previous next


I have received a large number of letters from you on the same day, all carefully written; one, however, which amounts to a volume, deserving to be read again and again, as I am doing. The labour of writing it was not thrown away, and I am excessively obliged to you. Wherefore, as long as circumstances allow of it, that is, as long as you know where I am, I earnestly beg of you to repeat the experiment as often as possible. Yes, indeed: let there be once for all an end, if possible, to these daily lamentations, or at any rate some sort of restraint in them, which at least is possible. For it is not now the rank, the honours, or the position in life which I have lost that I am thinking of; but what I have actually attained to, the services I have performed, the reputation in which I have lived: in fine, the difference, even in these disastrous circumstances, between myself and those through whom I have lost all. These are the men who thought that, without expelling me from the state, they could not maintain the free gratification of their desires; and you see to what this close alliance and unprincipled coalition of theirs has come!

The one leader is in a fever of mad fury and crime: there is no slackening with him: his hand grows heavier every day. Not long ago. he expelled Pompey from Italy. Now on one side of the empire he is for pursuing him, on the other for stripping him of his province. He no longer refuses, he even in a sense demands, to have the title of tyrant, as he already is one in fact. The other—the man who once upon a time did not so much as raise me up when I threw myself at his feet—the man who said he could do nothing against Caesar's wish— having evaded the hand and sword of his father-in-law, is now preparing war by land and sea: not an unjust one on his part indeed, but both righteous and even necessary, but yet one fatal to his fellow citizens unless he prove victorious, fraught with disaster even if he is victorious.

Not only do I not rate the achievements of these supreme commanders as superior to my own: I do not even consider that their present position is any better, though they seem to be in a very brilliant one, and I to be struggling with a harder fate. For who can be happy who has caused either the abandonment or the invasion of his country? And if, as you remind me, I was right in saying in these books that the only good was virtue, the only evil vice, certainly both those men are in the highest degree miserable, for to both the safety and dignity of their country have always been subordinate to their own power and their private advantage. I am therefore sustained by the purity of my conscience, when I reflect that I either performed the most eminent services to the state, when I had the power, or at least never harboured any but loyal thoughts; and that the republic has been wrecked by precisely the storm which I foresaw fourteen years ago. With such feelings, then, as my companions, shall I set out, not indeed without a bitter pang, and that, not so much for my own or my brother's sake (for our life is practically over) as for our sons, for whom at times it seems to me that we were bound to have secured, among other things, the integrity of the constitution. Of them the one, because he is not after all more dutiful than he is, gives me extraordinary pain: while the other—Oh dear Oh dear! it is the keenest sorrow of my life—corrupted no doubt by our system of indulgence, has gone very far, to a point indeed which I do not venture to describe. 1 I am expecting, too, a letter from you: for you said that you would write at greater length when you had seen the young man himself. All my indulgent conduct to him has been accompanied with considerable strictness, and it is not one only or a small peccadillo of his that I have come down upon, but many and very serious ones; his father's gentleness to him also ought to have secured his affection, rather than such unfeeling disrespect. The fact is that his writing to Caesar caused us such serious annoyance, that, while we concealed it from you, we yet, I think, made his own life unpleasant. This recent journey of his, however, and his pretence of loyalty to us 2 I do not venture to characterize. I only know that after visiting Hirtius he was invited to an interview by Caesar, that he talked to him about my feeling as being entirely opposed to his own views, and of my design of quitting Italy. Even this I do not write with confidence. Well, it is not my fault, it is his natural disposition that must cause us alarm. It was this that corrupted Curio and the son of Hortensius, not their fathers' fault. My brother is prostrate with grief, and is not so much afraid for his own life as for mine. To this misery pray, pray, bring any consolations that you can; above all I should prefer one—the assurance that the story told us is false or exaggerated. If it is true, I don't see what is to happen in our present state of life, when we are practically exiles. For if the Republic had still had any existence, I should have been at no loss what to do either by way of severity or indulgence. Whether it is the influence of anger, or pain, or fear, I have written this in a tone of greater severity than either your affection for him or mine would seem to warrant. If it is true, you must pardon me: if false, I shall be only too glad to be relieved of my mistake by you. But whatever the truth of the matter may be, you must not attribute any blame to his uncle or father.

I had written so far when a message was brought from Curio's house that he was coming to call on me. He had arrived at his Cuman villa yesterday, that is, the 13th. If his conversation, therefore, furnishes me with any subject worth writing to you, I will append it to this letter.

Curio passed by my villa and sent me a message to say that he was coming presently, and hurried on to Puteoli to make a public speech there. He made his speech, returned, and paid me a very long visit. Monstrous! You know our friend: he made no concealments. To begin with, he said that it was absolutely certain that all who had been condemned under the lex Pompeia 3 were being recalled, 4 and that accordingly he would avail himself of their services in Sicily. As to the Spains, he had no doubt about their being Caesar's; and from them Caesar would himself march with an army wherever Pompey was: that an end would be put to the whole mischief by the latter's death: that in an access of anger Caesar had really wished the tribune Metellus to be killed, 5 and that it was within an ace of being done: if it had been done, there would have followed a serious massacre: that a great many people advised one: that Caesar himself was not by taste or nature averse from bloodshed, but thought clemency would win him popularity: if, however, he once lost the affection of the people, he would be cruel: he was, again, much disturbed by finding that he had caused ill-feeling among the populace itself by taking the treasury, and therefore that, though he had quite made up his mind to address the people before leaving Rome, he had not ventured to do so, and had started with very disturbed feelings. 6 When again I asked what he saw in the future, what final result, and what sort of a constitution, he openly confessed that there was no hope left. He expressed fear of Pompey's fleet, and said that, if it put out to sea, he should abandon Sicily. "What is the meaning of your lictors?" said I. " If derived from the senate, why laurelled? If from Caesar, why six?" "I wanted," said he, "to get my authority from a decree of the senate, though by a snatch vote, for it could not be done otherwise. But Caesar now dislikes the senate much more than ever. 'Everything,' he says, 'will in future come from me."' "But why six? " 7 "Because I did not want twelve; I might have had them." Then I said, "How I wish I had asked him for what I hear Philippus 8 has succeeded in getting! But I was afraid to senate, because his enemies put up the tribune L. Caecilius Metellus to veto every proposal (Caesar, B.C. i 33). ask, as I had made no concession to him." "He would have gladly given you leave," said he: "indeed, consider that you have obtained it; for I will write and tell him, exactly as you like, that we have spoken on the subject. What does it matter to him, since you do not attend the senate, where you are? Nay, at this very moment you would not have damaged his cause in the least by having quitted Italy." In answer to this I said that I was looking out for some retired and solitary spot, chiefly because I still had lictors. He commended my design. "What do you say to this, then?" said I. "My course to Greece lies through your province, since the coast of the Mare Superum is guarded by troops." "Nothing I should like better," said he. On this subject he spoke at great length and in a very courteous tone. So then I have gained this much, that I can sail not only in safety, but even without concealment. All other subjects of discussion he put off till the next day; and, if any of them seem worth a letter, I will write and tell you. But there are some things which I omitted to ask him: whether Caesar intended to wait for an interregnum, or what he meant by saying, as he did, that he was offered the consulship, but refused it for the next year. And there are other points on which I will question him. To crown all he swore—as he usually makes no difficulty of doing—that Caesar must be very fond of me. "Why, what," continued he, "did Dolabella write to me?" "Pray tell me what." He then declared that Dolabella had written to say that, for having desired me to come to the city, Caesar had thanked him warmly, and not only expressed approbation, but joy. In short, I was relieved. For the suspicion of domestic treachery and of the conversation with Hirtius was removed. 9 How I long for young Quintus to be worthy of us, and how I encourage myself to believe what is in his favour! But need he have visited Hirtius? There is, no doubt, some motive or other; but I would wish it as slight as possible. And, after all, I am surprised at his not yet having returned. But we shall see about all this. Please put the Oppii at Terentia's service. For that is the only danger in the city now. 10 For myself, however, give me the benefit of your advice, as to whether I should go to Rhegium by land, or start straight from this place on board ship, and on other points; for I am still staying here. I shall have something to write to you about as soon as I have seen Curio again. Pray be as careful as ever to let me know how Tiro is.

1 Neither Cicero's son nor his nephew, apparently, were keen enough anti-Caesarians. His son gave him much anxiety by his conduct in early life, and the nephew not only now shewed his Caesarian leanings, but after Pharsalia turned fiercely on his uncle, as having involved them in a losing cause, and was joined in that by his father Quintus.

2 Young Quintus had insisted on going to Rome to interview Caesar, professing to plead his father's and uncle's cause, but really, Cicero thinks, denouncing them and repudiating their policy.

3 The law passed by Pompey in his third consulship (B.C. 52) on bribery and violence. The Caesarian view was that the laws had been passed, and the trials held, under terrorism, as Pompey had an armed guard in the city.

4 This measure was carried out by Antony under Caesar's direction (Phil. 2.56ff). See p. 396.

5 When Caesar was at Rome after Pompey's flight from Brundisium, he found it impossible to get the measures he wished passed in the

6 This is a striking comment upon Caesar by one of his own partisans; and, though Caesar falsified it by persistent clemency to most of his citizen opponents, there are circumstances in the Gallic campaigns which make us hesitate to acquit Caesar altogether of cruelty. Curio's character, however, takes much from his credibility as a witness or critic.

7 Curio was going to Sicily with imperium. The governor of Sicily was regularly a praetor or propraetor, and would have six lictors. But Curio, not having been elected praetor, or nominated by the senate, was really a legatus of Caesar's, and might have whatever status-pro consule or pro praetore—that Caesar chose. If Curio had only the six lictors by way of posing as a propraetor constitutionally nominated by the senate, then the laurels were out of place: for such successes as he had gained were gained before the senate could have nominated him, and were also over citizens, for which no insignia of victory were ever assumed.

8 Married to Atia, niece of Caesar and mother of Augustus. He was a strong Optimate, and was allowed by Caesar to live where he chose away from Rome, and take no part in the quarrel.

9 He thinks that if his nephew Quintus had, as he suspected, abused him to Caesar or his friend Hirtius, Caesar would not have spoken thus kindly of him.

10 The money difficulty. The Oppii were money-lenders (see pp. 249, 289). I translate the MS. reading, unum periculum. Gronovius conjectured vanum, "the danger of remaining in the city is now groundless." I think Cicero, however, means that Terentia's only difficulty will be to get ready money.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (L. C. Purser)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: