Home | Prev | Next | Contents


From what has been said in preceding chapters of the duties and the habits of the two sections of the upper stratum of society, it will readily be inferred that the kind of education called for was one mainly of character. In these men, whether for the work of business or of government, what was wanted was the will to do well and justly, and the instinctive hatred of all evil and unjust dealing. Such an education of the will and character is supplied (whatever be its shortcomings in other ways) by our English public school education, for men whose work in life is in many ways singularly like that of the Roman upper classes. Such an education, too, was outlined by Aristotle for the men of his ideal state; and Mr. Newman's picture of the probable results of it is so suggestive of what was really needed at Rome that I may quote it here.[247]

"As its outcome at the age of twenty-one we may imagine a bronzed and hardy youth, healthy in body and mind, able to bear hunger and hard physical labour ... not untouched by studies which awake in men the interest of civilised beings, and prepare them for the right use of leisure in future years, and though burdened with little knowledge, possessed of an educated sense of beauty, and an ingrained love of what is noble and hatred of all that is the reverse. He would be more cultivated and human than the best type of young Spartan, more physically vigorous and reverential, though less intellectually developed, than the best type of young Athenian--a nascent soldier and servant of the state, not, like most young Athenians of ability, a nascent orator. And as he would be only half way through his education at an age when many Greeks had finished theirs, he would be more conscious of his own immaturity. We feel at once how different he would be from the clever lads who swarmed at Athens, youths with an infinite capacity for picking holes, and capable of saying something plausible on every subject under the sun."

If we note, with Mr. Newman, that Aristotle here makes if anything too little of intellectual training (as indeed may also be said of our own public schools), and add to his picture something more of that knowledge which, when united with an honest will and healthy body, will almost infallibly produce a sound judgment, we shall have a type of character eminently fitted to share in the duties and the trials of the government of such empires as the Roman and the British. But at Rome, in the age of Cicero, such a type of character was rare indeed; and though this was due to various causes, some of which have been already noticed,--the building up of a Roman empire before the Romans were ripe to appreciate the duties of an imperial state, and the sudden incoming of wealth in an age when the idea of its productive use was almost unknown,--yet it will occur to every reader that there must have been also something wrong in the upbringing of the youth of the upper classes to account for the rarity of really sound character, for the frequent absence of what we should call the sense of duty, public and private. I propose in this chapter to deal with the question of Roman education just so far as to show where in Cicero's time it was chiefly defective. It is a subject that has been very completely worked out, and an excellent summary of the results will be found in the little volume on Roman education written by the late Professor A.S. Wilkins, just before his lamented death: but he was describing its methods without special reference to its defects, and it is these defects on which I wish more particularly to dwell.[248]

Let us notice, in the first place, how little is said in the literature of the time, including biographies, of that period of life which is now so full of interest to readers of memoirs, so full of interest to ourselves as we look back to it in advancing years. It may be that we now exaggerate the importance of childhood, but it is equally certain that the Romans undervalued the importance of it. It may be that we over-estimate the value of our public-school life, but it is certain that the Romans had no such school life to be proud of. Biography was at this time a favourite form of literature, and some of the memoirs then written were available for use by later writers, such as Valerius Maximus, Suetonius, and Plutarch; yet it is curious how little has come down to us of the childhood or boyhood of the great men of the time. Plutarch indeed was deeply interested in education, including that of childhood, and we can hardly doubt that he would have used in his Roman Lives any information that came in his way. He does tell us something, for which we are eternally indebted to him, of old Cato's method of educating his son,[249] and something too, in his Life of Aemilius Paullus,[250] of the education of the eldest son of that family, the great Scipio Aemilianus. But in each of these Lives we shall find that this information is used rather to bring out the character of the father than to illustrate the upbringing of the son; and as a rule the Lives begin with the parentage of the hero, and then pass on at once to his early manhood.

The Life of the younger Cato, however, is an exception to the rule, which we must ascribe to the attraction which all historians and philosophers felt to this singular character. Plutarch knew the naiue and character of Cato's paedagogus, Sarpedon,[251] and tells us that he was an obedient child, but would ask for the reason of everything, in those questions beginning with "why" which are often embarrassing to the teacher. Two stories in the second and third chapters of this Life are also found in that insipid medley of fact and fable drawn up in the reign of Tiberius, by Valerius Maximus, for educational purposes;[252] a third, which is peculiarly significant, and seems to bear the stamp of truth, is only to be found in Plutarch. I give it here in full:

"On another occasion, when a kinsman on his birthday invited some boys to supper and Cato with them, in order to pass the time they played in a part of the house by themselves, younger and older together: and the game consisted of accusations and trials, and the arresting of those who were convicted. Now one of the boys convicted, who was of a handsome presence, being dragged off by an older boy to a chamber and shut up, called on Cato for aid. Cato seeing what was going on came to the door, and pushing through those who were posted in front of it to prevent him, took the boy out; and went off home with him in a passion, accompanied by other boys."

This is a unique picture of the ways and games of boys in the last century of the Republic. Like the children of all times, they play at that in which they see their fathers most active and interested; and this particular game must have been played in the miserable years of the civil wars and the proscriptions, as Cato was born in 95 B.C. Whether the part played by Cato in the story be true or not, the lesson for us is the same, and we shall find it entirely confirmed in the course of this chapter. The main object of education was the mastery of the art of oratory, and the chief practical use of that art was to enable a man to gain a reputation as an advocate in the criminal courts.[253]

Cicero had one boy, and for several years two, to look after, one his own son Marcus, born in 65 B.C., and the other Quintus, the son of his brother, a year older. Of these boys, until they took the toga virilis, he says hardly anything in his letters to Atticus, though Atticus was the uncle of the elder boy. Only when his brother Quintus was with Caesar in Gaul do we really begin to hear anything about them, and even then more than once, after a brief mention of the young Quintus, he goes off at once to tell his brother about the progress of the villas that are being built for him. But it is clear that the father wished to know about the boy as well as about the villas;[254] and in one letter we find Cicero telling Quintus that he wishes to teach his boy himself, as he has been teaching his own son. "I'll do wonders with him if I can get him to myself when I am at leisure, for at Rome there is not time to breathe (nam Romae respirandi non est locus)."[255] It is clear that the boys, who were only eleven and twelve in this year 54, were being educated at home, and as clear too that Cicero, who was just then very much occupied in the courts, had no time to attend to them himself. Young Quintus, we hear, gets on well with his rhetoric master; Cicero does not wholly approve the style in which he is being taught, and thinks he may be able to teach him his own more learned style, though the boy himself seems to prefer the declamatory method of the teacher.[256] The last entry in these letters to the absent father is curious:[257] "I love your Cicero as he deserves and as I ought. But I am letting him leave me, because I don't want to keep him from his masters, and because his mother is going away,--and without her I am nervous about his greediness!" Up to this point he has written in the warmest terms of the boy, but here, as so often in Cicero's letters about other people, disapprobation is barely hinted in order not to hurt the feelings of his correspondent.

The one thing that is really pleasing in these allusions is the genuine desire of both parents that their boys shall be of good disposition and well educated. But of real training or of home discipline we unluckily get no hint. We must go elsewhere for what little we know about the training of children. Let us now turn to this for a while, remembering that it means parental example and the discipline of the body as well as the acquisition of elementary knowledge. Unfortunately, no book has survived from that age in which the education of children was treated of. Varro wrote such a book, but we know of it little more than its name, Catus, sive de liberis educandis.[258] In the fourth book of his de Republica Cicero seems to have dealt with "disciplina puerilis," but from the few fragments that survive there is little to be learnt, and we may be pretty sure that Cicero could not write of this with much knowledge or experience. The most famous passage is that in which he quotes Polybius as blaming the Romans for neglecting it;[259] certainly, he adds, they never wished that the State should regulate the education of children, or that it should be all on one model; the Greeks took much unnecessary trouble about it. The Greeks of his own time whom Cicero knew did not inspire him with any exalted idea of the results of Greek education; but we should like to know whether in this book of his work on the State he did not express some feeling that on the children themselves, and therefore on their training, the fortunes of the State depend. Such had been the feeling of the old Romans, though their State laid down no laws for education, but trusted to the force of tradition and custom. Old Cato believed himself to be acting like an old Roman when he looked after the washing and dressing of his baby, and guided the child with personal care as he grew up, writing books for his use in large letters with his own hand.[260] But since Cato's day the idea of the State had lost strength; and this had an unfortunate effect on education, as on married life. The one hope of the age, the Stoic philosophy, was concerned with those who had attained to reason, i.e. to those who had reached their fourteenth year; in the Stoic view the child was indeed potentially reasonable, and thus a subject of interest, but in the Stoic ethics education does not take a very prominent place.[261] We are driven to the conclusion that a real interest in education as distinct from the acquisition of knowledge was as much wanting at Rome in Cicero's day as it has been till lately in England; and that it was not again awakened until Christianity had made the children sacred, not only because the Master so spoke of them, but because they were inheritors of eternal life.

Yet there had once been a Roman home education admirably suited to bring up a race of hardy and dutiful men and women. It was an education in the family virtues, thereafter to be turned to account in the service of the State. The mother nursed her own children and tended them in their earliest years. Then followed an education which we may call one in bodily activity, in demeanour, in religion, and in duty to the State. It is true that we have hardly any evidence of this but tradition; but when Varro, in one of the precious fragments of his book on education, describes his own bringing up in his Sabine home at Reate, we may be fairly sure that it adequately represents that of the old Roman farmer.[262] He tells us that he had a single tunic and toga, was seldom allowed a bath, and was made to learn to ride bareback--which reminds us of the life of the young Boer of the Transvaal before the late war. In another fragment he also tells us that both boys and girls used to wait on their parents at table.[263] Cato the elder, in a fragment preserved by Festus,[264] says that he was brought up from his earliest years to be frugal, hardy, and industrious, and worked steadily on the farm (in the Sabine country), in a stony region where he had to dig and plant the flinty soil. The tradition of such a healthy rearing remained in the memory of the Romans, and associated itself with the Sabines of central Italy, the type of men who could be called frugi:

rusticorum mascula militum
proles, Sabellis docta ligonibus
versare glebas et severae
matris ad arbitrium recisos
portare fustis.[265]

It was an education also in demeanour, and especially in obedience[266] and modesty. In that chapter of Plutarch's Life of Cato which has been already quoted, after describing how the father taught his boy to ride, to box, to swim, and so on, he goes on, "And he was as careful not to utter an indecent word before his son, as he would have been in the presence of the Vestal Virgins." The pudor of childhood was always esteemed at Rome: "adolescens pudentissimus" is the highest praise that can be given even to a grown youth;[267] and there are signs that a feeling survived of a certain sacredness of childhood, which Juvenal reflects in his famous words, "Maxima debetur puero reverentia." The origin of this feeling is probably to be found in the fact that both boys and girls were in ancient times brought up to help in performing the religious duties of the household, as camilli and camillae (acolytes); and this is perhaps the reason why they wore, throughout Roman history, the toga praetexta with the purple stripe, like magistrates and sacrificing priests.[268] It is hardly necessary to say that this religious side of education was an education in the practice of cult, and not in any kind of creed or ideas about the gods; but so far as it went its influence was good, as instilling the habit of reverence and the sense of duty from a very early age. Though the Romans of Cicero's time had lost their old conviction of the necessity of propitiating the gods of the State, it is probable that the tradition of family worship still survived in the majority of households.

Again, we may be sure that the idea of duty to the State was not omitted in this old-fashioned education. Cato wrote histories for his son in large letters, "so that without stirring out of the house, he might gain a knowledge of the illustrious actions of the ancient Romans, and of the customs of his country": but it is significant that in the next two or three generations the writers of annals took to glorifying--and falsifying--the achievements of members of their own families, rather than those of the State as a whole. Boys learnt the XII Tables by heart, and Cicero tells us that he did this in his own boyhood, though the practice had since then been dropped.[269] That ancient code of law would have acted, we may imagine, as a kind of catechism of the rules laid down by the State for the conduct of its citizens, and as a reminder that though the State had outgrown the rough legal clothing of its infancy, it had from the very beginning undertaken the duty of regulating the conduct of its citizens in their relations with each other. Again, when a great Roman died, it is said to have been the practice for parents to take their boys to hear the funeral oration in praise of one who had done great service to the State.[270]

All this was admirable, and if Rome had not become a great imperial state, and if some super-structure of the humanities could have been added in a natural process of development, it might have continued for ages as an invaluable educational basis. But the conditions under which alone it could flourish had long ceased to be. It is obvious that it depended entirely on the presence of the parents and their interest in the children; as regards the boys it depended chiefly on the father. Now ever since the Roman dominion was extended beyond sea, i.e. ever since the first two Punic wars, the father of a family must often have been away from home for long periods; he might have to serve in foreign wars for years together, and in numberless cases never saw Italy again. Even if he remained in Rome, the ever increasing business of the State would occupy him far more than was compatible with a constant personal care for his children. The conscientious Roman father of the last two centuries B.C. must have felt even more keenly than English parents in India the sorrow of parting from their children at an age when they are most in need of parental care. We have to remember that in Cicero's day letter-writing had only recently become possible on an extended scale through the increasing business of the publicani in the provinces (see above, p.

  1. ; the Roman father in Spain or Asia seldom heard of what his wife and children were doing, and the inevitable result was that he began to cease to care. In fact more and more came to depend on the mothers, as with our own hard-working professional classes; and we have seen reason to believe that in the last age of the Republic the average mother was not too often a conscientious or dutiful woman. The constant liability to divorce would naturally diminish her interest in her children, for after separation she had no part or lot in them. And this no doubt is one reason why at this particular period we hear so little of the life of children. There is indeed no reason to suppose that they themselves were unhappy; they had plenty of games, which were so familiar that the poets often allude to them--hoops, tops, dolls, blind man's buff, and the favourite games of "nuts" and "king."[271] But the real question is not whether they could enjoy their young life, but whether they were learning to use their bodies and minds to good purpose.

When a boy was about seven years old, the question would arise in most families whether he should remain at home or go to an elementary school.[272] No doubt it was usually decided by the means at the command of the parents. A wealthy father might see his son through his whole education at home by providing a tutor (paedagogus), and more advanced teachers as they were needed. Cato indeed, as we have seen, found time to do much of the work himself, but he also had a slave who taught his own and other children. Aemilius Paullus had several teachers in his house for this purpose, under his own superintendence.[273] Cicero too, as we have seen, seems to have educated his son at home, though he himself is said to have attended a school. But we may suppose that the ordinary boy of the upper classes went to school, under the care of a paedagogus, after the Greek fashion, rising before daylight, and submitting to severe discipline, which, together with the absolute necessity for a free Roman of attaining a certain level of acquirement, effectually compelled him to learn to read, write, and cipher.[274] This elementary work must have been done well; we hear little or nothing of gross ignorance or neglected education.

There were, however, very serious defects in this system of elementary education. Not only the schoolmaster himself, but the paedagogus who was responsible for the boy's conduct, was almost always either a slave or a freedman; and neither slave nor freedman could be an object of profound respect for a Roman boy. Hence no doubt the necessity of maintaining discipline rather by means of corporal punishment (to which the Romans never seem to have objected, though Quintilian criticises it)[275] than by moral force; a fact which is attested both in literature and art. The responsibility again which attached to the paedagogus for the boy's morals must have been another inducement to the parents to renounce their proper work of supervision.[276] And once more, the great majority of teachers were Greeks. As the boy was born into a bilingual Graeco-Roman world, of which the Greeks were the only cultured people, this might seem natural and inevitable; but we know that in his heart the Roman despised the Greek. Of witnesses in their favour we might expect Cicero to be the strongest, but Cicero occasionally lets us know what he really thinks of their moral character. In a remarkable passage in his speech for Flaccus, which is fully borne out by remarks in his private letters, he says that he grants them all manner of literary and rhetorical skill, but that the race never understood or cared for the sacred binding force of testimony given in a court of law.[277] Thus the Roman boy was in the anomalous position of having to submit to chastisement from men whom as men he despised. Assuredly we should not like our public schoolboys to be taught or punished by men of low station or of an inferior standard of morals It is men, not methods, that really tell in education; the Roman schoolboy needed some one to believe in some one to whom to be wholly loyal; the very same overpowering need which was so obvious in the political world of Rome in the last century B.C.[278]

Of this elementary teaching little need be said here, as it did not bear directly on life and conduct. There is, however, one feature of it which may claim our attention for a moment. Both in reading and writing, and also for learning by heart, sententiae [Greek: gnomai] were used, which remind us of our copy-book maxims. Of these we have a large collection, more than 700, selected from the mimes of Publilius Syrus, who came to Rome from Syria as a slave in the age of which we are writing, and after obtaining his freedom gained great reputation as the author of many popular plays of this kind, in which he contrived to insert these wise saws and maxims. It is not likely that they found their way into the schools all at once, but in the early Empire we find them already alluded to as educational material by Seneca the elder,[279] and we may take them as a fair example of the maxims already in use in Cicero's time, making some allowance for their superior neatness and wisdom. Here are a few specimens, taken almost at random; it will be seen that they convey much shrewd good sense, and occasionally have the true ring of humanity as well as the flavour of Stoic sapientia. I quote from the excellent edition by Mr. Bickford-Smith.[280]

Avarus ipse miseriae causa est suae. Audendo virtus crescit, tardando timor. Cicatrix conscientiae pro vulnere est. Fortunam[281] citius reperias quam retineas. Cravissima est probi hominis iracundia. Homo totiens moritur, quotiens amittit suos. Homo vitae commodatus, non donatus est. Humanitatis optima est certatio.
Iucundum nil est, nisi quod reficit varietas. Malum est consilium quod mutari non potest. Minus saepe pecces, si scias quod nescias. Perpetuo vincit qui utitur clementia. Qui ius iurandum servat, quovis pervenit. Ubi peccat aetas maior, male discit minor.

I have quoted these to show that Roman children were not without opportunity even in early schooldays of laying to heart much that might lead them to good and generous conduct in later life, as well as to practical wisdom. But we know the fate of our own copy-book maxims; we know that it is not through them that our children become good men and women, but by the example and the un-systematised precepts of parents and teachers. No such neat [Greek gnomai] can do much good without a sanction of greater force than any that is inherent in them and such a sanction was not to be found in the ferula of the grammaticus or the paedagogus. Once more it is men and not methods that supply the real educational force.

Probably the greatest difficulty which the Roman boy had to face in his school life was the learning of arithmetic; it was this, we may imagine, that made him think of his master, as Horace did of the worthy Orbilius,[282] as a man of blows (plagosus). This is not the place to give an account of the methods of reckoning then used; they will be found fully explained in Marquardt's Privatleben, and compressed into a page by Professor Wilkins in his _Roman Education_[283]. It is enough to say that they were as indispensable as they were difficult to learn. "An orator was expected, according to Quintilian (i. 10. 35), not only to be able to make his calculations in court, but also to show clearly to his audience how he arrived at his results." From the small inn-keeper to the great capitalist, every man of business needed to be perfectly at home in reckoning sums of money. The magistrates, especially quaestors and aediles, had staffs of clerks who must have been skilled accountants; the provincial governors and all who were engaged in collecting the tributes of the provinces, as well as in lending the money to enable the tax-payers to pay (see above, 71 foll.), were constantly busy with their ledgers. The humbler inhabitants of the Empire had long been growing familiar with the Roman aptitude for arithmetic.[284]

Grais ingenium, Grais dedit ore rotundo Musa loqui, praeter laudem nullius avaris. Romani pueri longis rationibus assem discunt in partes centum diducere. "Dicat films Albini: si de quincunce remota est uncia, quid superat? poteras dixisse." "triens." "eu! rem poteris servare tuam."[285]

This familiar passage may be quoted once more to illustrate the practical nature of the Roman school teaching and the ends which it was to serve. Utilitarian to the backbone, the ordinary Roman, like the ordinary British, parent, wanted his son to get on in life; it was only the parent of a higher class who sacrificed anything to the Muses, and then chiefly because in a public career it was de rigueur that the boy should not be ignorant or boorish.

When the son of well-to-do parents had mastered the necessary elements, he was advanced to the higher type of school kept by a grammaticus, and there made his first real acquaintance with literature; and this was henceforward, until he began to study rhetoric and philosophy, the staple of his work. We may note, by the way, that science, i.e. the higher mathematics and astronomy, was reckoned under the head of philosophy, while medicine and jurisprudence had become professional studies,[286] to learn which it was necessary to attach yourself to an experienced practitioner, as with the art of war In the grammar schools, as we may call them, the course was purely literary and humanistic, and it was conducted both in Greek and Latin, but chiefly in Greek, as a natural result of the comparative scantiness of Latin literature.[287] Homer, Hesiod, and Menander were the favourite authors studied; only later on, after the full bloom of the Augustan literature, did Latin poets, especially Virgil and Horace, take a place of almost equal importance. The study of the Greek poets was apparently a thorough one. It included the teaching of language, grammar, metre, style, and subject matter, and was aided by reading aloud, which was reckoned of great importance, and learning by heart, on the part of the pupils. In the discussion of the subject matter any amount of comment was freely allowed to the master, who indeed was expected to have at his fingers' ends explanations of all sorts of allusions, and thus to enable the boys to pick up a great deal of odd knowledge and a certain amount of history, mixed up of course with a large percentage of valueless mythology. "In grammaticis," says Cicero, "poetarum pertractatio, historiarum cognitio, verborum interpretatio, pronuntiandi quidam sonus."[288] The method, if such it can be called, was not at all unlike that pursued in our own public schools, Eton, for example, before new methods and subjects came in. Its great defect in each case was that it gave but little opportunity for learning to distinguish fact from fancy, or acquiring that scientific habit of mind which is now becoming essential for success in all departments of life, and which at Rome was so rare that it seems audacious to claim it even for such a man of action as Caesar, or for such a man of letters as Varro. In England this defect was compensated to some extent by the manly tone of school life, but at Rome that side of school education was wanting, and the result was a want of solidity both intellectual and moral.

The one saving feature, given a really good and high-minded teacher, might be the appeal to the example of the great and good men of the past, both Greek and Roman, and the study of their motives in action, in good fortune and ill. This is the kind of teaching which we find illustrated in the book of Valerius Maximus, which has already been alluded to, who takes some special virtue or fine quality as the subject of most of his chapters,[289]--fortitudo, patientia, abstinentia, moderatio, pietas erga parentes, amicitia, and so on, and illustrates them by examples and stories drawn mainly from Roman history, partly also from Greek. This kind of appeal to the young mind was undoubtedly good, and the finest product of the method is the immortal work of Plutarch, the Lives of the great men of Greece and Rome, drawn up for ethical rather than historical purposes. But here again we must note a serious drawback. Any one who turns over the pages of Valerius will see that these stories of the great men of the past are so detached from their historical surroundings that they could not possibly serve as helps in the practical conduct of life; they might indeed do positive mischief, by leading a shallow reasoner to suppose that what may have been justifiable at one time and under certain circumstances, regicide, for example, or exposure of oneself in battle, is justifiable at all times and in all circumstances. Such an appeal failed also by discouraging the habit of thinking about the facts and problems of the day; and right-minded men like Cicero and Cato the younger both suffered from this weakness of a purely literary early training. Another drawback is that this teaching inevitably exaggerated the personal element in history, at the very time too when personalities were claiming more than their due share of the world's attention; and thus the great lessons which Polybius had tried to teach the Graeco-Roman world, of seeking for causes in historical investigation, and of meditating on the phenomena of the world you live in, were passed over or forgotten.

But so far as the study of language, of artistic diction, of elocution, and intelligent reading could help a boy to prepare himself for life, this education was good; more especially good as laying a foundation for the acquirement of that art of oratory which, from old Cato's time onwards, had been the chief end to be aimed at by all intending to take part in public life. Cato indeed had well said to his son, "Orator est, Marce fili, vir bonus dicendi peritus,"[290] thus putting the ethical stamp of the man in the first place; and his "rem tene, verba sequentur" is a valuable bit of advice for all learners and teachers of literature. But more and more the end of all education had come to be the art of oratory, and particularly the art as exercised in the courts of law, where in Cicero's time neither truth nor fact was supreme, and where the first thing required was to be a clever speaker,--a vir bonus by all means if you were so disposed. But to this we shall return directly.

In such schools, if he were not educated at home, the boy remained till he was invested with the toga virilis, or pura. In the late Republic this usually took place between the fourteenth and seventeenth years;[291] thus the two young Ciceros seem both to have been sixteen when they received the toga virilis, while Octavian and Virgil were just fifteen, and the son of Antony only fourteen. In former times it seems probable that the boy remained "praetextatus" till he was seventeen, the age at which he was legally capable of military service, and that he went straight from the home to the levy;[292] in case of severe military pressure, or if he wished it himself, he might begin his first military exercises and even his active service, in the praetexta. But as in so many other ways, so here the life of the city brought about a change; in a city boys are apt to develop more rapidly in intelligence if not in body, and as the toga virilis was the mark of legal qualification as a man, they might be of more use to the family in the absence of the father if invested with it somewhat earlier than had been the primitive custom. But there was no hard and fast rule; boys develop with much variation both mentally and physically, and, like the Eton collar of our own schoolboys, the toga of childhood might be retained or dropped entirely at the discretion of the parents.

There is, however, a great difference in the two cases in regard to the assumption of the manly dress. With us it does not mean independence; as a rule the boy remains at school for a year or two at least under strict discipline. At Rome it meant, on the contrary, that he was "of age," and in the eye of the law a man, capable of looking after his own education and of holding property. This was a survival from the time when at the age of puberty the boy, as among all primitive peoples, was solemnly received into the body of citizens and warriors; and the solemnity of the Roman ceremony fully attests this. After a sacrifice in the house, and the dedication of his boyish toga and bulla to the Lar familiaris, he was invested with the plain toga of manhood (libera, pura), and conducted by his father or guardian, accompanied (in characteristic Roman fashion, see below, p. 271) by friends and relations, to the Forum, and probably also to the tabularium under the Capitol, where his name was entered in the list of full citizens.[293]

With the new arrangement, under which boys might become legally men at an earlier age than in the old days, it is obvious that there must often have been an interval before they were physically or mentally qualified for a profession. As the sole civil profession to which boys of high family would aspire was that of the bar, a father would send his son during that interval to a distinguished advocate to be taken as a pupil. Cicero himself was thus apprenticed to Mucius Scaevola the augur: and in the same way the young Caelius, as soon as he had taken his toga virilis, was brought by his father to Cicero. The relation between the youth and his preceptor was not unlike that of the contubernium in military life, in which the general to whom a lad was committed was supposed to be responsible for his welfare and conduct as well as for his education in the art of war: thus Cicero says of Caelius[294] that at that period of his life no one ever saw him "except with his father or with me, or in the very well-conducted house of M. Crassus" (who shared with Cicero in the guardianship). "Fuit assiduus mecum," he says a little farther on. This kind of pupilage was called the tirocinium fori, in which a lad should be pursuing his studies for the legal profession, and also his bodily exercises in the Campus Martius, so that he might be ready to serve in the army for the single campaign which was still desirable if not absolutely necessary. When he had made his first speech in a court of law, he was said tirocinium ponere,[295] and if it were a success, he might devote himself more particularly henceforward to the art and practice of oratory. No doubt all really ambitious young men, who aimed at high office and an eventual provincial government, would, like Caesar, endeavour to qualify themselves for the army as well as the Forum. Cicero, however, whose instincts were not military, served only in one campaign, at the age of seventeen, and apparently he advised Caelius to do no more than this. Caelius served under

  1. Pompeius proconsul of Africa, to whom he was attached as contubernalis, choosing this province because his father had estates there.[296] It was only on his return with a good character from Pompeius that he proceeded to exhibit his skill as an orator by accusing some distinguished person--in this case the Antonius who was afterwards consul with Cicero.[297]

To attain the skill in oratory which would enable the pupil to make a successful appearance in the Forum, he must have gone through an elaborate training in the art of rhetoric. Cicero does not tell us whether he himself gave Caelius lessons in rhetoric, or whether he sent him to a professional teacher; he had himself written a treatise on a part of the subject--the de Inventione of 80 B.C., the earliest of all his prose works--and was therefore quite able to give the necessary instruction if he found time to do so. It is not the object of this chapter to explain the meaning of rhetoric as the Graeco-Roman world then understood it, or the theory of a rhetorical education; for this the reader must be referred to Professor Wilkins' little book,[298] or, better still, to the main source of our knowledge, the Institutio Oratoris of Quintilian. Something may, however, be said here of the view taken of a rhetorical training by Cicero himself, very clearly expressed in the exordium of the treatise just mentioned, and often more or less directly reiterated in his later and more mature works on oratory.

"After much meditation," he says, "I have been led to the conclusion that wisdom without eloquence is of little use to a state, while eloquence without wisdom is often positively harmful, and never of any value. Thus if a man, abandoning the study of reason and duty, which is always perfectly straight and honourable, spends his whole time in the practice of speaking, he is being brought up to be a hindrance to his own development, and a dangerous citizen." This reminds us of Cato's saying that an orator is "vir bonus dicendi peritus." Less strongly expressed, the same view is also found in the exordium of another and more mature treatise on rhetoric, by an author whose name is unknown, written a year or two before that of Cicero: "Non enim parum in se fructus habet copia dicendi et commoditas orationis, si recta intelligentia et definita animi moderatione gubernetur."[299] We may assume that in Cicero's early years the best men felt that the rhetorical art, if it were to be of real value to the individual and the state, must be used with discretion, and accompanied by high aims and upright conduct.

Yet within a generation of the date when these wise words were written, the letters of Caelius show us that the art was used utterly without discretion, and to the detriment both of state and individual. The high ideal of culture and conduct had been lost in the actual practice of oratory, in a degenerate age, full of petty ambitions and animosities. We ourselves know only too well how a thing good in itself as a means is apt to lose its value if raised into the place of an end;--how the young mind is apt to elevate cricket, football, golf, into the main object of all human activity. So it was with rhetoric; it was the indispensable acquirement to enable a man to enjoy thoroughly the game in the Forum, and thus in education it became the staple commodity. The actual process of acquiring it was no doubt an excellent intellectual exercise,--the learning rules of composition, the exercises in applying these rules, i.e. the writing of themes or essays (proposita, communes loci), in which the pupil had "to find and arrange his own facts,"[300] and then the declamatio, or exercise in actual speaking on a given subject, which in Cicero's day was called causa, and was later known as controversia.[301] Such practice must have brought out much talent and ingenuity, like that of our own debating societies at school and college. But there were two great defects in it. First, as Professor Wilkins points out, the subjects of declamation were too often out of all relation to real life, e.g. taken from the Greek mythology; or if less barren than usual, were far more commonplace and flat than those of our debating societies. To harangue on the question whether the life of a lawyer or a soldier is the best, is hardly so inspiring as to debate a question of the day about Ireland or India, which educates in living fact as well as in the rules of the orator's art. Secondly, the whole aim and object of this "finishing" portion of a boy's education was a false one. Even the excellent Quintilian, the best of all Roman teachers, believed that the statesman (civilis vir) and the orator are identical: that the statesman must be vir bonus because the vir bonus makes the best orator; that he should be sapiens for the same reason.[302] And the object of oratory is "id agere, ut iudici quae proposita fuerint, vera et honesta videantur":[303] i.e. the object is not truth, but persuasion. We might get an idea of how such a training would fail in forming character, if we could imagine all our liberal education subordinated to the practice of journalism. But fortunately for us, in this scientific age, words and the use of words no longer serve as the basis of education or as the chief nurture of young life. We need to see facts, to understand causes, to distinguish objective truth from truth reflected in books. But the perfect education must be a skilful mingling of the two methods; and it may be as well to take care that we do not lose contact with the best thoughts of the best men, because they are contained in the literature we show some signs of neglecting. We may say of science what Cicero said of rhetoric, that it cannot do without sapientia.

Of schools of philosophy I have already said something in the last chapter, and as the study of philosophy was hardly a part of the regular curriculum of education properly so called, I shall pass it over here. The philosopher was usually to be found in wealthy houses, and if he were a wholesome person, and not a Philodemus, he might assuredly exercise a good influence on a young man. Or a youth might go to Athens or Rhodes or to some other Greek city, to attend the lectures of some famous professor. Cicero heard Phaedrus the Epicurean at Rome and then Philo the Academician, who had a lasting influence on his pupil, and then, at the age of twenty-seven, went to Greece for two years, studying at Athens, Rhodes, and elsewhere. Caesar also went to Rhodes, and he and Cicero both attended the lectures of Molo in rhetoric, in which study, as well as in philosophy, lectures were to be heard in all the great Greek cities.[304] Cicero sent his own son to "the University in Athens" at the age of twenty, giving him an ample allowance and doubtless much good advice. The young man soon outran his allowance and got into debt; the good advice he seems to have failed to utilise, and in fact gave his father considerable anxiety.

The following letter, which seems to show that a youth who had excellent opportunities might still be lacking in principle and self-control, is the only one which survives of the letters of undergraduates of that day. It was written by the young Cicero, after he had repented and undertaken to reform, not to his father himself, but to the faithful friend and freedman of his father, Tiro, who afterwards edited the collection of letters in which he inserted it.[305] It is on the whole a pleasing letter, and seems to show real affection for Tiro, who had known the writer from his infancy. It is a little odd in the choice of words, perhaps a trifle rhetorical. The reader shall be left to decide for himself whether it is perfectly straight and genuine. In any case it may aptly conclude this chapter.

"I had been anxiously expecting letter-carriers day after day, when at last they arrived forty-six days after they left you. Their arrival was most welcome to me. I took the greatest possible pleasure in the letter of the kindest and best beloved of fathers, but your own delightful letter put the finishing touch to my joy. So I no longer repent of dropping letter-writing for a time, but am rather glad I did so, for my silence has brought me a great reward in your kindness. I am very glad indeed that you accepted my excuse without hesitation.

"I am sure, my dearest Tiro, that the reports about me which reach you answer your best wishes and hopes. I will make them good, and I will do my best that this beginning of a good report about me may daily be repeated. So you may with perfect confidence fulfil your promise of being the trumpeter (buccinator) of my reputation. For the errors of my youth have caused me so much remorse and suffering, that it is not only my heart that shrinks from what I did--my very ears abhor the mention of it. I know for a fact that you have shared my trouble and sorrow, and I don't wonder; you always wished me to do well not only for my sake but for your own. So as I have been the means of giving you pain, I will now take care that you shall feel double joy on my account.

"Let me tell you that my attachment to Cratippus is that of a son rather than a pupil: I enjoy his lectures, but I am especially charmed by his delightful manners. I spend whole days with him, and often part of the night, for I get him to dine with me as often as I can. We have grown so intimate that he often drops in upon us unexpectedly while we are at dinner, lays aside the stiff air of a philosopher, and joins in our jests with the greatest good will. He is such a man, so delightful, so distinguished, that you ought to make his acquaintance as soon as ever you can. As for Bruttius, I never let him leave me. He is a man of strict and moral life, as well as being the most delightful company. Surely it is not necessary that in our daily literary studies there should never be any fun at all. I have taken a lodging close to him, and as far as I can with my pittance I subsidise his narrow means. I have also begun practising declamation in Greek with Cassius; in Latin I like having my practice with Bruttius. My intimate friends and daily company are those whom Cratippus brought with him from Mitylene,--good scholars, of whom he has the highest opinion. I also see a great deal of Epicrates the leading man at Athens, and Leonides, and people of that sort. So now you know how I am going on.

"You say something in your letter about Gorgias. The fact is that I found him very useful in my daily practice of declamation, but I put my father's injunctions before everything else, and he had written telling me to give up Gorgias at once. I wouldn't shilly-shally about it, for fear my making a fuss might put some suspicion in my father's head. Moreover it occurred to me that it would be offensive for me to express an opinion on a decision of my father's. However, your interest and advice are welcome and acceptable.

"Your apology for want of time I readily accept, for I know how busy you always are. I am very glad you have bought an estate, and you have my best wishes for the success of your purchase. Don't be surprised at my congratulations coming at this point in my letter, for it was at the corresponding point in yours that you told me of this. You must drop your city manners (urbanitates); you are a 'rusticus Romanus!' How clearly I see your dearest face before me at this moment! I seem to see you buying things for the farm, talking to your bailiff, saving the seeds at dessert in your cloak. But as to the matter of money, I am sorry I was not there to help you. Don't doubt, my dear Tiro, about my helping you in the future, if fortune will but stand by me, especially as I know that this estate has been bought for our mutual advantage. As to my commissions about which you are taking trouble, many thanks! I beg you to send me a secretary at the first opportunity, if possible a Greek: for he will save me much trouble in copying out notes. Above all, take care of your health, that we may have some literary talk together some day. I commend Anteros to you. Adieu."

Prev | Next | Contents