DCCCLXXXVI (F X, 33)
C. ASINIUS POLLIO TO CICERO (AT ROME)IF you are well, I am glad. I am also well. Lepidus caused me to be later than I should have been in receiving intelligence of the battles fought near Mutina, for he detained my letter-carriers for nine days. However, it is almost a thing to be desired, that one should be as late as possible in hearing of such a calamity to the Republic, especially for those who can do no good or offer any cure for it. And oh! that by the same decree by which you summoned Plancus and Lepidus into Italy, you had also ordered me to come! Assuredly the Republic would not have sustained this blow. At which, if certain persons rejoice for the moment, because both officers and veterans of Caesar's party appear to have perished, it is yet inevitable that they will presently have cause to mourn, when they contemplate the havoc of Italy. For the flower and main stock of our soldiers have been destroyed, if at least the news reaching me is in any degree true. Nor do I fail to perceive of how much service to the Republic I was likely to have been, had I come to Lepidus: for I should have dispelled all his hesitation, especially with the aid of Plancus. But it was clearly necessary for me to smooth down a man who writes me the sort of letter which I inclose for your perusal, exactly in the same tone as the harangues which he is said to have delivered at Narbo, 1 if I wished to have any provisions during a march through his province. Besides I was afraid, if the battle took place before I had accomplished my purpose, that my detractors would put an exactly opposite interpretation on my patriotic design on account of my friendship with Antony, which after all was not greater than that with Plancus. Therefore in April having embarked two letter-carriers on two separate ships at Gades, I wrote to you and the consuls and Octavian, requesting to be informed how I could do the best service to the Republic. But, as I calculate the time, the ships started from Gades on the very day on which Pansa fought his battle : 2 for that was the first day since the winter that navigation was possible. And by heaven, being far from any suspicion of the coming civil outbreak, 3 I had put the legions into winter quarters in remote parts of Lusitania. Moreover, both sides were in such a hurry to fight, as though they were afraid of the war being settled without the greatest possible damage to the Republic. However, if such haste was necessary, I perceive that the strategy of Hirtius was in all respects that of a consummate general. At present I have the following news from Lepidus's district of Gaul 4 by letter and messengers: that Pansa's army has been cut to pieces; that Pansa has died of his wounds: that in the same battle the Martian legion was annihilated, and L. Tabatus, Gaius Peducaeus, and Decimus Carfulenus killed: that in the battle fought by Hirtius 5 both the fourth legion and all Antony's alike were cut to pieces, as well as those of Hirtius; that the fourth, indeed, after also capturing Antony's camp were annihilated by the fifth: that there Hirtius also and Pontius Aquila perished: that Octavian also is said to have fallen—for this if true, which God forbid! 6 I am exceedingly grieved: that Antony has abandoned the siege of Mutina with disgrace, but has 5,000 cavalry, three legions fully armed and organized, 7 and one commanded by Publius Bagiennus: 8 that Ventidius also with the seventh, eighth, and ninth legions has effected a junction with him: and that if Antony finds nothing to hope for from Lepidus, he will have recourse to extreme measures, and raise not only the native tribes, but also the slaves: that Parma has been sacked: 9 that L. Antonius has occupied the pass of the Alps. very doubtful whether this military organization of the equites existed at this time in reality. It was elaborated by Augustus some years later. Now if these things are true, not one of us ought to be idle or wait for a decree from the senate. For the situation forces all to aid in quenching such a dreadful conflagration, who wish the Empire, or in fact the very name, of the Roman people, to survive. For I hear that Decimus Brutus has only seventeen cohorts, and two weak legions of recruits, which Antony had enrolled. However, I have no doubt the survivors of Hirtius's army are all flocking to him. For I don't think there is much hope in a levy, especially as, nothing can be more risky than that Antony should have time given him for concentration. The season of the year too gives me more freedom of action, because the corn is by this time in the fields 10 or in the farmhouses. Therefore in my next letter my plans shall be explained: for I do not wish to fail in duty to or to survive the Republic. However, what vexes me most is the length and dangerous nature of the journey to my quarters, the result of which is that no news reaches me till the fortieth day after the event, or even later.