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DCCCXXXIX (BRUT. II, 5)

TO M. IUNIUS BRUTUS (AT DYRRACHIUM)
ROME, 16 APRIL
I BELIEVE that your friends—to not one of whom do I yield in affection to you—have written to tell you what despatches were read in the senate on the 13th of April from you, and at the same time from Antony. But though there was no need for us all to repeat the same story, yet it is necessary that I should write and tell you my feeling, deliberate opinion, and sentiments as to the nature of this war generally. My object, Brutus, in imperial politics has always been the same as your own: my policy in certain points-not in all-has perhaps been somewhat more drastic. You know that it was always my opinion that the Republic should be delivered not only from a tyrant but from a tyranny also. 1 You took a more indulgent view-to your own undying honour, no doubt. But which was the better course we have felt to our bitter sorrow, and are still feeling to our grave peril. More recently you have directed all your efforts to secure peace—which could not be brought about by mere words—I to secure liberty, which is impossible without peace. 2 But my view was that peace itself could be brought about by war and arms. There was no want of enthusiasts who were eager to fight, but we checked their enthusiasm and damped their ardour. And so it had come to such a pass that, had not some god inspired Caesar Octavianus with that resolution, we must necessarily have fallen under the power of Marcus Antonius, the most abandoned and depraved of men, with whom you see at this very moment in what a desperate contest we are engaged. Now that, of course, would never have occurred if Antony had not been spared at that time. 3 But I pass over these reflexions: for the deed which you performed-ever memorable and all but divine-disarms all criticism, for it is one which can never be even praised in terms adequate to its merit.

You lately came to the front again with a look of stern resolve. In a brief time you collected by your unaided exertions an army, forces, sufficient legions. Great heavens! What a message, what a despatch! 4 What exultation was there in the senate, what an outburst of cheerfulness in the city! I never saw anything praised with such complete unanimity. There was some anxiety about the remnants of Antony's forces, whom you had deprived for the most part of his cavalry and legions. But that was happily relieved. For your next despatch, which was read in the senate, clearly sets forth the excellence both of com mander and soldiers, and the good service done by your staff-among others, by my son. 5 And if your friends here had thought it right that a motion should be brought before the senate in consequence of its despatch, and had it not come at a time of great confusion, just after the departure of the consul Pansa, a regular vote of thanks and one due to the immortal gods would have been passed.

Lo and behold, on the 13th of April, early in the morning comes Pilius Celer in hot haste—what a man, good heavens! How trustworthy and consistent! What an honest politician! He brings two letters, one in your name, a second in that of Antony. He hands them to the tribune Sevilius. Sevilius passed them on to Cornutus. 6 They are read in the senate. "ANTONIUS PROCONSUL ! "-There was as much surprise expressed as though the words read had been "DOLABELLA IMPERATOR"; from whom indeed letter-carriers have arrived, but no one of the position of Pilius to venture to produce a despatch and to hand it to the magistrates. 7 Your despatch is read. It was short indeed, but very indulgent in its reference to Antonius. The senate was greatly astonished. And I could not see my way clearly as to what I ought to do. Was I to declare it a forgery? What if you had acknowledged it? Was I to assert its genuineness? That will be a reflexion on your official position. So I let that day pass without saying anything. But next day, when there had begun to be much talk about it, and Pilius had made himself offensively conspicuous, the first step was after all taken by me. I said a great deal about "the proconsul" Antonius. Sestius backed me up. Afterwards, in private conversation with me, he dwelt on the danger he inferred for his own son and mine if they bore arms against "a proconsul." You know the sort of man he is. However, he did not shrink from supporting the contention. 8 Others also spoke. Our friend Labeo, for instance, remarked that there was neither any seal of yours on the despatch, nor any date affixed, and that you had not written to your friends, as was your custom. 9 By this he meant to argue that the despatch was a forgery, and, if you would know the truth, he was thought to be convincing.

Now, Brutus, you must take into consideration the whole question of the war. I notice that you take pleasure in lenient measures, and think that the most advantageous line to take. It is an admirable sentiment: but it is for other circumstances and other times that a place for clemency generally is and ought to be reserved. As things are now, Brutus, what is actually being done? The hope of the needy and the ruined is the plunder of the temples of the immortal gods; and what depends upon the issue of this war is neither more nor less than our bare existence. Who is it that we are sparing, or what is our object? Are we then consulting for the interests of those, whose victory means that not a trace of us will be left? For what difference is there between Dolabella and any one of the three Antonies? If we spare any of the latter, we have been harsh in the case of Dolabella. That the senate and Roman people take this view is partly the result of the mere facts of the case, but for the most part has been brought about by my advice and influence. If you disapprove this policy, I will speak up for your opinion, but I shall not abandon my own. From you men expect neither weakness nor cruelty. An obvious mean between these is that you should be stern to the leaders, placable to the soldiers. I should like my son, my dear Brutus, to be as much as possible by your side He will find no better school of virtue than the contemplation and imitation of you.

16 April.


1 That is, that Antony should have shared the fate of Caesar. See pp.174, 214, etc.

2 Cicero puts the converse in Phil. 2.113, when he says that "peace is liberty without war," pax est tranquilla libertas.

3 That is, when Caesar was murdered. Cicero still labours under the delusion that the revolution all depended on one man. If Antony had been murdered on the Ides of March, were there no others ready to play his part, and still more ably? Augustus is the best answer. It is well to observe how little mere assassination has ever been able to effect in political movements.

4 The despatch in which Brutus announced that he had taken possession of Macedonia, and was beleaguering Gaius Antonius in Apollonia (see Phil. 10.26). A second despatch announced his capture.

5 Young Cicero is said to have defeated Gaius Antonius in an engagement at Byllis, near Apollonia (Plutarch, Brut. 26).

6 Who was praetor urbanus (p.207), and therefore presided in the senate in the absence of the consuls.

7 The province of Macedonia had been assigned during Caesar's life to Brutus, probably by a lex. After his death Antony induced the senate to nominate himself (App. B.C. 3.24). Later on in B.C. 44, by a lex proposed by a tribune, Cisalpine Gaul was transferred to Antony (App. 3.30). Macedonia was therefore vacant, and a sortitio held in the senate on the 28th of November gave it to Gaius Antonius (Phil. 3.26). As a matter of fact, however, the outgoing proconsul Q. Hortensius had handed over his province and army to Brutus (Plut Brut. 25), and the senate, now under Cicero's influence, would only acknowledge Brutus as proconsul. For Dolabella, see p.210.

8 That is, the contention (causa) that M. Brutus was the legal proconsul in Macedonia.

9 That is, that the bearer of the public despatch brought no private letters at the same time, as we have seen was the almost invariable custom. For as there was no postal services, such messengers were always used for this purpose. It was a good argument against the genuineness of the letter.

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