The Common People of Ancient Rome eBook

Frank Frost Abbott
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 172 pages of information about The Common People of Ancient Rome.

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 Scaevola.  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 Scaevola, when he set forth the discourse of Laelius 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 Caesarians, he whimsically writes to his friend Paetus 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.

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The Common People of Ancient Rome from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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