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CCCVI (A VII, 13 a)

As to the business of Vennonius, I agree with you. Labienus I regard as a "demigod." There has been no political stroke this long time past more brilliant. If he has done no other good, he has at least given him pain. But as a matter of fact, I do think that some good has been done to the cause. I am charmed also with Piso, whose judgment on his son-in-law I think will have weight. But you perceive the nature of the war. It is only a civil war in the sense that it has originated from the unscrupulous boldness of one unprincipled citizen, not as arising from a division of sentiment between the citizens generally. But that man is strong in the possession of an army, he commands the allegiance of many by the prospects he holds out and the promises he makes: nothing that anyone possesses is beyond the scope of his desires. To such a man as this the city has been abandoned, without any garrison to protect it, crammed with every kind of wealth. What would you not have to fear from the man who regards those temples and roofs, not as constituting his fatherland? but as objects for plunder? 1 What his proceedings are going to be, and how they are to be put into any shape, without senate and without magistrates, I cannot tell. He will not be able to keep up even a pretence of constitutional action. For us, however-where shall we be able to raise our heads or when? How utterly incapable our general is you yourself observe, in having had no intelligence of the state of affairs even in Picenum: and how devoid of any plan of campaign, the facts are witness. For, to say nothing of other mistakes committed during the last ten years, could any terms be worse than such a flight? Nor, indeed, have I any idea what he is contemplating at this moment, though I never cease asking again and again by letter. Everyone agrees that he is in a state of abject alarm and agitation. Accordingly, as far as I can see, there is no garrison—to organize which he was kept at the city walls-nor any place where a garrison could be posted. His whole hope rests on the two legions somewhat treacherously retained, and almost to be regarded as belonging to another. 2 For as yet, indeed, those whom he is enlisting are men reluctant to serve and averse from fighting. While the time for making terms has been let slip. I do not see what is going to happen. At any rate we, or our leader, have allowed things to come to this pass, that, having left harbour without a rudder, we must let ourselves drift before the storm. So I hesitate as to what to do with my son and nephew: sometimes I think I had better despatch them to Greece. For Tullia and Terentia, again—when I see a vision of barbarians arriving in the city—I am filled with all kinds of alarm; but when I think of Dolabella, I breathe again somewhat. But pray consider what you think ought to be done: in the first place, with an eye to their safety—for I must regard their security as requiring to be considered in a different light from my own-secondly, with a view to popular opinion, that I may not be blamed for deciding that they should remain at Rome, when the loyalists generally are flying from it. Nay, even you and Peducaeus—for he has written to me—must take care what you' do. You are men of such shining characters, that the same line of conduct is expected from you as from the noblest citizens. But I can safely leave this to you, since it is to you that I look for advice for myself and my family. All I have to add is to ask you to find out, as far' as you can, what is going on, and to write me word of it, and—what I expect from you even more— tell me what you are yourself able to conjecture. "The best prophet," 3 you know. Pardon my running on like this: it is a relief to me when writing to you, and draws a letter from you.

1 Cp. Blücher's reported remark on seeing London—was für plunder!

2 See p. 253, note.

3 μάντις δ᾽ ἄριστος, which, as usual, he leave Atticus to fill up. It is a line from a lost tragedy of Euripides: μάντις δ᾽ ἄριστος ὅστις εἰκάζει καλῶς, “the best prophet is the good guesser.”

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