Chapter 12 of The Spirit of the Laws Volume 3

Rome after the Death of Cæsar

September 30, 2021

It was impossible for the republic to be re-established. There was no longer any tyrant, and yet liberty was extinguished because the causes of its destruction still continued to prevent its revival.

The assassins only had a plan of a conspiracy, but did not know how to make it effective. After the assassination, they all retired to the capital. The next day, Lepidus, who was fond of commotions, took the Forum with a band of soldiers.

The veteran troops feared that the immense donations they had received would be no longer be repeated, so they marched into Rome. This compelled the senate to approve all the acts of Cæsar, and grant a general amnesty to the conspirators, which produced a false appearance of peace.

Before his death, Cæsar was preparing for his expedition against the Parthians. He had appointed magistrates for several years to secure himself in his absence and maintain the peace of his government. After his death, these could support themselves for a considerable time.

Antony was one of those magistrates. He got possession of Cæsar’s book of accounts. He made his secretary insert all the articles to make Caesar reign more imperiously after death than when he was living.

for what he could never have accomplished, Antony had the dexterity to effect; great sums of money, which Cæsar would never have bestowed, were distributed among the people by Antony, and every man who had any seditious designs against the government, was sure to find a sudden gratuity in Cæsar’s books.

To fund that expedition, Cæsar had amassed great sums and deposited them in the temple of Ops. Antony spent these through that book.

The senate could not forbid Cæsar’s funeral because they had never declared him a tyrant.

Cicero governed the senate in this whole affair. He acknowledges that it would have been much better to have proceeded with vigour, and even to have exposed themselves to destruction, though indeed it was not probable that such a fate would have attended them. But he alledges for his excuse, that as the senate was then assembled, they had no opportunity in their favour. He adds that those who are sensible of the importance even of a moment, in affairs wherein the people have so considerable a part, will not be surprized at his conduct in that transaction.

![Cicero giving a speech](https= //

When the people were celebrating funeral games in honour of Cæsar, a comet appeared for seven days. This made them believe the soul of Cæsar was received into heaven.

It was very customary for the people of Greece and Asia, to erect temples to the kings, and even the proconsuls who had governed them. They did this because it was the greatest evidence they could possibly give of their abject servitude. Nay the Romans themselves might, in their private temples, where their lares were deposited, render divine honours to their ancestors.

The government of Macedonia was assigned to Antony. But he wanted Gaul instead.

Decimus Brutus governed Cisalpine Gaul refused to resign that province to Antony. This produced a civil war in which the senate declared Antony the enemy.

Antony was Cicero’s mortal enemy. Cicero unwisely used all his interest to promote Octavius to destroy Antony. Instead of defacing the idea of one Cæsar in the minds of the people, he placed two before their eyes.

Octavius, like a man who knew the world, flattered and praised Cicero and employed every engaging artifice.

Great affairs are frequently disconcerted, because those who undertake them seldom confine their expectations to the principal event, but look after some little particular success which soothes the indulgent opinion they entertain of themselves.

If Cato had reserved himself for the republic, he would have given a very different turn to affairs.

Cicero had extraordinary abilities for the second class, but was incapable of the first. His genius was fine, but his soul seldom soared above the vulgar. His characteristic was virtue, that of Cato Glory.

Cicero always beheld himself in the first rank; Cato never allowed his merit a place in his remembrance. This man would have preserved the republic for his own sake; the other that he might have boasted of the action.

When Cato foresaw, Cicero was intimidated. When Cato hoped, Cicero was confident. Cato beheld things through a serene medium. Cicero viewed them through a glare of little passions.

Antony was defeated at Modena, where the two consuls, Hirtius and Pansa died. The senate thought themselves as superior to their tumultuous affairs, began to think of humbling Octavius, who now ceased hostilities against Antony, marched his army to Rome, and caused himself to be declared consul.

In this way, Cicero boasted that he had crushed Antony, but introduced an enemy into the republic in Octavius who was the more formidable because=

  • his name was much dearer to the people, and
  • his pretensions better founded.

Antony, after his overthrow, retired into Transalpine Gaul, where he was received by Lepidus. These two men entered into an association with Octavius, and gave up to each other the lives of their friends and their enemies.

Lepidus continued at Rome, whilst the other two went in quest of Brutus and Cassius, and found them in those parts where the empire of the world was thrice contended for in battle.

Brutus and Cassius killed themselves with a precipitation not to be vindicated. Cato closed the tragedy with his own murder.

The Romans committed suicide because of=

  • the progress of Stoicism which encouraged it
  • the establishment of triumphs and slavery, which induced great men to believe they should not survive a defeat
  • the advantages accruing to the accused, who put an end to life rather than submit to a tribunal, which condemned their memory to infamy and their goods to confiscation; a point of honour, more rational perhaps, than that which now prompts us to stab our friend for a gesture or an expression
  • the convenience of heroism, which let everyone end his life as he pleased.

The great ease of suicide makes the soul attentive to= - the motives which determine her resolution,

  • the dangers she avoids by it

Self-love, and a fondness for our preservation, changes itself into so many shapes, and acts by such contrary principles, that it leads us to sacrifice our existence for the very sake of existence;

and such is the estimate we make of ourselves, that we consent to die by a natural and obscure sort of instinct, which makes us love ourselves even more than our lives.

This self-love makes us less free, less courageous, and less capable of grand enterprizes.


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