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CCCIII (A VII, ii)

TO ATTICUS (AT ROME)
(IN CAMPANIA) 19 JANUARY
WHAT in the world does it mean? What is going on? I am quite in the dark. "We are in occupation of Cingulum," says some one; "we have lost Ancona." "Labienus has abandoned Caesar." Are we talking of an imperator of the Roman people, or of a Hannibal? Madman! Miserable wretch, that has never seen even a shadow of virtue! And he says that he is doing all this "to support his honour"! How can there be any "honour" where there is no moral right? Can it be morally right to have an army without commission from the state? To seize cities inhabited by one's fellow citizens, as a means of attacking one's own country? To be contriving abolition of debts, restoration of exiles, hundreds of other crimes “For royalty, the first of things divine?” 1 Let him keep his fortune, and welcome! By heaven, I would rather have one hour of basking in your free 2 sun than all the royalties of that kind in the world, or rather I would die a thousand times Sooner than once take an idea of that sort into my mind: "What if you should take the fancy?" say you. Well, everyone's wishes are free: but I regard the mere wish as a greater misfortune than the cross. There is one greater misfortune still—to attain such a wish. But enough of this. It is a kind of relief to philosophize thus much in the midst of such troubles. To return to our friend. In the name of fortune, what do you think of Pompey's plan? I mean in abandoning the city? For I am at a loss to explain it. Nothing, again, could be more irrational. Do you mean to abandon the city? Then you would have done the same if the Gauls were upon us. "The Republic," says he, "does not depend on brick and mortar." No, but it does depend on altars and hearths. "Themistocles did the same." Yes, for one city was incapable of resisting the flood of the whole East. But Pericles did not so act, about fifty years afterwards, for he abandoned everything except the walls. Our own country men in the old times held the citadel, though the rest of the city was taken: “ Such deeds of fame—so poets told—
Our fathers wrought in days of old.
3 On the other hand, I gather from the indignation aroused in the municipia, and the conversation of those whom I meet, that this plan is likely to prove successful in a way. There is an extraordinary outcry—I don't know what people are saying with you, but pray let me know—at the city being without magistrates or senate. In fact, there is a wonderfully strong feeling at Pompey's being in flight. Indeed, the point of view is quite changed: people are now for making no concessions to Caesar. Expound to me what all this means. My department is a very quiet one. For Pompey wishes me to be a kind of "president" of the whole of this Campanian seacoast, to superintend the levy, and hold the chief command. Accordingly, I meditate being continually on the move. I think you must see by this time what Caesar's aim, what the disposition of the people, and the general position of affairs are. Pray write and tell me about them, and that, too, as often as possible, since they are continually shifting. For I find relief both in writing to you and in reading your letters.


1 Eurip. Phoen. 509.

2 Lucrativo, a very doubtful word here; it has been emended in various ways, Lucretino ("near Lucretilis"), Lucretiano, etc.

3 Hom. Il. 9.524.

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