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DCCXIX (A XIV, 17 a AND F IX, 14)

TO P. CORNELIUS DOLABELLA
POMPEII, 3 MAY
Though I am quite content, my dear Dolabella, with the glory you have earned, and feel it to be a source of great exultation and pleasure, yet I Cannot help confessing that it adds a finishing stroke to my joy that popular opinion associates my name with your praises. I meet a great many people every day, for large numbers of men of rank are collected in this district for their health, besides a goodly crowd of friends of mine from the country towns. Well, I have met none who did not with one consent praise you to the skies, adding in the same breath a very warm expression of thanks to me. For they say that they have no doubt that it is in obedience to my precepts and advice that you are shewing yourself to be a most eminent citizen and brilliant consul. Though I can answer such men with the most absolute truth that what you are doing you do on your own judgment and your own initiative, and do not need any man's advice, yet I neither admit outright the truth of their remark, lest I should detract from your glory by making it Seem to have sprung entirely from my advice, nor do I deny it entirely either. For I am even too covetous of honour. And, after all, it is no disparagement to your dignity—as it was not to that of Agamemnon himself the "king of kings"—to have some Nestor to assist you in forming your plans. Whereas it redounds to my glory that as still a young man 1 you should have a brilliant reputation as a Consul while being, so to speak, a pupil of my school. 2

Lucius Caesar, for instance, when I visited him on his sick bed at Naples, though racked with pains all over his body, scarcely got the formal words of greeting out of his mouth before he exclaimed: "Oh my dear Cicero, I congratulate you on having an influence with Dolabella, such as if I had had with my sister's son, 3 we might now have been safe. Your Dolabella indeed I both congratulate and thank—for he is the only man since your consulship that I can with any truth call a consul." Then he proceeded to say a great deal about the occurrence, and how you had managed the affair, declaring that no more splendid and brilliant act had ever been done, nor one more beneficial to the state. And this was the observation of everyone.

Now, I beg of you to allow me to accept this quasi-inheritance, so to speak, of another man's glory, and to permit me to some extent to be a sharer in your reputation. However, my dear Dolabella—for this is only my joke—it would give me greater pleasure to divert the full stream of my glories, if I may be said to have any, upon you, than to draw off any part of yours. For while I have always had the warm attachment to you which you have had every opportunity of appreciating, by your recent acts I have been so inflamed that nothing can exceed the ardour of my attachment. For there is nothing, believe me, fairer, more beautiful, or more attractive than virtue. I have always, as you know, loved Marcus Brutus for his eminent ability, his very agreeable manners, 4 and unequalled honesty and consistency. Nevertheless, on the Ides of March my affection was so much enhanced, that I was surprised to find an addition possible in what I had looked upon as having long ago reached its height. Who could have thought that any addition was possible to my affection for you? Yet so great an addition has been made that I seem to myself never to have loved before, only to have liked. Wherefore what need to exhort you to support your position and reputation? Shall I quote to you the examples of illustrious men, as people usually do when exhorting another. I have none to quote more illustrious than yourself. You must imitate yourself, vie with yourself. It is not even admissible after such great achievements for you to fail to be like yourself. 5

This being so, exhortation is superfluous. What is called for is rather congratulation. For it has been your good fortune—as I think it has never been anyone else's—to inflict the most severe punishment, not only without exciting ill feeling, but with full popular approval, and to the greatest and most universal satisfaction of aristocrat and plebeian alike. If this were merely a stroke of luck in your case I should have congratulated your good fortune; but it is in fact the result of a certain largeness of spirit, ability, and prudence. For I read your speech. It was wisdom itself. So well did you feel your way in first approaching and then avoiding the points of the case, that by universal consent the time for striking the blow seemed naturally to arise from the facts. So you have freed the city from danger and the state from terrorism, and not only done a useful service in view of the present emergency, but have set a precedent. Wherefore you ought to understand that the constitution depends on you, and that you are bound not only to protect, but to honour the men who laid the foundation of liberty. But of such matters at greater length when we meet, which I hope will be soon. For you, my dear Dolabella, since you are preserving the Republic and us, take care to guard your own life with every possible precaution.


1 That is, below the statutable age for the consulship. Dolabella was only about twenty-five.

2 vol. iii., p.93, for Dolabella's study of rhetoric under Cicero.

3 L. Caesar's sister Iulia married first Antonius Creticus, by whom she was the mother of Marcus Antonius, and secondly Lentulus, the Catilinarian conspirator (Phil. 2.14).

4 See, however, vol. ii., p.137.

5 Surely party spirit never so perverted a great man as when it induced Cicero to write these words to a dissolute young scoundrel like Dolabella; and in praise of an act of wholly unconstitutional cruelty. Even the unhappy boys hanged after the Gordon riots were allowed some form of trial.

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