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The African war held the whole empire in suspence. Scipio's name was thought ominous and invincible, on the theatre which had given a title to his ancestors. The attention of the public was rivetted on the scene of action, and they waited with anxious expectation for the decisive blow. Cicero had given up all hope of good from either side, and therefore chose to live retired and out of sight. Whether in the city or the country, he shut himself up with his books. They had hitherto been the diversion, but were now become the support of his life. Whatever his country might have lost by his despondence, the modern world has gained infinitely. Study was now his principal solace. He entered into close friendship and correspondence with M. Terentius Varro; and the letters which passed show the respect and affection to have been mutual. At Varro's desire, they mutually dedicated their learned works to each other, and both are immortalised. Cicero's Academic Questions are inscribed to Varro; Varro's Treatise on the Latin Tongue to Cicero.
During this interval of retirement, Cicero wrote his book on Oratorial Partitions. The subject is the art of ordering and distributing the parts of an oration, so as to adapt them in the best manner to their proper end, that of moving and persuading an audience.
Another fruit of this secession from politics, was his dialogue on famous. orators, called Brutus. In this he gives a short character of all who had ever flourished either in Greece or Rome, with any considerable reputation for eloquence, down to his own times. He generally touches on the principal points of each individual's life; so that it will be found to contain almost an epitome of the Roman history. The conference is supposed to be held with Brutus and Atticus in Cicero's garden at Rome, under the statue of Plato. This incident is peculiarly appropriate, because that Greek philosopher was the especial object of his admiration, and the model on which he generally formed his dialogues. In the present piece, his double title, Brutus ; or, Of Famous Orators, seems to be conceived in the spirit of imitation. The speaker gives the first title, the subject the second. The title of one of Plato's dialogues is, Phædon ; or, Of the Soul. This work was intended as a fourth, and supplemental book to the three, which he had before published on the Complete Orator.
Among the abuses produced by the confusion of the times, we should hardly have supposed did we not know it, that the computation of time would have been pressed into the service of faction. But the practice of intercalating was introduced most licentiously, till at length the months were transposed out of their order and natural arrangement, and their denominations completely falsified. The winter was carried back into autumn, and the autumn into summer. Cæsar determined to close the source of this disorder, by abolishing the use of intercalations. To this end he substituted the solar for the lunar year, and adjusted it to the exact measure of the sun's revolution in the zodiac, that is, to the period of time when it returns to the point whence it set out. The astronomers of that age supposed this to be three hundred and sixty-five days and six hours. To bring the year right from the ex. treme irregularity in which it had been going, and to start it clear and fresh for a more regular jour. ney to future ages, was a work of difficulty and nice calculation. The object was effected by the skilful aid of Sosigenes, an eminent astronomer of Alexandria, whom Cæsar had brought to Rome for that purpose. A new calendar was formed on his observations by Flavius, a scribe, and was digested according to the succession of the Roman festivals. The old manner of computing their days by Kalends, Ides, and Nones, had been proclaimed by the dictator's edict not long after his return from Africa, and was adopted in the order now published. The year between the two calendars. was the longest Rome had ever known. It consisted of fifteen months, or four hundred and forty-five days, and by the accuracy of its computation put an end to the confusion. The Julian, or solar year, was introduced at the commencement of the ensuing January. It continues in use to this day in all Christian countries, with one intervening regulation of the style, submitted by Lord Macclesfield to the British Parliament in the middle of the last century.
Cicero's own works would have furnished his history, had all the other books, in which his name is mentioned, perished. Dr. Middleton has made those works subservient to a luminous, as well as eloquent life of the illustrious Roman. Cicero frequently expatiates on the character of his own philosophy, and the practical effect of his opinions. Plato gave him courage to bear up against the disappointment of his political views. He had learned from that profound observer, that turns and revolutions must naturally be expected in states : that oligarchy, mob-government, and monarchy must each have their day. His own republic had experienced these vicissitudes, and his own oc. cupation was gone.
He betook himself to his studies, to relieve his mind from brooding over the public misfortunes, and to make himself useful to his country in the only mode left for him. His books supplied the place of his votes in the senate, and of his speeches to the people. He had recourse to philosophy, when political life no longer afforded scope for his exertions, nor the slightest prospect of success if he made them.
Voluminous as are Cicero's works, much unfortunately is lost. Among the desiderata is a dialogue published during his retreat, and entitled Hortensius in honour of his friend. In this he carried on the play of debate, which had often been contested so seriously, yet so liberally at the bar. The subject was learning and philosophy. He undertook their defence, and assigned to his illustrious competitor the task of arraigning them. A remarkable circumstance attended the reading of this book. St. Austin was first led by it to the study of the Christian philosophy. It is curious that the church of Christ should owe one of its most illustrious converts, and one of its most powerful champions to the instrumentality of a heathen scholar.
About the same time, he composed another work on philosophy in four books : an account and defence of the Academy. It was his own sect; and the reason he gives for adhering to it is, its being of all others the most elegant, the least arrogant, and the most consistent with itself. He had before published a work on the same subject in two books, the one entitled Catulus, the other Lucullus. He did not however consider the argument as suited to the character of the speakers, who were not remarkable in that line of study. His intention was to change them to Cato and Brutus. Atticus gave him a hint, that Varro had signified a wish to find his name in some of his writings. He immediately therefore remodelled his plan, and extended it to four books. These he addressed to Varro, taking on himself the part of Philo, in defence of the Academic principles, and giving that of Antiochus to Varro, who was to oppose and confute them. Atticus was the moderator of the debate.
Among the most valuable of his works, on a most important subject of philosophy, is a treatise published in the same year with his Academic Questions, in a dialogue De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum : on the chief Good and Ill of Man. It is written after the manner of Aristotle. He explains with all the recommendations of eloquence, and with the indispensible requisite of perspicuity on so difficult a question, the several opinions held by the ancient sects. He thus states his subject, and the superiority of its importance to the generality of those discussed by great men, and listened to with profound attention :-"Quid est enim in vita tantopere quærendum, quam cum omnia in philosophia, tum id, quod his libris quæritur, quid sit finis, quid extremum, quid ultimum, quo sint omnia bene vivendi, recteque faciendi consilia referenda ? quid sequatur natura, ut summum ex rebus expetendis ? quid fugiat, ut extremum malorum ? qua de re cum sit inter doctissimos magna dissensio, quis alienum putet ejus esse dignitatis, quam mihi quisque tribuit, quod in omni munere vitæ optimum et verissimum sit, exquirere ? An, partus ancillæ sitne in fructu habendus, disseretur inter principes civitatis, P. Scævolam, M'Manilium ? ab hisque M. Brutus dissen