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CDLXXXI (F IV, 13)

TO P. NIGIDIUS FIGULUS (IN EXILE)
ROME (? SEPTEMBER)
Though I have for some time past been on the look-out as to what I had best write to you1 , not only does no definite subject occur to me, but even the usual style of letter seems impossible. For of one department and habitual element in those letters, 2 which we used to write in the days of our prosperity, the state of the times has violently deprived us, and fortune has ordained that I should be unable to write or so much as to think of anything of the sort. There only remained a certain gloomy and wretched style of letter, and one suited to the state of the times: that, too, fails me. In it there is bound to be either a promise of some assistance, or some consolation for your sorrow. I had no such promise to give: for, cast down by a similar blow of fortune, I am myself supporting my disasters by the aid of others, and it more frequently occurs to my mind to complain that I am living as I do, than to rejoice that I am alive. For although no signal injury has been inflicted upon me personally apart from others, and although it has never occurred to my mind to wish for anything in such circumstances which Caesar has not spontaneously offered me, yet nevertheless I am being so worn out with anxieties, that I regard myself as doing wrong in the mere fact of remaining alive. For I have lost not only many very intimate associates whom either death has snatched from me, or exile torn away, but also all the friends whose affection my former successful defence of the Republic, accomplished with your aid, had gained for me. I am in the very midst of their shipwrecked fortunes and the confiscation of their property; and I not only hear—which in itself would have been bad enough—but I have before my very eyes the sharpest of all pangs, the actual sight of the ruin of those men by whose aid in old times I quenched that conflagration. And in the city in which I once enjoyed such popularity, influence, and glory, I am now entirely deprived of all these. I retain, indeed, Caesar's supreme kind-ness: but that cannot make up for violence and a complete upset of the established order of things. Therefore, being shorn of all to which nature and taste and habit had accustomed me, I present no pleasant object either to others, as it seems to me, or to myself. For, being inclined by nature to be always actively employed in some task worthy of a man, I have now no scope, not merely for action, but even for thought. And I, who in old times was able to help men, who were either obscure or even guilty, am now unable to make even a kind promise to Publius Nigidius—the most eminent man of the day for learning and purity of character, who formerly enjoyed the highest popularity, and at any rate was a most affectionate friend to me.

Therefore from that kind of letter I am forcibly debarred. The only thing left is to console you and to put before you some considerations by which I may endeavour to distract your thoughts from your afflictions. But, if anyone ever had, you have the gift in the highest degree of consoling either yourself or another. Therefore upon that part of the subject which proceeds from profound reason and philosophy I will not touch: I will leave it entirely to you. What is becoming to a brave and wise man, what solidity of character, what a lofty mind, what a past such as yours, what studies and accomplishments, in which you have been eminent from boyhood, demand of you—that you will see for yourself. I only undertake to assure you of what I am able to gather and perceive, from being at Rome and watching affairs anxiously and with attention: it is that you will not be long in the distressing circumstances in which you are at present; but that in those, nevertheless, which I share with you, you will perhaps be permanently. I think I perceive, to begin with, that the mind of him who is now all-powerful is inclined to grant your restoration. I am not writing at random. The less familiar I am with him, the more minute am I in my inquiries. It is in order that he may feel less difficulty in returning a sterner answer to those with whom he is still more angry, that he is as yet slower than he otherwise would have been in releasing you from your distressing position. His close friends, indeed, and those who are most liked by him, both speak and think of you with surprising kindness. Then there is in your favour the wish of the common people, or I should rather say a consensus of all classes. Even that which for the present, indeed, is most powerless of all, but which hereafter must necessarily be powerful, I mean the Republic itself, will with all the strength it may possess enforce your claim before long, believe me, upon those very men by whom it is now held in bondage.

I come round, then, to the point of even making you a promise, which in the first instance I refrained from doing. For I will both open my arms to his most familiar friends, who are very fond of me and are much in my society, and will worm my way into his intimacy, which up to this time my scruples have closed to me, and I will at least follow up all the paths by which I shall think it possible to arrive at the object of our wishes. In all this department I will do more than I venture to write. And other things, which I know for certain to be at your service at the hands of many, are in the highest state of preparation on my side. There is no one article of property belonging to me which I would choose to have my own rather than yours. On this point, and indeed on the whole subject, I write the less liberally, because I prefer your hoping, what I feel sure will be the case, that you will be in the enjoyment of your own again. It remains for me to beg and beseech you to keep up your spirits to the highest pitch, and not to remember those maxims only which you have learnt from other great men, but those also which you have yourself produced by your genius and industry. If you review these, you will at once hope for the best, and endure philosophically what happens, of whatsoever kind it may be. But you know this better than I, or rather than anyone. For my part, whatever I understand to be to your interests I will attend to with the greatest zeal and activity, and will preserve the memory of what you did for me at the saddest period of my life.


1 P. Nigidius Figulus, tribune B.C. 60-59, praetor B.C. 58, had adhered throughout to the Pompeian party. He was a very learned man, who wrote on various subjects of natural history, augural science, and language. Suetonius (Aug. 94) says that he prophesied the future greatness of Augustus by astrology from the hour of his birth. He was not recalled, but died shortly after the date of this letter. He professed to follow Pythagoras in some way.

2 Literary or philosophical subjects, apparently, or perhaps lively and sportive subjects. See vol. i., p.354.

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