previous next


Your letter 1 would have given me great pain, had it not been that by this time reason itself has dispelled all feelings of annoyance, and had not my mind, from long despair of public safety, become callous to any new sorrow. Nevertheless, I do not know how it happened that you conceived from my former letter the suspicion which you mention in yours. For what did it contain beyond a lamentation over the state of the times, which do not cause me greater anxiety than they do you? For I know the keenness of your intellect too well to suppose that you do not see what I see myself. What surprises me is that, knowing me as thoroughly as you ought to do, you could be induced to think, that I was either so shortsighted as to abandon a fortune in the ascendant for one on the wane and all but entirely sunk; or so inconsistent as to throw away the favour already gained of a man at the height of prosperity, and so be untrue to myself, and— a thing which I have from the beginning and ever since avoided—take part in a civil war. What, then, do you mean by my "lamentable" design? Is it that of retiring, perhaps, to some secluded spot? For you know how it not only turns my stomach—as it used at one time to turn yours also—but sickens my very eyes to see the insolent conduct of mere upstarts. I have the additional gêne of the procession of lictors, and the title of imperator, by which I am addressed. If I had been without that burden, I should have been content with any retreat, however humble, in Italy. But these laurelled fasces of mine not only attract the eyes, but now also provoke the remarks of the malevolent. And though that is so, I yet never thought of leaving the country without the approbation of your party. But you know my small estates: I am obliged to stay on them, not to be troublesome to my friends. Now the fact of my finding it pleasantest to reside in my marine villa causes some to suspect me of an intention to embark on a voyage: and, after all, perhaps I should not have been unwilling to do so, had I been able to reach peace: for how could I consistently sail to war: especially against a man who, I hope, has forgiven me, on the side of a man who by this time cannot possibly forgive me?

In the next place, you might without any difficulty have understood my feeling at the time of your visit to me in my Cuman villa. For I did not conceal from you what Titus Ampius had said: 2 you saw how I shrank from leaving the city after hearing it. Did I not assure you that I would endure anything rather than quit Italy to take part in a civil war? What, then, has occurred to make me change my resolve? Has not everything been rather in favour of my abiding by my opinion? Pray believe me in this—and I am sure you do think so-that among these miseries I seek for nothing but that people should at length understand that I have preferred peace to everything: that, when that was given up in despair, my first object was to avoid actual civil war. Of this consistent conduct I think I shall never have cause to repent. I remember, for instance, that our friend Q. Hortensius used to plume himself on this particular thing, that he had never taken any part in a civil war. In this matter my credit will be more brilliant, because it was attributed to want of spirit in his case: in mine I do not think that this idea can possibly be entertained. Nor am I terrified by the considerations which you put before me, with the most complete fidelity and affection, with the view of alarming me. For there is no sort of violence that does not seem to be hanging over the heads of all in this world-wide convulsion; and this, indeed, I would with the greatest pleasure have averted from the Republic at the cost of my private and domestic losses, even those against which you bid me be on my guard. To my son, whom I rejoice to see enjoying your affection, I shall leave, if the Republic survives in any shape, a sufficiently noble inheritance in the memory of my name: but if it entirely disappears, nothing will happen to him apart from the rest of the citizens. You ask me to have some regard to my son-in-law-a most excellent young man, and very dear to me: can you doubt, when you know how much I regard both him, and of course my dear Tullia, that this subject gives me the keenest anxiety? The more so, that in the universal disaster I yet used to flatter myself with this little grain of hope, that my, or rather our, Dolabella would be freed from those embarrassments which he had brought upon himself by his own liberality. Pray ask him how he got through the settling days, while he was in the city. How disagreeable they were to him, and how derogatory to myself as his father-in-law! Accordingly, I am neither waiting for the result of the Spanish campaign, as to which I am fully convinced that the truth is as you say, nor am I meditating any astute policy. If there is ever to be a state, there will be doubtless a place for me: but if there is not, you will yourself, as I think, make for the same lonely retreats in which you will hear that I have taken up my abode. But perhaps I am talking wildly, and all these troubles will end better. For I remember the expressions of despair among those who were old men when I was a youth: perhaps I am now imitating them, and indulging in the usual weakness of my time of life. I wish it may be so. But nevertheless!-I suppose you have heard that a purple-bordered toga is being woven for Oppius. 3 For our friend Curtius thinks of a double-dyed one: but the hand that should dye it keeps him waiting. 4 I put in this seasoning of joke to shew you that, in spite of my indignation, I am still in the habit of laughing. 5 As to what you say in your letter about Dolabella, I advise you to look to it as closely as if your own interests were at stake. My last remark shall be this: I shall do nothing wild or inconsiderate. However, I beg you, in whatever country I may be, to protect me and my children, as our friendship and your honour demand.

1 See Letter CCCLXXXII, p. 367. This letter to Caelius is far more discreditable to Cicero than the most pitiful of his letters from exile. There is hardly a word in it which is not false, or a suggestio falsi. It was meant to be shewn to Caesar, and is a sad piece of trimming. It is astonishing that he should have sent Atticus a copy of it, when he remembered what he had written continually to him. The idea of Malta, if really entertained, was only a passing one. His real hesitation was as to going to Pompey.

2 Who advocated uncompromising resistance to Caesar.

3 That is, Oppius, a partisan of Caesar's, and generally spoken of in connexion with Balbus, is to have some curule office by Caesar's favour.

4 M. Curtius Postumus, who had also joined Caesar, was to have an augurship (see p. 396). The augurs wore a toga dyed in some special way with two colours, which in Letter XXXV he calls δίβαφον (vol. i., p. 98). By infector, "dyer," Cicero seems to mean Caesar, who was to give him the promotion.

5 The jest consists in the jocose description of Oppius and Curtius— Oppius as ordering a new toga, and Curtius as sending his toga to be dyed, and being kept waiting by the dyer (i.e., Caesar). He seasons the bitter herbs of his letter with a dressing of jest. He uses a word (adspersi) specially applied to "dressing" salads or vegetables with oil or vinegar or the like. Cp. pro Cluent. 7 I, Conditor totius negotii Guttam aspergit huic Bulbo.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (Frank Frost Abbott, 1909)
load focus Latin (L. C. Purser)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: