, and not to be carried away by the advice of other people." "I do not fear," he says, "that you may do anything in a fainthearted or stupid way, if you defend those policies which you yourself shall believe to be right.... Commune with yourself, take yourself into counsel, hearken to yourself, determine your own policy."

The other point in the letter of Cælius, his analysis of the political situation, so far as Curio is concerned, is not so easy to follow. Cælius evidently believes that Curio had coquetted with Cæsar and had been snubbed by him, that his intrigues with Cæsar had at first led the aristocracy to oppose his candidacy, but that Cæsar's contemptuous treatment of his advances had driven him into the arms of the senatorial party. It is quite possible, however, that an understanding may have been reached between Cæsar and Curio even at this early date, and that Cæsar's coldness and Curio's conservatism may both have been assumed. This would enable Curio to pose as an independent leader, free from all obligations to Cæsar, Pompey, or the Conservatives, and anxious to see fair play and safeguard the interests of the whole people, an independent leader who was driven over in the end to Cæsar's side by the selfish and factious opposition of the senatorial party to his measures of reform and his advocacy of even-handed justice for both Cæsar and Pompey.130

Whether Curio came to an understanding with Cæsar before he entered on his tribunate or not, his policy from the outset was well calculated to make the transfer of his allegiance seem forced upon him, and to help him carry over to Cæsar the support of those who were not blinded by partisan feelings. Before he had been in office a fortnight he brought in a bill which would have annulled the law, passed by Cæsar in his consulship, assigning land in Campania to Pompey's veterans.131  The repeal of this law had always been a favorite project with the Conservatives, and Curio's proposal seemed to be directed equally against Cæsar and Pompey. In February of 50 B.C. he brought in two bills whose reception facilitated his passage to the Cæsarian party. One of them provided for the repair of the roads, and, as Appian tells us,132 although "he knew that he could not carry any such measure, he hoped that Pompey's friends would oppose him so that he might have that as an excuse for opposing Pompey." The second measure was to insert an intercalary month. It will be remembered that before Cæsar reformed the calendar, it was necessary to insert an extra month in alternate years, and 50 B.C. was a year in which intercalation was required. Curio's proposal was, therefore, a very proper one. It would recommend itself also on the score of fairness. March 1 had been set as the day on which the senate should take up the question of Cæsar's provinces, and after that date there would be little opportunity to consider other business. Now the intercalated month would have been inserted, in accordance with the regular practice, after February 23, and by its insertion time would have been given for the proper discussion of the measures which Curio had proposed. Incidentally, and probably this was in Curio's mind, the date when Cæsar might be called upon to surrender his provinces would be postponed. The proposal to insert the extra month was defeated, and Curio, blocked in every move by the partisan and unreasonable opposition of Pompey and the Conservatives, found the pretext for which lie had been working, and came out openly for Cæsar.133  Those who knew him well were not surprised at the transfer of his allegiance. It was probably in fear of such a move that Cicero had urged him not to yield to the influence of others, and when Cicero in Cilicia hears the news, he writes to his friend Cælius: "Is it possible? Curio is now defending Cæsar! Who would have expected it?—except myself, for, as surely as I hope to live, I  expected it. Heavens! how I miss the laugh we might have had over it." Looking back, as we can now, on the political rôle which Curio played during the next twelve months, it seems strange that two of his intimate friends, who were such far-sighted politicians as Cicero and Cælius were, should have underestimated his political ability so completely. It shows Cæsar's superior political sagacity that he clearly saw his qualities as a leader and tactician. What terms Cæsar was forced to make to secure his support we do not know. Gossip said that the price was sixty million sesterces,134  or more than two and a half million dollars. He was undoubtedly in great straits. The immense sums which he had spent in celebrating funeral games in honor of his father had probably left him a bankrupt, and large amounts of money were paid for political services during the last years of the republic. Naturally proof of the transaction cannot be had, and even Velleius Paterculus, in his savage arraignment of Curio,135  does not feel convinced of the truth of the story, but the tale is probable.

It was high time for Cæsar to provide himself with an agent in Rome. The month of March was near at hand, when the long-awaited discussion of his provinces would come up in the senate. His political future, and his rights as a citizen, depended upon his success in blocking the efforts of the senate to take his provinces from him before the end of the year, when he could step from the proconsulship to the consulship. An interval of even a month in private life between the two offices would be all that his enemies would need for bringing political charges against him that would effect his ruin. His displacement before the end of the year must be prevented, therefore, at all hazards. To this task Curio addressed himself, and with surpassing adroitness. He did not come out at once as Cæsar's champion. His function was to hold the scales true between Cæsar and Pompey, to protect the Commonwealth against the overweening ambition and threatening policy of both men. He supported the proposal that Cæsar should be called upon to surrender his army, but coupled with it the demand that Pompey also should be required to give up his troops and his proconsulship. The fairness of his plan appealed to the masses, who would not tolerate a favor to Pompey at Cæsar's expense. It won over even a majority of the senate. The cleverness of his policy was clearly shown at a critical meeting of the senate in December of the year 50 B.C. Appian tells us the story:136  "In the senate the opinion of each member was asked, and Claudius craftily divided the question and took the votes separately, thus: 'Shall Pompey be deprived of his command?' The majority voted against the latter proposition, and it was decreed that successors to Cæsar should be sent. Then Curio put the question whether both should lay down their commands, and twenty-two voted in the negative, while three hundred and seventy went back to the opinion of Curio in order to avoid civil discord. Then Claudius dismissed the senate, exclaiming: 'Enjoy your victory and have Cæsar for a master!'" The senate's action was vetoed, and therefore had no legal value, but it put Cæsar and Curio in the right and Pompey' s partisans in the wrong.

As a part of his policy of defending Cæsar by calling attention to the exceptional position and the extra-constitutional course of Pompey, Curio offset the Conservative attacks on Cæsar by public speeches fiercely arraigning Pompey for what he had done during his consulship, five years before. When we recall Curio's biting wit and sarcasm, and the unpopularity of Pompey's high-handed methods of that year, we shall appreciate the effectiveness of this flank attack.

Another weapon which he used freely was his unlimited right of veto as tribune. As early as April Cælius appreciated how successful these tactics would be, and he saw the dilemma in which they would put the Conservatives, for he writes to Cicero: "This is what I have to tell you: if they put pressure at every point on Curio, Cæsar will defend his right to exercise the veto; if, as seems likely, they shrink [from overruling him], Cæsar will stay [in his province] as long as he likes." The veto power was the weapon which he used against the senate at the meeting of that body on the first of December, to which reference has already been made. The elections in July had gone against Cæsar. Two Conservatives had been returned as consuls. In the autumn the senate had found legal means of depriving Cæsar of two of his legions. Talk of a compromise was dying down. Pompey, who had been desperately ill in the spring, had regained his strength. He had been exasperated by the savage attacks of Curio. Sensational stories of the movements of Cæsar's troops in the North were whispered in the forum, and increased the tension. In the autumn, for instance, Cæsar had occasion to pay a visit to the towns in northern Italy to thank them for their support of Mark Antony, his candidate for the tribunate, and the wild rumor flew to Rome that he had advanced four legions to Placentia,137 that his march on the city had begun, and tumult and confusion followed. It was in these circumstances that the consul Marcellus moved in the senate that successors be sent to take over Cæsar's provinces, but the motion was blocked by the veto of Curio, whereupon the consul cried out: "If I am prevented by the vote of the senate from taking steps for the public safety, I will take such steps on my own responsibility as consul." After saying this he darted out of the senate and proceeded to the suburbs with his colleague, where he presented a sword to Pompey, and said: "My colleague and I command you to march against Cæsar in behalf of your country, and we give you for this purpose the army now at Capua, or in any other part of Italy, and whatever additional forces you choose to levy."138  Curio had accomplished his purpose. He had shown that Pompey as well as Cæsar was a menace to the state; he had prevented Cæsar's recall; he had shown Antony, who was to succeed him in the tribunate, how to exasperate the senate into using coercive measures against his sacrosanct person as tribune and thus justify Cæsar's course in the war, and he had goaded the Conservatives into taking the first overt step in the war by commissioning Pompey to begin a campaign against Cæsar without any authorization from the senate or the people.

The news of the unconstitutional step taken by Marcellus and Pompey reached Rome December 19 or 20. Curio's work as tribune was done, and on the twenty-first of the month he set out for the North to join his leader. The senate would be called together by the new consuls on January 1, and since, before the reform in the calendar, December had only twenty-nine days, there were left only eight days for Curio to reach Cæsar's head-quarters, lay the situation before him, and return to the city with his reply. Ravenna, where Cæsar had his head-quarters, was two hundred and forty miles from Rome. He covered the distance, apparently, in three days, spent perhaps two days with Cæsar, and was back in Rome again for the meeting of the senate on the morning of January 1. Consequently, he travelled at the rate of seventy-five or eighty miles a day, twice the rate of the ordinary Roman courier.

We cannot regret too keenly the fact that we have no account of Curio's meeting with Cæsar, and his recital to Cæsar of the course of events in Rome. In drawing up the document which was prepared at this conference, Cæsar must have been largely influenced by the intimate knowledge which Curio had of conditions in the capital, and of the temper of the senate. It was an ultimatum, and, when Curio presented it to the senate, that body accepted the challenge, and called upon Cæsar to lay down his command on a specified date or be declared a public enemy. Cæsar replied by crossing the border of his province and occupying one town after another in northern Italy in rapid succession. All this had been agreed upon in the meeting between Curio and Cæsar, and Velleius Paterculus 139  is probably right in putting the responsibility for the war largely on the shoulders of Curio, who, as he says, brought to naught the fair terms of peace which Cæsar was ready to propose and Pompey to accept. The whole situation points to the conclusion that Cæsar did not desire war, and was not prepared for it. Had he anticipated its immediate outbreak, he would scarcely have let it arise when he had only one legion with him on the border, while his other ten legions were a long distance away.

From the outset Curio took an active part in the war which he had done so much to bring about, and it was an appropriate thing that the closing events in his life should have been recorded for us by his great patron, Cæsar, in his narrative of the Civil War. On the 18th or 19th of January, within ten days of the crossing of the Rubicon, we hear of his being sent with a body of troops to occupy Iguvium,140  and a month later he is in charge of one of the investing camps before the stronghold of Corfinium.141  With the fall of Corfinium, on the 21st of February, Cæsar's rapid march southward began, which swept the Pompeians out of Italy within a month and gave Cæsar complete control of the peninsula. In that brilliant campaign Curio undoubtedly took an active part, for at the close of it Cæsar gave him an independent commission for the occupation of Sicily and northern Africa. No more important command could have been given him, for Sicily and Africa were the granaries of Rome, and if the Pompeians continued to hold them, the Cæsarians in Italy might be starved into submission. To this ill-fated campaign Cæsar devotes the latter half of the second book of his Civil War. In the beginning of his account of it he remarks: "Showing at the outset a total contempt for the military strength of his opponent, Publius Attius Varus, Curio crossed over from Sicily, accompanied by only two of the four legions originally given him by Cæsar, and by only five hundred cavalry."142  The estimate which Cælius had made of him was true, after all, at least in military affairs. He was bold and impetuous, and lacked a settled policy. Where daring and rapidity of movement could accomplish his purpose, he succeeded, but he lacked patience in finding out the size and disposition of the enemy's forces and calmness of judgment in comparing his own strength with that of his foe. It was this weakness in his character as a military leader which led him to join battle with Varus and Juba's lieutenant, Saburra, without learning beforehand, as he might have done, that Juba, with a large army, was encamped not six miles in the rear of Saburra. Curio's men were surrounded by the enemy and cut down as they stood. His staff begged him to seek safety in flight, but, as Cæsar writes,143  "He answered without hesitation that, having lost the army which Cæsar had entrusted to his charge, he would never return to look him in the face, and with that answer he died fighting."

Three years later the fortunes of war brought Cæsar to northern Africa, and he traversed a part of the region where Curio's luckless campaign had been carried on. With the stern eye of the trained soldier, he marked the fatal blunders which Curio had made, but he recalled also the charm of his personal qualities, and the defeat before Utica was forgotten in his remembrance of the great victory which Curio had won for him, single-handed, in Rome. Even Lucan, a partisan of the senate which Curio had flouted, cannot withhold his admiration for Curio's brilliant career, and his pity for Curio's tragic end. As he stands in imagination before the fallen Roman leader, he exclaims:144  "Happy wouldst thou be, O Rome, and destined to bless thy people, had it pleased the gods above to guard thy liberty as it pleased them to avenge its loss. Lo! the noble body of Curio, covered by no tomb, feeds the birds of Libya. But to thee, since it profiteth not to pass in silence those deeds of thine which their own glory defends forever 'gainst the decay of time, such tribute now we pay, O youth, as thy life has well deserved. No other citizen of such talent has Rome brought forth, nor one to whom the law would be indebted more, if he the path of right had followed out. As it was, the corruption of the age ruined the city when desire for office, pomp, and the power which wealth gives, ever to be dreaded, had swept away his wavering mind with sidelong flood, and the change of Curio, snared by the spoils of Gaul and the gold of Cæsar, was that which turned the tide of history. Although mighty Sulla, fierce Marius, the blood-bespattered Cinna, and all the line of Cæsar's house have held our throats at their mercy with the sword, to whom was e'er such power vouchsafed? All others bought, he  sold the state."

116. Lucan, 4. 814 ff.; Velleius, 2. 48; Pliny, Nat. Hist., 7. 116 ff.

117. Cicero, Brutus, 122, 210, 214.

118. Ibid., 280.

119. Cicero, Epist. ad Fam., 2. 1.

120. Cicero, Phil., 2. 45 f.

121. Cicero, ad Att., 1. 14. 5.

122. Ibid., 1. 14. 5.

123. Ibid., 2. 12. 2.

124. Ibid., 2.7.3; 2.8.1; 2.12.2.

125. Suet., Julius, 52.

126. Ad Att., 2. 19. 3.

127. Ad fam., 2.4.

128. Ibid., 2.6.

129. Ibid., 8. 4. 2.

130. Dio's account (40. 61) of Curio's course seems to harmonize with this interpretation.

131. "Cicero, ad fam., 8.10.4.

132. White's Civil Wars of Appian, 2.27.

133. Cicero, ad fam., 8.6.5.

134. Valerius Maximus, 9.1.6.

135. Vell. Pat., 2.48.

136. Civil Wars, 2.30.

137. Ad Att., 6.9.4.

138. Civil Wars of Appian, 2.31.

139. Velleius Paterculus, 2.48.

140. Cæsar, Civil War, 1. 12.

141. Ibid., 1.182

142. Ibid., 2.23.

143. Ibid., 2.42.

144. Pharsalia, 4. 807-824.