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CCCVIII (A VII, 13 b)

TO ATTICUS (AT ROME)
MINTURNAE, 24 JANUARY
I didn't guess your riddle: it is more obscure than Plato's number. 1 However, I have made it out now: you meant the Oppii of Velia by your succones (blood-suckers). 2 I wavered about it a long time; but when I hit on the solution, the rest became clear and quite agreed with Terentia's total.

I saw L. Caesar 3 at Minturnae early on the 23rd of January with his utterly absurd message—he is not a human being, but a broom with the binding off. I think Caesar himself must have acted with the purpose of throwing ridicule on the affair, in trusting a message on matters so important to such a man as this—unless, perchance, he never did intrust it, and the fellow has, without warrant, made use of some conversation which he picked up as a message. Labienus, a man of noble character in my opinion, arrived at Teanum on the 22nd. There he met Pompey and the consuls. What their conversation was, and what arrangement was come to, I will write and tell you when I know for certain. Pompey set off from Teanum in the direction of Larinum on the 23rd. He stopped that day at Venafrum. Labienus seems to have brought no little courage to our side. But I haven't yet anything to tell you from these parts: I expect rather to hear news from you—what intelligence from Caesar reaches Rome, how he takes Labienus's desertion, what Domitius is doing among the Marsi, Thermus at Iguvium, P. Attius at Cingulum; 4 what the feeling of the city folk is, what your own conjecture as to the future: on all these points pray write frequently, and tell me what your opinion is about my ladies, and what you intend doing yourself. If I had been writing with my own hand, this letter would have been longer, but I dictated it owing to my eyes being inflamed.


1 The "nuptial number" in the Republic, 545c-547A. On its interpretation much learned ink has been spent, mostly in vain. See Nuptial Number of Plato, its Solution and Significance, by James Adam, 1891.

2 The Oppii were money-lenders who had a house in Rome close to that of Atticus (see Letter CCCXXXIII). What Atticus had said about them we cannot tell, or whether there was an obscure pun in the name thus given them by Atticus (from ὀπός, "fig juice," sucus), we cannot be sure. If there was it is no wonder that Cicero found the riddle a dark one. Tyrrell and Purser, who read saccones, "bagmen," object to the pun on sucus as too bad even for Cicero; it is not Cicero's, however, but Atticus's, and Cicero evidently thought it pretty bad.

3 A distant connexion of Iulius Caesar. His father was Caesar's legatus, and he visited Caesar at Ariminum with a message from Pompey (with one of the praetors), and brought back a proposal that Pompey should go to his province of Spain, and that all troops in Italy should be disbanded, the comitia left free, and an interview immediately arranged between them (Caes. B.C. i. 8-9).

4 L. Domitius Ahenobarbus occupied Corfinium, but presently had to surrender it to Caesar. The same had happened to P. Attius Varus at Auximum (not Cingulum), and Q. Minucius Thermus had to surrender Iguvium to Curio (Caesar, B.C. 1.12.17).

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