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CCCXCI (A X, 8)

TO ATTICUS (AT ROME)
CUMAE, 2 MAY
THE state of affairs itself, as well as your remark and my own observation, make it clear that the time has come to put an end to our correspondence on subjects which it would be dangerous to have intercepted. But as my dear Tullia keeps writing to me begging me to wait and see how things go in Spain, and always adds that this is your opinion also, and since I have gathered this also from your own letter, I do not think it out of place to write and tell you what I think on that point. This advice of yours would be prudent, as it seems to me, only if I intended to shape my course of policy in accordance with the result of the Spanish affair, which is impossible. For it is inevitable either that Caesar—what I should like best—is driven from Spain, or that the campaign there will be a protracted one, or (as he seems to feel certain) that he gets Spain into his hands. If he is driven out, how can I then join Pompey with any grace or honour, when I should think even Curio himself would desert to him? If, again, the war is protracted, what am I to wait for, and how long? The only alternative is, if we are beaten in Spain, to keep quiet. My view is quite the other way. For I think myself more bound to abandon Caesar when he is victorious than when he is beaten, and not more when his success is still uncertain, than when he is quite sure of it. 1 For, if Caesar conquers, I foresee massacre, an attack on private wealth, a recall of exiles, repudiation of debts, promotion to office of the lowest dregs, and a despotism intolerable, I don't say to any Roman, but even to a Persian. Will it be possible for my indignation to remain silent? Will my eyes be able to endure the sight of myself delivering my vote by the side of Gabinius—or, in fact, of his being called on before me? Of your client Sext. Clodius 2 in attendance? Of C. Ateius's client Plaguleius? And so on with the whole list. But why collect the names of my opponents, when I shall be unable to see in the senate-house without pain my friends whom I have defended, or to associate with them without dishonour. 3 Nay, what if I am not even sure that I shall be allowed to come? His friends write me word that he is by no means satisfied with my conduct in not having appeared in the senate. Am I, nevertheless, to think about making advances to him with a risk to myself, after refusing to be united to him when it was to my advantage? Besides, observe that the decision of the whole controversy does not depend on Spain, unless you really think that Pompey will throw down his arms if that is lost! On the contrary, his view is entirely that of Themistocles: for he holds that the master of the sea must inevitably be master of the empire. Accordingly, his object has never been to retain Spain for its own sake: the equipment of a fleet has always been his first care. He will take to the sea, therefore, as soon as the season permits, with an enormous fleet, and will approach the shores of Italy: and what then will be our position who remain there doing nothing? It will be impossible for us to be any longer neutral. Shall we resist the fleet then? What could be a greater crime, or even so great? In fact, what could be more ignominious? I did not shrink from opposing Caesar when I was isolated: shall I do so now with the support of Pompey and the rest of the nobles? 4 If, however, putting the question of duty aside, I must take account of danger: it is, if I do wrong, that there is danger from these last, from him, if I do right: nor in such miserable circumstances can any policy be discovered so free from danger, as to make me doubt that I should shun doing disgracefully, when it is dangerous, what I should have shunned doing, even had it been safe. "Not if I had crossed the sea along with Pompey?" That was impossible in any case: you have only to count the days. But all the same—for let me confess the truth (I do not even atttempt concealment), supposing it possible—I was mistaken in a point in which, perhaps, I ought not to have been mistaken: I thought that there would be a reconciliation, and in that case I did not want to have Caesar incensed with me, while he was friends with Pompey. 5 For I had learnt to see how exactly alike they were. It was from dread of this that I drifted into this waiting policy. But now I have everything to gain by hastening, everything to lose by delay. And, nevertheless, my dear Atticus, there are auguries also which incite me to action with a certain hope, and no doubtful one, auguries not such as our college derives from Attus, 6 hut those of Plato on tyrants. 7 For I see clearly that he can by no possibility keep his position much longer without bringing on his own collapse, even though we do not exert ourselves: seeing that at the very heyday of his success, and with the charm of novelty upon him, in six or seven days, he brought upon himself the bitterest hatred even of that needy and reckless city rabble itself and had to drop so quickly two of his assumptions—of clemency in the case of Metellus, 8 of wealth in the matter of the treasury. 9 Of what sort, again, will he find his confederates or subordinates, whichever you please to call them, if those are to rule provinces, of whom not one could manage his own estate two months? I need not enumerate all the points, which no one sees more clearly than yourself. Still, put them before your eyes: you will at once understand that this despotism can scarcely last six months. If I turn out to be mistaken in this, I will bear it, as many most illustrious men, eminent in the state, have borne it, unless you should actually think that I prefer the fate of Sardanapalus—to die in his own bed, rather than in an exile, as was the fate of Themistocles: who though he had been—in the words of Thucydides 10 —" the best judge on the shortest reflexion of the question of the moment, and, in regard to the future, by much the shrewdest at conjecturing what was to happen," yet fell into misfortunes which he would have avoided, if nothing had ever escaped him. Though he was a man, as the same writer says, "who, however obscure the subject, saw the better and the worse course more clearly than anyone, yet did not see how to avoid the jealousy of the Lacedaemonians, nor of his own fellow citizens, nor what promise to make to Artaxerxes. Nor would that night have been so fatal to Africanus, 11 nor that day of Sulla's triumph so disastrous to Gaius Marius, the craftiest of men, if neither of them had ever been mistaken. However, I encourage myself by that prophetic utterance (of Plato) which I mentioned. I am not deceived about it, nor will it happen otherwise. Fall he must, either by the hands of his opponents or by his own, who, indeed, is his own most dangerous enemy. I only hope it may happen while we are still alive. Yet it is time for us to be thinking of that continuous life of the future, not of this brief span of our own. 12 But if anything happens to me before that occurs, it will not have made much difference to me whether I live to see it, or have seen it long before. That being so, I must not allow myself to submit to men, against whom the senate armed me with authority "to see that the Republic took no harm."

All my interests have been confided to you, though they need no recommendation of mine, considering your affection for me. Nor, by Hercules, can I hit upon anything to write: for I am sitting waiting "sailing orders." Yet I never felt more bound to tell you anything than that none of all the delightful services you have done has been more grateful to my feelings, than your most delicate and careful attentions to my Tullia. She has herself been exceedingly charmed with them—as I have been no less. What high qualities she has shewn! How admirably she faces the public disaster! How admirably her domestic difficulties! What spirit she has displayed in the matter of my departure! She loves me dearly, she has the deepest sympathy with my feelings—yet she will have me act rightly and preserve my reputation. But don't let me enlarge too much on this theme, lest I should at this juncture rouse my own self-pity. If you get any surer intelligence about Spain, or anything else, pray write and tell me while I am still in the country; and, perhaps, at the moment of my departure I shall send you some intelligence, the more so that Tullia thinks that you are at present not thinking of leaving Italy. I must put before Antony, as I did before Curio, my wish to reside in Malta, and my determination not to take part in this civil war. I only hope I may find him as complaisant and good-natured to me as I did Curio. He is said to be intending to come to Misenum on the 2nd, that is, today: but he has sent me a disagreeable letter in advance, of which I inclose a copy. 13


1 Reading, with Schütz, nec dubitantem, etc., for et.

2 Sex. Clodius was one of the followers of P. Clodius, and had been condemned under the lex Pompeia after the trial of Milo. See 2 Phil. 8.

3 Because, though they were his friends, and had been defended by him, they had been legally condemned, and their recall by Caesar's bare authority would be looked upon as offensive to a friend of the constitution.

4 The text of this sentence is hopelessly corrupt. But the general sense is, I think, something like what I have given. Cicero's argument is: 'The only motive for putting oneself in opposition to Pompey's fleet must be fear of Caesar. Now I shewed when I was all alone at Formiae that I would not give in to him: shall I do so now that there are Pompey and the rest to support me?"

5 Cicero here lets out his true motives. The plea of time and opportunity he feels to be hollow. His real motive was the uncertainty as to which was the safer course, while he was also no doubt torn by the conviction that the truly loyal side was that of Pompey.

6 Attus Naevius, the famous augur in the time of the Tarquins.

7 Referring apparently to Plato's Republic, 8.562to 9.580; but the inevitable shortness of a tyrant's sway is not much brought out in this passage of Plato. It is rather the misery of his own feelings that is dwelt upon.

8 L. Caecilius Metellus, the tribune (see p. 364). His opposition in the senate on Caesar's visit to Rome in April seems to have nearly cost him his life.

9 By his seizing the treasury. See p. 365.

10 Thucydides, i 138.

11 P. Scipio Africanus the younger, after delivering a speech in defence of the rights of the Italians, was found dead in his bed. Popular rumour attributed his death to assassination at the bands of Carbo, to which belief Cicero often refers. By the Sullanus dies Cicero seems to mean Sulla's first march upon Rome, when Marius fled and went into exile.

12 Cicero is thinking, not of a future life—in the Christian sense—but of the eternity of fame: as he says elsewhere that he cared more for what people said of him 600 years hence than what they said now.

13 Letter CCCXC.

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