To what extent do you think Cicero deserved to be exiled in 58 BC? In the build up to Cicero’s exile, he undoubtedly had many chances to escape the fate he eventually found himself in, this, it has to be said, was ultimately down to Cloudius whom Cicero found an enemy in when he gave evidence against him in the ‘bona dea’ scandal.
However Cicero was not all to blame as he found himself abandoned by close friends such as Pompey, and the subject in which he was exiled over (putting the Cataline conspirators to death without trial) was greatly supported at the time he proposed it, so how was he supposed to know that the support would be non-existent in the future? Overall however, I feel Cicero had plenty of chances to save himself from exile and I will mirror this in my argument.
The main point to be made about Cicero during his consulship is obviously about his actions with the Cataline conspirators, although he received great support at the time he probably realised with the benefit of hindsight, that he should never have done it as it is what gives Cloudius the excuse to exile him. Cicero should have realised when putting the proposal forward that to put someone to death without trial is completely against what the republic is based around, which is fairness for the people.
He also knew that power under the SCU was unclear and should have thought very seriously before he utilized its power as this is one of the reasons the Senate could later abandon him. During his consulship Cicero did want peace between classes ‘concordia ordinum’, and after the execution of the catalane conspirators he thought he had achieved this life-long ambition which he harboured because of the fact that he was a ‘novus homo’ and came from the equestrian class originally, therefore he was looking after his routes.
But unfortunately Cicero hadn’t achieved ‘concordia ordinum’ after the executions, probably due to the fact that after he made an example through discriminating someone’s rights why would other people start respecting others rights? During the ‘bona dea’ scandal Cicero destroyed Cloudius’ alibi as he gave evidence against him saying that he was in fact in Rome at the time of the Female only gathering. Cicero did this as he was trying to ally himself with the optimates and speaking against Cloudius in the trial (who had supported Cicero during his political career) would achieve just this.
However trying to ally himself with the optimates backfires on Cicero as Cloudius manages to get himself acquitted through bribery, and when he is acquitted, as any man of that time would be, Cloudius was bent on revenge and by July 59 BC Cloudius is starting to issue threats that he would prosecute Cicero for executing the conspirators, he passes the bill in 58 BC and it is voted for favourably in the senate.
The fact that Cicero made enemies with Cloudius is completely his fault, and as this is the main reason, I would argue, that he got exiled I feel it has to be that Cicero was ultimately to blame for his Exile. Attacking a powerful person in the senate, who was on his side before, was a selfish and wreck less move by Cicero which ultimately cost him his right to stay in Rome. Cicero and the triumvirate have a love/hate relationship, due to the fact that they would love to get Cicero on side and Cicero is a close friend of Pompey’s, however he hates what they stand for and refuses to join them, which infuriates them.
Cicero doesn’t think that Pompey will stay too long in the triumvirate, due to the fact that he knows that Pompey and Crassus don’t get along well at all, and he also thinks he knows Pompey well enough to know that he has a better moral judgement than to stay in such a corrupt organisation, the reality however is quite the opposite. When Cicero is to be exiled he is deserted by Pompey for a number of reasons, one being that Pompey felt let down by Cicero when he was in the east as he thought he didn’t speak of him enough.
He is also annoyed with Cicero’s endless boasting about what he did during his consulship with the conspirators, which basically shows insecurity. In his letter to Pompey in Asia Minor he says things such as ‘what I did to save our country has been universally favourable’ and ‘what I did was brave, as well as wise’ receiving letters like this understandably annoys Pompey so he distances himself from Cicero. Cicero also talks in his letter about the Idea of Pompey being Scipio and himself being Laelius which he doesn’t take to.
And finally Pompey didn’t like to be criticized so when Cicero criticizes him for not supporting him in the letter he would have been even more irritated by him. So on one hand Cicero only had himself to blame in terms of Pompey abandoning him, however truthfully Cicero did support Pompey in many thing (e. g. the lex Gabinius) so Pompey abandoning him must have come as a shock to him. Although Cicero doesn’t like the Triumvirate he is given many opportunities to join them which he doesn’t take up, he could be criticized for this as if he was that bothered about staying in Rome and with his family he should have just ubmitted to what they wanted so he could carry on with his life. They wanted Cicero to join due to the fact that he was a fantastic orator (in fact one of the great of his time) and also he is an ex-consul meaning he is highly respected. However he rejects these offers, including joining Caesars staff and going on a mission, as joining them would be against his political morals (Concordia ordinum). His strong sense of morals is what ultimately costs him though, as because the Triumvirate became frustrated with waiting and saw Cicero as a threat due to his skill in speech.
They therefore started to support Cloudius, they let him be adopted as a plebeian so he could run as tribune, (and he changed his name from Claudius to Cloudius as it was more plebeian) and when he proposed that all People who had put Roman citizens to death without trial should be exiled, which was obviously aimed at Cicero they supported it. This made Cicero call to Pompey, however Pompey said he was merely a private citizen who had no influence over Cloudius, Pompey also had little sympathy for Cicero as he had turned down all Caesar’s offers.
To conclude I feel that overall it was in fact Cicero’s fault that he got exiled. Although he was abandoned by the Senate and Pompey rather unfairly in some respects, as he had always been a completely honest politician and also supported Pompey on several occasions. He was the reason for his own demise due to his over boastful ways and complete ignorance to his situation in failing to embrace Caesar and his offers.