CORRESPONDENCE OF M. AURELIUS ANTONINUS AND M. CORNELIUS FRONTO
M. CORNELIUS FRONTO(1) was a Roman by descent, but of provincial birth, being native to Cirta, in Numidia. Thence he migrated to Rome in the reign of Hadrian, and became the most famous rhetorician of his day. As a pleader and orator he was counted by his contemporaries hardly inferior to Tully himself, and as a teacher his aid was sought for the noblest youths of Rome. To him was entrusted the education of M.
Aurelius and of his colleague L. Verus in their boyhood; and he was rewarded for his efforts by a seat in the Senate and the consular rank (A.D. 143). By the exercise of his profession he became wealthy; and if he speaks of his means as not great,(2) he must be comparing his wealth with the grandees of Rome, not with the ordinary citizen.
Before the present century nothing was known of the works of Fronto, except a grammatical treatise; but in 1815 Cardinal Mai published a number of letters and some short essays of Fronto, which he had discovered in a palimpsest at Milan. Other parts of the same MS. he found later in the Vatican, the whole being collected
1 References are made to the edition of Naber, Leipzig (Trübner), 1867.
2 Ad Verum imp. Aur. Caes., ii, 7. and edited in the year 1823.
We now possess parts of his correspondence with Antoninus Pius, with M. Aurelius, with L. Verus, and with certain of his friends, and also several rhetorical and historical fragments. Though none of the more ambitious works of Fronto have survived, there are enough to give proof of his powers. Never was a great literary reputation less deserved. It would be hard to conceive of anything more vapid than the style and conception of these letters; clearly the man was a pedant without imagination or taste. Such indeed was the age he lived in, and it is no marvel that he was like to his age. But there must have been more in him than mere pedantry; there was indeed a heart in the man, which Marcus found, and he found also a tongue which could speak the truth. Fronto's letters are by no means free from exaggeration and laudation, but they do not show that loathsome flattery which filled the Roman court. He really admires what he praises, and his way of saying so is not unlike what often passes for criticism at the present day. He is not afraid to reprove what he thinks amiss; and the astonishment of Marcus at this will prove, if proof were needed, that he was not used to plain dealing. "How happy I am," he writes, "that my friend Marcus Cornelius, so distinguished as an orator and so noble as a man, thinks me worth praising and blaming."(1) In another place he deems himself blest because Pronto had taught him to speak the truth(2) although the context shows him to be speaking of expression, it is still a point in favour of Pronto. A sincere heart is better than literary taste; and if Fronto had not done his duty by the young prince, it is not easy to understand the friendship which remained between them up to the last.
1 Ad M. Caes iii. 17
2 Ad M. Caes iii. 12
An example of the frankness which was between them is given by a difference they had over the case of Herodes Atticus. Herodes was a Greek rhetorician who had a school at Rome, and Marcus Aurelius was among his pupils. Both Marcus and the Emperor Antoninus had a high opinion of Herodes; and all we know goes to prove he was a man of high character and princely generosity. When quite young he was made administrator of the free cities in Asia, nor is it surprising to find that he made bitter enemies there; indeed, a just ruler was sure to make enemies. The end of it was that an Athenian deputation, headed by the orators Theodotus and Demostratus, made serious accusations against his honour. There is no need to discuss the merits of the case here; suffice it to say, Herodes succeeded in defending himself to the satisfaction of the emperor. Pronto appears to have taken the delegates' part, and to have accepted a brief for the prosecution, urged to some extent by personal considerations; and in this cause Marcus Aurelius writes to Fronto as follows 'AURELIUS CAESAR to his friend FRONTO, greeting.(1) 'I know you have often told me you were anxious to find how you might best please me. Now is the time; now you can increase my love towards you, if it can be increased. A trial is at hand, in which people seem likely not only to hear your speech with pleasure, but to see your indignation with impatience. I see no one who dares give you a hint in the matter; for those who are less friendly, prefer to see you act with some inconsistency; and those who are more friendly, fear to seem too friendly to your opponent if they should dissuade you from your accusation; then again, in case you have prepared something neat for the occasion, they cannot endure to rob you of your harangue by silencing you. Therefore, whether you think me a rash counsellor, or a bold boy, or too kind to your opponent, not because I think it better, I will offer my counsel with some caution. But why have I said, offer my counsel? No, I demand it from you; I demand it boldly, and if I succeed, I promise to remain under your obligation. What? you will say if I am attackt, shall I not pay tit for tat? Ah, but you will get greater glory, if even when attackt you answer nothing. Indeed, if he begins it, answer as you will and you will have fair excuse; but I have demanded of him that he shall not begin, and I think I have succeeded. I love each of you according to your merits and I know that lie was educated in the house of P. Calvisius, my grandfather, and that I was educated by you; therefore I am full of anxiety that this most disagreeable business shall be managed as honourably as possible. I trust you may approve my advice, for my intention you will approve. At least I prefer to write unwisely rather than to be silent unkindly.'
1 Ad M. Caes ii., 2.
Fronto replied, thanking the prince for his advice, and promising that he will confine himself to the facts of the case. But he points out that the charges brought against Herodes were such, that they can hardly be made agreeable; amongst them being spoliation, violence, and murder. However, he is willing even to let some of these drop if it be the prince's pleasure. To this Marcus returned the following answer:—(1) 'This one thing, my dearest Fronto, is enough to make me truly grateful to you, that so far from rejecting my counsel, you have even approved it. As to the question you raise in your kind letter, my opinion is this: all that concerns the case which you are supporting must be clearly brought forward; what concerns your own feelings, though you may have had just provocation, should be left unsaid.' The story does credit to both. Fronto shows no loss of temper at the interference, nor shrinks from stating his case with frankness; and Marcus, with forbearance remarkable in a prince, does not command that his friend be left unmolested, but merely stipulates for a fair trial on the merits of the case.
Another example may be given from a letter of Fronto's (2) Here is something else quarrelsome and querulous. I have sometimes found fault with you in your absence somewhat seriously in the company of a few of my most intimate friends: at times, for example, when you mixt in society with a more solemn look than was fitting, or would read books in the theatre or in a banquet; nor did I absent myself from theatre or banquet when you did (3). Then I used to call you a hard man, no good company, even disagreeable, sometimes, when anger got the better of me. But did any one else in the same banquet speak against you, I could not endure to hear it with equanimity. Thus it was easier for me to say something to your disadvantage myself, than to hear others do it; just as I could more easily bear to chastise my daughter Gratia, than to see her chastised by another.'
1. Ad. M. Caes., iii. 5.
2. iv. 12.
3 The text is obscure
The affection between them is clear from every page of the correspondence. A few instances are now given, which were written at different periods To MY MASTER.(1) 'This is how I have past the last few days. My sister was suddenly seized with an internal pain, so violent that I was horrified at her looks; my mother in her trepidation on that account accidentally bruised her side on a corner of the wall; she and we were greatly troubled about that blow. For myself; on going to rest I found a scorpion in my bed; but I did not lie down upon him, I killed him first. If you are getting on better, that is a consolation. My mother is easier now, thanks be to God. Good-bye, best and sweetest master. My lady sends you greeting.'
(2)'What words can I find to fit my had luck, or how shall I upbraid as it deserves the hard constraint which is laid upon me? It ties me fast here, troubled my heart is, and beset by such anxiety; nor does it allow me to make haste to my Fronto, my life and delight, to be near him at such a moment of ill-health in particular, to hold his hands, to chafe gently that identical foot, so far as may be done without discomfort, to attend him in the bath, to support his steps with my arm.'
(3)'This morning I did not write to you, because I heard you were better, and because I was myself engaged in other business, and I cannot ever endure to write anything to you unless with mind at ease and untroubled and free. So if we are all right, let me know: what I desire, you know, and how properly I desire it, I know. Farewell, my master, always in every chance first in my mind, as you deserve to be. My master, see I am not asleep, and I compel myself to sleep, that you may not be angry with me. You gather I am writing this late at night.'
1 Ad M. Caes., v. 8.
2 i. 2.
3 iii. 21.
(1)'What spirit do you suppose is in me, when I remember how long it is since I have seen you, and why I have not seen you 1 and it may be I shall not see you for a few days yet, while you are strengthening yourself; as you must. So while you lie on the sick-bed, my spirit also will lie low anti, whenas,(2) by God's mercy you shall stand upright, my spirit too will stand firm, which is now burning with the strongest desire for you. Farewell, soul of your prince, your (3)O my dear Fronto, most distinguished Consul! I yield, you have conquered: all who have ever loved before, you have conquered out and out in love's contest. Receive the victor's wreath; and the herald shall proclaim your victory aloud before your own tribunal: "M. Cornelius Fronto, Consul, wins, and is crowned victor in the Open International Love-race."(4) But beaten though I may be, I shall neither slacken nor relax my own zeal. Well, you shall love me more than any man loves any other man; but I, who possess a faculty of loving less strong, shall love you more than any one else loves you; more indeed than you love yourself. Gratia and I will have to fight for it; I doubt I shall not get the better of her. For, as Plautus says, her love is like rain, whose big drops not only penetrate the dress, but drench to the very marrow.'
Marcus Aurelius seems to have been about eighteen years of age when the correspondence begins, Fronto being some thirty years older.(5) The systematic education of the young prince seems to have been finisht, and Pronto now acts more as his adviser than his tutor. He recommends the prince to use simplicity in his public speeches, and to avoid affectation.(6) Marcus devotes his attention to the old authors who then had a great vogue at Rome: Ennius, Plautus, Nawius, and such orators as Cato and Gracchus.(7) Pronto urges on him the study of Cicero, whose letters, he says, are all worth reading.
1 Ad M. Caes., iii. 19.
2 The writer sometimes uses archaisms such as quom, which I render 'whenas'.
3 Ad M. Caes., ii. 2.
4 The writer parodies the proclamation at the Greek games; the words also are Greek.
5 From internal evidence: the letters are not arranged in order of time. See Naher's Prolegomena, p. xx. foil.
6 Ad M. Caes., iii. x.
7 Ad M. Caes ii. 10,; iii. 18,; ii. 4.
When he wishes to compliment Marcus he declares one or other of his letters has the true Tullian ring. Marcus gives his nights to reading when he ought to be sleeping. He exercises himself in verse composition and on rhetorical themes.
'It is very nice of you,' he writes to Fronto,(1) 'to ask for my hexameters; I would have sent them at once if I had them by me. The fact is my secretary, Anicetus-you know who I mean-did not pack up any of my compositions for me to take away with me. He knows my weakness; he was afraid that if I got hold of them I might, as usual, make smoke of them. However, there was no fear for the hexameters. I must confess the truth to my master: I love them. I study at night, since the day is taken up with the theatre. I am weary of an evening, and sleepy in the daylight, and so I don't do much. Yet I have made extracts from sixty books, five volumes of them, in these latter days. But when you read remember that the "sixty" includes plays of Novius, and farces, and some little speeches of Scipio; don't be too much startled at the number. You remember your Polemon; but I pray you do not remember Horace, who has died with Pollio as far as I am concerned.(2) Farewell, my dearest and most affectionate friend, most distinguished consul and my beloved master, whom I have not seen these two years. Those who say two months, count the days. Shall I ever see you again?'
Sometimes Fronto sends him a theme to work up, as thus: 'M. Lucilius tribune of the people violently throws into prison a free Roman citizen, against the opinion of his colleagues who demand his release. For this act he is branded by the censor. Analyse the case, and then take both sides in turn, attacking and defending.'(3) Or again: 'A Roman consul, doffing his state robe, dons the gauntlet and kills a lion amongst the young men at the Quinquatrus in full view of the people of Rome. Denunciation before the censors.'(4) The prince has a fair knowledge of Greek, and quotes from Homer, Plato, Euripides, but for some reason Fronto dissuaded him from this study.(5) His Meditations are written in Greek. He continued his literary studies throughout his life, and after he became emperor we still find him asking his adviser for copies of Cicero's Letters, by which he hopes to improve his vocabulary.(6) Pronto Helps him with a supply of similes, which, it seems, he did not think of readily. It is to be feared that the fount of Marcus's eloquence was pumped up by artificial means.
1 Ad M. Caes., ii. 10.
2 He implies, as in i. 6, that he has ceased to study Horace.
3 Pollio was a grammarian, who taught Marcus.
4 Ad M. Caes., v. 27,; V. 22.
5 Ep. Gracae, 6.
6 Ad Anton. Imp., II. 4.
Some idea of his literary style may be gathered from the letter which follows:(1) 'I heard Polemo declaim the other day, to say something of things sublunary. If you ask what I thought of him, listen. He seems to me an industrious farmer, endowed with the greatest skill, who has cultivated a large estate for corn and vines only, and indeed with a rich return of fine crops. But yet in that land of his there is no Pompeian fig or Arician vegetable, no Tarentine rose, or pleasing coppice, or thick grove, or shady plane tree; all is for use rather than for pleasure, such as one ought rather to commend, but cares not to love.
A pretty bold idea, is it not, and rash judgment, to pass censure on a man of such reputation? But whenas I remember that I am writing to you, I think I am less bold than you would have me.
'In that point I am wholly undecided.
'There's an unpremeditated hendecasyllable for you. So before I begin to poetize, i'll take an easy with you. Farewell, my heart's desire, your Verus's best beloved, most distinguisht consul, master most sweet. Farewell I ever pray, sweetest soul.
What a letter do you think you have written me I could make bold to say, that never did she who bore me and nurst me, write anything SO delightful, so honey-sweet. And this does not come of your fine style and eloquence: otherwise not my mother only, but all who breathe.'
1 Ad M. Caes, ii. 5.
To the pupil, never was anything on earth so fine as his master's eloquence; on this theme Marcus fairly bubbles over with enthusiasm.
(1)'Well, if the ancient Greeks ever wrote anything like this, let those who know decide it: for me, if I dare say so, I never read any invective of Cato's so fine as your encomtum. O if my Lord(2) could be sufficiently praised, sufficiently praised he would have been undoubtedly by you! This kind of thing is not done nowadays.(3) It were easier to match Pheidias, easier to match Apelles, easier in a word to match Demosthenes himself, or Cato himself; than to match this finisht and perfect work. Never have I read anything more refined, anything more after the ancient type, anything more delicious, anything more Latin. O happy you, to be endowed with eloquence so great! O happy I, to be tinder the charge of such a master! O arguments,(4) O arrangement, O elegance, O wit, O beauty, O words, O brilliancy, O subtilty, O grace, O treatment, O everything! Mischief take me, if you ought not to have a rod put in your hand one day, a diadem on your brow, a tribunal raised for you; then the herald would summon us all-why do I say "us"? Would summnon all, those scholars and orators: one by one you would beckon them forward with your rod and admonish them. Hitherto I have had no fear of this admonition; many things help me to enter within your school. I write this in the utmost haste; for whenas I am sending you so kindly a letter from my Lord, what needs a longer letter of mine? Farewell then, glory of Roman eloquence, boast of your friends, magnifico, most delightful man, most distinguished consul, master most sweet.
'After this you will take care not to tell so many fibs of me, especially in the Senate. A monstrous fine speech this is! O if 1 could kiss your head at every heading of it! You have looked down on all with a vengeance. This oration once read, in vain shall we study, in vain shall we toil, in vain strain every nerve. Farewell always, most sweet master.'
1 Ad M. Caes., ii. 3.
2 The Emperor Antoninus Pius is spoken of as dominus vieus.
3 This sentence is written in Greek.
4 Several of these words are Greek, and the meaning is not quite clear.
Sometimes Fronto descends from the heights of eloquence to offer practical advice; as when he suggests how Marcus should deal with his suite. It is more difficult, he admits, to keep courtiers in harmony than to tame lions with a lute; but if it is to be done, it must be by eradicating jealousy. 'Do not let your friends,' says Fronto,'(1) 'envy each other, or think that what you give to another is filched from them.
Keep away envy from your suite, and you will find your friends kindly and harmonious.'
Here and there we meet with allusions to his daily life, which we could wish to be more frequent. He goes to the theatre or the law-courts,(2) or takes part in court ceremony, but his heart is always with his books. The vintage season, with its religious rites, was always spent by Antoninus Pius in the country. The following letters give sonic notion of a day's occupation at that time:(3) 'MY DEAREST MASTER,—I am well. To-day I studied from the ninth hour of the night to the second hour of day, after taking food. I then put on my slippers, and from time second to the third hour had a most enjoyable walk up and down before my chamber. Then booted and cloaked-for so we were commanded to appear-I went to wait upon my lord the emperor. We went a-hunting, did doughty deeds, heard a rumour that boars had been caught, but there was nothing to see. However, we climbed a pretty steep hill, and in the afternoon returned home. I went straight to my books. Off with the boots, down with the cloak; I spent a couple of hours in bed. I read Cato's speech on the Property of Pulchra, and another in which he impeaches a tribune. Ho, ho! I hear you cry to your man, Off with you as fast as you can, and bring me these speeches from the library of Apollo. No use to send: I have those books with me too. You must get round the Tiberian librarian; you will have to spend something on the matter; and when I return to town, I shall expect to go shares with him. Well, after reading these speeches I wrote a wretched trifle, destined for drowning or burning. No, indeed my attempt at writing did not come off at all to-day; the composition of a hunter or a vintager, whose shouts are echoing through my chamber, hateful and wearisome as the law-courts. What have I said? Yes, it was rightly said, for my master is an orator. I think I have caught cold, whether from walking in slippers or from writing badly, I do not know. I am always annoyed with phlegm, but to-day I seem to snivel more than usual. Well, I will pour oil on my head and go off to sleep. I don't mean to put one drop in my lamp to-day, so weary am I from riding and sneezing. Farewell, dearest and most beloved master, whom I miss, I may say, more than Rome it~dL'
1 Ad M Caes., iv. 1.
2 ii. 14
3 iv. 5,6.
'MY BELOVED MASTER,-I am well. I slept a little more than usual for my slight cold, which seems to be well again. So I spent the time from the eleventh hour of the night to the third of the day partly in reading in Cato's Agriculture, partly in writing, not quite so badly as yesterday indeed. Then, after waiting upon my father, I soothed my throat with honey-water, ejecting it without swallowing: I might say gargle, but I won't, though I think the word is found in Novius and elsewhere. After attending to my throat I went to my father, and stood by his side as he sacrificed. Then to luncheon. What do you think I had to eat? A bit of bread so big, while I watched others gobbling boiled beans, onions, and fish full of roe. Then we set to work at gathering the grapes, with plenty of sweat and shouting, and, as the quotation runs, "A few high-hanging clusters did we leave survivors of the vintage." After the sixth hour we returned home. I did a little work, and poor work at that. Then I had a long gossip with my dear mother sitting on the bed. My conversation was: What do you think my friend Fronto is doing just now? She said: And what do you think of my friend Gratia?'(1) My turn now: And what of our little Gratia,(2) the sparrowkin? After this kind of talk, and an argument as to which of you loved the other most, the gong sounded, the signal that my father had gone to the bath. We supped, after ablutions in the oil-cellar-I mean we supped after ablutions, not after ablutions in the oil-cellar; and listened with enjoyment to the rustics gibing. After returning, before turning on my side to snore, I do my task and give an account of the day to my delightful master, whom if I could long for a little more, I should not mind growing a trifle thinner. Farewell, Fronto, wherever you are, honey-sweet, my darling, my delight. Why do I want you? I can love you while far away.'
One anecdote puts Marcus before us in a new light:(3)
1 Fronto's wife.
2 Fronto's daughter
3 Ad M. Caes ii. 12.
'When my father returned home from the vineyards, I mounted my horse as usual, and rode on ahead some little way. Well, there on the road was a herd of sheep, standing all crowded together as though the place were a desert, with four dogs and two shepherds, but nothing else. Then one shepherd said to another shepherd, on seeing a number of horsemen: 'I say,' says he, 'look you at those horsemen; they do a deal of robbery.' When I heard this, I clap spurs to my horse, and ride straight for the sheep. In consternation the sheep scatter; hither and thither they are fleeting and bleating. A shepherd throws his fork, and the fork falls on the horseman who came next to me. We make our escape.' We like Marcus none the worse for this spice of mischief.
Another letter(1) describes a visit to a country town, and shows the antiquarian spirit of the writer 'M. CAESAR to his MASTER M. FRONTO, greeting.
'After I entered the carriage, after I took leave of you, we made a journey comfortable enough, but we had a few drops of rain to wet us. But before coming to the country-house, we broke our journey at Anagnia, a mile or so from the highroad. Then we inspected that ancient town, a miniature it is, but has in it many antiquities, temples, and religious ceremonies quite out of the way. There is not a corner without its shrine, or fane, or temple; besides, many books written on linen, which belongs to things sacred. Then on the gate as we came out was written twice, as follows: "Priest don the fell."(2) I asked one of the inhabitants what that word was. He said it was the word in the Hernican dialect for the victim's skin, which the priest puts over his conical cap when he enters the city. I found out many other things which I desired to know, but the only thing I do not desire is that you should be absent from me; that is my chief anxiety. Now for yourself, when you left that place, did you go to Aurelia or to Campania? Be sure to write to me, and say whether you have opened the vintage, or carried a host of books to the country-house; this also, whether you miss me; I am foolish to ask it, whenas you tell it me of yourself. Now if you miss me and if you love me, send me your letters often, which is a comfort and consolation to me. Indeed I should prefer ten times to read your letters than all the vines of Gaurus or the Marsians; for these Signian vines have grapes too rank and fruit too sharp in the taste, but I prefer wine to must for drinking. Besides, those grapes are nicer to eat dried than fresh-ripe; I vow I would rather tread them under foot than put my teeth in them. But I pray they may be gracious and forgiving, and grant me free pardon for these jests of mine. Farewell, best friend, dearest, most learned, sweetest master. When you see the must ferment in the vat, remember that just so in my heart the longing for you is gushing and flowing and bubbling. Good-bye.'
1 Ad Verum. Imp ii. 1, s. fin.
Making all allowances for conventional exaggerations, it is clear from the correspondence that there was deep love between Marcus and his preceptor. The letters cover several years in succession, but soon after the birth of Marcus's daughter, Faustina, there is a large gap. It does not follow that the letters ceased entirely, because we know part of the collection is lost; but there was probably less intercourse between Marcus and Fronto after Marcus took to the study of philosophy under the guidance of Rusticus.
When Marcus succeeded to the throne in 161, the letters begin again, with slightly increased formality on Fronto's part, and they go on for some four years, when Fronto, who has been continually complaining of ill-health, appears to have died. One letter of the later period gives some interesting particulars of the emperor's public life, which are worth quoting. Fronto speaks of Marcus's victories and eloquence in the usual strain of high praise, and then continues.(1) 'The army when you took it in hand was sunk in luxury and revelry, and corrupted with long inactivity. At Antiochia the soldiers had been Wont to applaud at the stage plays, knew more of the gardens at the nearest restaurant than of the battlefield. Horses were hairy from lack of grooming, horsemen smooth because their hairs had been pulled out by the roots(2) a rare thing it was to see a soldier with hair on arm or leg. Moreover, they were better drest than armed; so much so, that Laelianus Pontius, a strict man of the old discipline, broke the cuirasses of some of them with his finger-tips, and observed cushions on the horses' backs. At his direction the tufts were cut through, and out of the horsemen's saddles came what appeared to be feathers pluckt from geese. Few of the men could vault on horseback, the rest clambered up with difficulty by aid of heel and knee and leg not many could throw a lance hurtling, most did it without force or power, as though they were things of wool-dicing was common in the camp, sleep lasted all night, or if they kept watch it was over the winecup. By what regulations to restrain such soldiers as these, and to turn them to honesty and industry, did you not learn from Hannibal's sternness, the discipline of Africanus, the acts of Metellus recorded in history.
1 Ad Verum. imp., ii. I, s.fin.
2 A common mark of the effeminate at Rome.
After the preceptorial letters cease the others are concerned with domestic events, health and sickness, visits or introductions, birth or death. Thus the empperor writes to his old friend, who had shown some diffidence in seeking an interview:(1)
'To MY MASTER.
'I have a serious grievance against you, my dear master, yet indeed my grief is more than my grievance, because after so long a time I neither embraced you nor spoke to you, though you visited the palace, and the moment after I had left the prince my brother. I reproached my brother severely for not recalling me; nor durst he deny the fault.' Fronto again writes on one occasion: 'I have seen your daughter. It was like seeing you and Faustina in infancy, so much that is charming her face has taken from each of yours.' Or again, at a later date:(2) I have seen your chicks, most delightful sight that ever I saw in my life, so like you that nothing is more like than the likeness.... By the mercy of Heaven they have a healthy colour and strong lungs. One held a piece of white bread, like a little prince, the other a common piece, like a true philosophers son.'
1 Ad Verum. Imp. Aur. Caes., i. 3.
2 Ad Ant. Imp i., 3.
Marcus, we know, was devoted to his children. They were delicate in health, in spite of Fronto's assurance, and only one son survived the father. We find echoes of this affection now and again in the letters. 'We have summer heat here still,' writes Marcus, 'but since my little girls are pretty well, if I may say so, it is like the bracing climate of spring to us.'(1) When little Faustina came back from the valley of the shadow of death, her father at once writes to inform Fronto.(2) The sympathy he asks he also gives, and as old age brings more and more infirmity, Marcus becomes even more solicitous for his beloved teacher. The poor old man suffered a heavy blow in the death of his grandson, on which Marcus writes:(3) 'I have just heard of your misfortune. Feeling grieved as I do when one of your joints gives you pain, what do you think I feel, dear master, when you have pain of mind?' The old man's reply, in spite of a certain self-consciousness, is full of pathos. He recounts with pride the events of a long and upright life, in which he has wronged no man, and lived in harmony with his friends and family. His affectations fall away from him, as the cry of pain is forced from his heart:—
(4)'Many such sorrows has fortune visited me with all my life long. To pass by my other afflictions, I have lost five children under the most pitiful conditions possible: for the five I lost one by one when each was my only child, suffering these blows of bereavement in such a manner that each child was born to one already bereaved. Thus I ever lost my children without solace, and got them amidst fresh grief.....'
The letter continues with reflections on the nature of death, 'more to be rejoiced at than bewailed, the younger one dies,' and an arraignment of Providence not without dignity, wrung from him as it were by this last culminating misfortune. It concludes with a summing-up of his life in protest against the blow which has fallen on his grey head.
1 Ad M. Caes., v. 19
2 iv. 11
3 De Nepote Amissa
4 De Nepote Amissa 2
'Through my long life I have committed nothing which might bring dishonour, or disgrace, or shame: no deed of avarice or treachery have I done in all my day's: nay, but much generosity, much kindness, much truth and faithfulness have I shown, often at the risk of my own life. I have lived in amity with my good brother, whom I rejoice to see in possession of the highest office by your father's goodness, and by your friendship at peace and perfect rest. The offices which I have myself obtained I never strove for by any underhand means. I have cultivated my mind rather than my body; the pursuit of learning I have preferred to increasing my wealth. I preferred to be poor rather than bound by any' man's obligation, even to want rather than to beg. I have never been extravagant in spending money, I have earned it sometimes because I must. I have scrupulously spoken the truth, and have been glad to hear it spoken to me. I have thought it better to be neglected than to fawn, to be dumb than to feign, to be seldom a friend than to be often a flatterer. 1 have sought little, deserved not little. So far as I could, I have assisted each according to my means. I have given help readily to the deserving, fearlessly to the undeserving. No one by proving to be ungrateful has made me more slow to bestow promptly all benefits I could give, nor have I ever been harsh to ingratitude. (A fragmentary passage follows, in which he appears to speak of his desire for a peaceful end, and the desolation of his house.) I have suffered long and painful sickness, my beloved Marcus. Then I was visited by pitiful misfortunes: my wife I have lost, my grandson I have lost in Germany:(1) woe is me! I have lost my Decimanus. If I were made of iron, at this tine I could write no more.' It is noteworthy that in his meditations Marcus Aurelius mentions Fronto only once.(2) All his literary studies, his oratory and criticism (such as it was) is forgotten; and, says he, 'Fronto taught me not to expect natural affection from the highly-born.' Fronto really said more than this: that 'affection' is not a Roman quality, nor has it a Latin name.(3) Roman or not Roman, Marcus found affection in Fronto; and if he outgrew his master's intellectual training, he never lost touch with the true heart of the man it is that which Fronto's name brings up to his remembrance, not dissertations on compound verbs or fatuous criticisms of style.
1 In the war against the Catti.
2 Book I., 8.
3 Ad Verum, ii. 7