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DCCLXXX (A XVI, 7)

TO ATTICUS (AT ROME)
ON BOARD SHIP, 19 AUGUST
Having started on the 6th of August from Leucopetra—for that was to be my port of embarkation—when I had made about 300 furlongs, 1 I was driven back upon that same Leucopetra by a violent south wind. While waiting there for a change of wind—I was staying in the villa of our friend Valerius, where I am quite at home and comfortable-certain men of high rank from Rhegium came thither, having lately returned from Rome, among others a friend of our Brutus, who (as he told me) had left Brutus at Naples. They brought, first, an edict of Brutus and Cassius; secondly, intelligence that there would be a full meeting of the senate on the 1st, and that a despatch had been sent by Brutus and Cassius to all ex-Consuls and ex-praetors asking them to be present. They announced also that there was a great hope of Antony yielding, an arrangement being Come to, and our partisans returning to Rome. They added also that I was wanted, and that my absence was being somewhat unfavourably criticised. On hearing these news I without hesitation threw aside my design of leaving the country, which, by heaven! I had never really liked. When, however, I read your letter, I was of course surprised that you had so entirely changed your opinion, but I thought that you must have some good reason for it. However, though you had never advised nor urged my leaving the country, you had at least expressed approval of my doing so, provided that I returned to Rome by the 1st of January. The result of that would have been that I should have been abroad as long as the danger seemed less imminent, but have returned to find everything in a blaze. But this advice, however short-sighted, I have no claim to resent; because in the first place what I did was in accordance with my own opinion; and in the second place, even if it were adopted on your suggestion, for what is an adviser responsible except good faith? It is the following expression of yours at which I cannot sufficiently wonder: "Can you with honour, you who talk of a noble death—can you with honour abandon your country?" Was I abandoning it, or did I seem to you at that time to be abandoning it? Why, you not only did not forbid my doing what I was doing, but even expressed approval. Still severer is what you say afterwards: "I wish you would elaborate for me some précis of the reasons justifying your action." Is it really so, my dear Atticus? Does my action need a defence, and with you of all people, who expressed such strong approval of it? I of course will compose the defence which you require, but addressed to some one of those against whose wish and advice I started. Vet, what need now of a précis? If I had persevered, there would have been such need. "But," say you, "this very fact is an instance of vacillation." No philosopher ever yet—and there has been a great deal written upon the subject-defined a mere change of plan as vacillation. So next you say: "For if the change had been made by our friend Phaedrus, 2 your defence would have been easy. As it is, what answer are we to make?" So then my action was one which I could not justify to Cato, that is, was criminal and disgraceful—is that so? I only wish you had been of that opinion from the first! You would have been my Cato, as you ever are! But your last sentence is the most I might say exasperating: "For our friend Brutus says nothing '-that is to say, does not venture to remonstrate with a man of my age. I can't imagine what else you Can mean by those words, and by heaven that is it! For on the 17th of August, on my arrival at Velia, Brutus heard of it. He was with his ships in the river Hales, three miles north of Velia. He immediately walked over to see me. Good heavens! with what transports of delight at my return, or rather at my abandonment of the journey, did he pour out all that he had repressed before! It made me recall those words of yours, "For our friend Brutus holds his tongue." But what he most regretted was that I had not been in the senate on the 1st of August. He praised Piso 3 to the skies, but remarked that he was delighted at my having avoided two grounds of reproach. One of these I was well aware that I was incurring by this journey—that of despairing of and abandoning the Republic. Many people remonstrated with me upon it with tears in their eyes, and I was unable to console them by promising a quick return. The other was one in regard to which Brutus and his following—and its number was large-were much pleased: I mean that I escaped the reproach of being thought to be going to attend the Olympic games. There Could be nothing more unbecoming than this at any period of the Republic, but at this particular crisis it would have been entirely unjustifiable. So I am grateful to the South wind for having saved me from such a scandal. There you have the avowed motives for my turning back. They are indeed sound and weighty ones, but none could be really sounder than what you yourself said in another letter: "Take measures in case of any creditor you may have, that there is enough to pay every man his due. For owing to the feat of war the money market is wonderfully tight." I read that letter when I was in the middle of the strait, with the result that I could think of no way of making such provision, except by being on the spot to support my own credit. But enough of this, the rest when we meet. I got hold of Antony's edict from Brutus and read it, as well as our friends' splendid answer to it. But I do not clearly see the use or object of these edicts: and I am not now, as Brutus thought I ought to do, coming to Rome with a view of entering upon politics. For what can be done? Did anyone back up Piso? 4 Did he come to the house again next day himself? But after all a man of my age ought not to be far from his place of burial, as people say. But, I beseech you, what is this that I hear from Brutus? He said that you had written to say that Pilia was suffering from paralysis. I was much alarmed, although he added that you also said that you hoped she was better. I devoutly trust so! Give her my very kindest remembrances, as also to my dearest Attica.

I write this at sea on my way to my Pompeian villa. 19 August.


1 In Phil. 1.7 he says that he got as far as Syracuse, and then returned to Leucopetra as the winds were not favourable, preferring to wait at the latter place, and then was driven back on a second attempt to start.

2 An Epicurean of Athens, of whom we have heard before (vol. ii., p. 28). The Epicureans advised abstention from politics, but the Stoics did not. See p.44 (ad Att. 14.20).

3 See p.122

4 The speech of Piso delivered on the 1st of August was not supported by any member of the senate (see Phil. 1.10). He was Caesar's father-in-law, and though on this occasion he seems to have pleased the opponents of Antony, he afterwards opposed his being declared a hostis (App. B.C. 3.54).

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