DCCCLX (BRUT. I, 16)
M. IUNIUS BRUTUS TO CICERO (AT ROME)I1 have read an extract from your letter to Octavius which was sent me by Atticus. Your zeal and care for my safety gave me no novel pleasure; for it is not merely a matter of habit, but of daily habit, to be told of you that you have said or done something in defence of my position which displayed your fidelity and complimentary opinion of me. But that same extract of your letter to Octavius about us caused me a distress as great as my heart is capable of feeling. For you thank him in the name of the Republic in such terms! With such abject and whispering humbleness-why must I write the word? I blush to think of my position and high estate, yet I must write it-you commend our safety to him! Could any death be worse disaster? You, in fact,. avow that the slavery is not abolished, only the master changed! Recall your words and dare to say that those prayers are not the prayers of an enslaved subject to a tyrant. The one and only thing-you say—that is demanded and expected of him is that he consent to the safety of those citizens, of whom the loyalists and the people have a good opinion. What? If he doesn't consent, shall we not be safe? And yet it is better not to be than to be by his favour. 2 Upon my honour I do not think that all the gods are so hostile to the safety of the Roman people, that we need entreat Octavius for the safety of any citizen, not to say for "the liberators of the world"—for there is a certain advantage in using strong language, and at any rate there is a propriety in doing so to people who do not know what every man ought to fear or to aim at. Do you confess, Cicero, that Octavius has this power, and are you his friend? Or, if you regard me with affection, do you wish me to appear at Rome, when in order to do so safely I have had to be recommended to that boy? Why do you thank him, if you think he has to be asked to allow and suffer us to keep our lives? Is it to be regarded as a favour that he has preferred to be himself rather than a second Antony, to whom we had to make petitions like that? Does anyone address to the destroyer of another's tyranny, and not rather to its successor, a prayer that those who have done the most splendid services to their country may be allowed their lives? This is mere weakness and a counsel of despair. And the fault is not yours more than everyone else's. It was this that egged on Caesar to desire royalty, and induced Antony after his death to aim at occupying the place of the dead man, and has at the present moment put that boy of yours on such a pedestal, as to make you think that he must be absolutely entreated to grant life to such men as us, and that we shall even now be able to enjoy a bare safety from the pity of one man, and by nothing else whatever. But if we had remembered that we were Romans, these dregs of mankind would not have conceived the ambition of playing the tyrant with more boldness than we should have forbidden it: nor would Antony have had his ambition more roused by Caesar's royalty, than his fears excited by Caesar's death. For yourself; a consular and the avenger of such abominable crimes—and I fear that by their suppression the mischief was only postponed by you for a short time—how can you contemplate your own achievements, and at the same time countenance, or at any rate endure these things with such abject humbleness as to have the air of countenancing them? Again, what was your private and personal quarrel with Antony? Why, it was just because he made this very claim—that our safety should be asked as a favour from him; that we should hold our civil rights on sufferance—we from whom he had himself received his freedom; that he should be absolute in the Republic—it was for these reasons that you thought we must take up arms to prevent his playing the tyrant. Was the object of doing so that, when he had been prevented, we should have to petition another man to allow himself to be put in his place? Or was it that the Republic should be its own master and at its own disposal? Surely: unless we are to suppose that our objection was not to slavery but to the terms of our slavery! And yet, not only had we the opportunity of supporting our high estate with Antony as a liberal master, but even of enjoying rewards and honours as his partners to the top of our ambition: for what would he have refused to men, whose submissiveness he saw would be the greatest bulwark of his tyranny? But nothing seemed sufficient to make us barter our honour and freedom. This very boy, whom the name of Caesar appears to instigate against the slayers of Caesar, what would he give, if there were a chance of such traffic, to be as powerful with our support, as he certainly will be when we choose life for its own sake, and the possession of money, and the title of consulars! But Caesar will have perished in vain: for why did we rejoice at his death, if we were to become none the less slaves when he is dead? No one else cares about these things, but may the gods and goddesses take from me every. thing sooner than the resolution of never conceding what I would not endure in Caesar—I won't say to the heir of the man I killed, but even to my father himself if he were to come to life again-namely, that he should, without a protest from me, be more powerful than the laws and the senate. Are you so deluded as to think that the rest of the world will be' free from one without whose consent there is no footing for us in Rome? Moreover, how can you possibly get what you ask? For you ask that he would consent to our safety: do we therefore appear likely to accept safety, since we have accepted life? But how can we accept it, if we previously give up position and liberty? Do you count the fact of living at Rome as complete citizenship? It is circumstance, not the particular place of residence, that must secure me that. I was neither properly a full citizen while Caesar was alive, except when I had resolved upon doing that deed; nor can I ever be anywhere an exile so long as I abhor servitude and submission to insult worse than every other evil. To ask a man who has adopted a tyrant's name as his own 3 for the safety of the avengers and destroyers of the tyranny—is not this to fall back into the very dungeon from which you have just escaped? Why, in Greek states when tyrants are put down their sons are included under the same punishment. 4 Am I to desire to see a state, or to regard it as a state at all, which is incapable of recovering even a freedom handed down by its ancestors and rooted in its very being, and which is more afraid of the name of a slain tyrant in the person of a mere boy, than confident in itself; though seeing the very man who possessed the most over-weening power removed by the valour of a few? For myself—do not henceforth recommend me to your Caesar, nor yourself either, if you will listen to me. You must have a great value for the few years that your time of life allows you, if for their sake you are going to be a suppliant to that boy of yours. Again, take care that those very splendid attacks which you have made and are still making upon Antony, instead of getting you credit for courage, are not misinterpreted into a belief that you are afraid. For if you think Octavius the sort of person from whom to make petitions for our safety, you will be thought not to have fled from a master, but to have looked out for a more agreeable master. Of your praising him for his conduct up to this time I quite approve, for it deserves to be praised, provided that he adopted these measures against the tyrannical power of another and not in support of his own. But when you shew your opinion that he is not only to be allowed so much power, but is even to have so much tendered to him by yourself; as to be petitioned not to refuse us our lives, you are making a very bad bargain with him, for you are giving away to him the very thing of which the Republic seemed to be in possession through him. And it does not occur to you that, if Octavius deserves those honours for waging war on Antony, to those who have cut up that mischief by the roots—of which the present position is but the last trace—the Roman people will never give what is an adequate reward of their service, though it should heap everything it had to give upon them at once. See too how much more awake people are to actual fear than to the memory of past terrors. Because Antony is still alive and in arms, while in regard to Caesar what could and was bound to be done is all over and cannot be undone, Octavius is the man whose decision as to us is awaited by the Roman people; we are in such a position that one man has to be petitioned to enable us to live. I however—to return to your policy—so far from being the sort of man to supplicate, am one forcibly to coerce those who demand that supplications should be addressed to them. If I can't do that, I will withdraw far from the servile herd and will for myself regard as Rome wherever I am able to be free. I shall feel only pity for men like yourself; if neither age nor honours nor the example of other men's courage has been able to lessen your clinging to life. For my part I shall only think myself happy if I abide with firmness and persistency in the idea that my patriotism has had its reward: for what is there better than the memory of good actions, and for a man-wanting nothing except liberty—to disregard the vicissitudes of human life? But at any rate I will not yield to the yielders, nor be conquered by those who are willing to be conquered themselves. I will try every expedient, every plan: and I will never desist from the attempt to rescue our country from slavery. If the luck follows which ought to follow, I shall rejoice: if not, I shall rejoice all the same, for on what better deeds or thoughts can my life be spent than on those which are directed to the liberation of my fellow citizens? For you, Cicero, I beg and entreat you not to give in to fatigue or despair. In warding off actually existing evils ever seek to discover those that will occur if they are not prevented, and so prevent their creeping in upon us. Consider that the brave and independent spirit, with which as consul and now as a consular you have vindicated the freedom of the state, ceases to exist if a consistent and even tenor of conduct is not preserved. For I confess that tried virtue is in a harder position than virtue that is unknown. We exact good deeds as a debt: we assail the reverse with anger in our hearts, as though we were cheated by such men. So, for instance, though it is a most laudable thing that Cicero should resist Antony, yet because the consul of that time is thought naturally to guarantee the consular of today, no one admires him. And if this same Cicero when dealing with others has distorted his judgment, which he kept unshaken with such steadiness and high spirit in routing Antony, he will not only snatch the glory of future action from his own grasp, but will even force his past career to fade from sight (for there is nothing which is truly great in itself; unless it is deliberate and systematic), because no one is under a greater obligation to love the Republic and to be the champion of liberty, whether we regard his ability or his great past or the eager demands upon him from all the world. Wherefore Octavius ought not to be petitioned to consent to our safety. Rather do you rouse yourself to the fixed belief that the state in which you have performed the most splendid services will be free and honoured, if only the people have leaders in their resistance to the plots of traitors.