previous next


M. CICERO to Appius Pulcher, (as I hope) censor. Being in camp on the river Pyramus, 1 I received two letters from you at the same time, forwarded by Q. Servilius from Tarsus. One of them was dated 5th of April, the other, which seemed to me the more recent, was not dated. I will therefore answer the former first, in which you tell me about your acquittal on the charge of lèse majesté. I had, indeed, been long ago informed of this by letters, messages, and in fine by common rumour, for nothing could be more notorious—not because anyone had expected a different result, but because, as a rule, no report about men of illustrious reputation gets out without making a stir—yet your letter increased the satisfaction I felt in the news, not only because it spoke in clear terms and with greater fullness than the talk of the common people, but also because I felt more really like congratulating you when I heard your own story from yourself. Accordingly, I embraced you in imagination, since you were not here, and, kissing the actual letter, I also congratulated myself. For compliments paid by the whole people, the senate, and the jurors to ability, energy, and virtue (perhaps I flatter myself in imagining myself possessed of these) I look upon as paid to myself also. Nor is it the splendid result of your trial so much as the perverted intelligence of your enemies that excites my wonder. "Bribery or maiestas," you will say, "what does it matter which?" Nothing substantially: for the former you have never touched, and the latter you have promoted rather than injured. But the fact is that maiestas (in spite of Sulla) is of such a vague nature as to permit of the safe denunciation of anyone: while bribery is a word of such definite meaning that either the accusation or the defence must be discreditable. 2 For how can there be any doubt as to whether bribery has been employed or not? Now, who ever suspected your successive elections? How unlucky that I wasn't there! What roars of laughter I would have caused! But as to the trial for malestas, there were two things that gave me very great pleasure in your letter: one was your saying that you were defended by the Republic itself—for even if good and gallant citizens were as plentiful as possible, it still ought to preserve men like you; while in the actual state of affairs it is more bound than ever to do so, when there is such a dearth of such men in every office and every age, that a state so bereaved ought to welcome guardians like you with open arms: the other is your wonderfully high praise of the good faith and good feeling of Pompey and Brutus. I am delighted at their honourable conduct and cordial kindness, both because they are your relations and my very dear friends, and also because one of them is the first of men of every age and country, while the other has long been the first of our younger men, and will soon, I hope, be first of all the citizens. As to having the witnesses who took bribes punished with ignominy by their several states, unless something has already been done by the agency of Flaccus, it shall be done by mine on my return journey through Asia.

Now I come to your second letter. You send me a sketch-plan, so to speak, of the state of things affecting us both, and of the whole condition of politics: in this I am much relieved by the sagacity of your letter. For I perceive that the dangers ahead are at once less formidable than I feared, and the safeguards greater, if; as you say, all the real strength of the state has devoted itself to Pompey as its leader: and I perceived at the same time that your spirit was alert and keen in the defence of the Republic, and I experienced a wonderful pleasure from the energy which made you determine, in spite of very pressing engagements, that the state of the Republic should be known to me by your means. Certainly: keep the books on the augural science for the time when we take a holiday together; for when I wrote dunning you for the performance of your promise, I thought of you as being outside the walls and enjoying the most complete leisure. As it is, however, instead of your augural books, I shall expect all your speeches complete. Decimus Tullius, to whom you gave a message for me, has not yet been to see me, nor have I at present any of your friends with me; only my own, who, however, are all yours. I don't understand what you mean by my "somewhat angry letter." I have written to you twice, clearing myself carefully, and only gently finding fault with you for having been too ready to believe things about me. This is a kind of expostulation which seems to me proper for a friend; but if you don't like it, I won't employ it again. But if, as you say, the letter was ill expressed, be sure it was not mine. For as Aristarchus denies any verse he doesn't like to be Homer's, so pray do you (excuse the joke) consider nothing that is ill expressed to be mine. Farewell, and in your censorship, if you are now censor, as I hope you are, think often of your ancestor. 3

1 The modern Seikun.

2 The first maiestas is used in the proper sense of "majesty of the people." As a crime it is a wide term, covering all kinds of actions, and may therefore be brought against anyone without obvious injustice; whereas ambitus is a definite charge, which must either be groundless, in which case it is discreditable to bring it, or well grounded, when it is discreditable to the defendant. It must be one thing or the other; it can't be vague, or partly true and partly false, as majestas may. Maiestas is used briefly for crimen laesae maiestatis populi Romani, and might include not only acts of treason, but ill-management of any sort, whereby the interests of the people suffered. It took the place (with extended meaning) of the ancient perduellio. It seems first to have been used as a legal term in the law of Saturninus (B.C. 102), and it was afterwards more fully developed by Sulla's lex Cornelia dc maiestate (B.C. 80). (Cic. in Pis. § 50.)

3 The famous App. Claudius Caecus, censor B.C. 312-308.

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 Latin (L. C. Purser)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: