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CDLXXXV (F IV, 9)

TO M. CLAUDIUS MARCELLUS (AT MITYLENE)
ROME (SEPTEMBER)
Though it is only a very few days ago that I gave Quintus Mucius a letter for you written at considerable length, in which I set forth in what state of mind I thought you ought to be, and what I thought you ought to do, yet, since your freedman Theophilus was starting, of whose fidelity and affection to you I had satisfied myself, I was unwilling that he should reach you without a letter from me. On the same considerations, then, as I did in my previous letter, I again and again exhort you, to make up your mind to become a resident member of the Republic, whatever its nature may be, at the earliest possible time. You will perhaps see many things disagreeable to your feelings, but not more after all than you daily hear. Moreover, you are not the man to be affected by the sense of sight alone, and to be less afflicted when you learn the same things by the ear, which indeed are usually even magnified by imagination. 1 But—you object—you will yourself be obliged to say something you do not feel, or to do something you do not approve. To begin with, to yield to circumstances, that is to submit to necessity, has ever been held the part of a wise man: in the next place, things are not—as matters now stand at least—quite so bad as that. You may not be able, perhaps, to say what you think: you may certainly hold your tongue. For authority of every kind has been committed to one man. He consults nobody but himself, not even his friends. There would not have been much difference if he whom we followed were master of the Republic. Can we think that the man who in a time of war, when we were all united in the same danger, consulted only himself and a certain clique of wholly incompetent persons, was likely to be more communicative in the hour of victory, than he had been when the result was still uncertain? And do you think that a man who in your consulship would never be guided by your consummate wisdom, nor, when your brother was administering the consulship under your inspiration, ever condescended to consult you two, would now, if he were in sole power, be likely to want suggestions from us?

Everything in civil war is wretched; of which our ancestors never even once had experience, while our generation has now had it repeatedly: 2 but nothing, after all, is more wretched than victory itself, which, even if it fall to the better men, yet renders them more savage and ruthless, so that, even if they are not such by nature, they are compelled to become so by the necessity of the case. For a conqueror is forced, at the beck of those who won him his victory, to do many things even against his inclination. Were you not wont to foresee simultaneously with myself how bloody that victory was likely to be? Well, would you at that time also have absented yourself from your country for fear of seeing what you disapproved? "No," you will say, "for then I should have been in possession of wealth and my proper position." Ah, but it had been consistent with a virtue such as yours to regard your personal interests as among the most insignificant concerns, and to be more profoundly affected by those of the state. Again, what is to be the end of your present policy? For up to now your conduct is approved, and, as far as such a business admits of it, your good fortune also is commended: your conduct, because while you engaged in the first part of the war under compulsion, you shewed your wisdom by refusing to follow it to the bitter end: your good fortune, because by an honourable retirement you have maintained both the dignity and the reputation of your character. Now, however, it is not right that you should feel any place more to your taste than your native land; nor ought you to love it less because it has lost some of its comeliness, but rather to pity it, and not deprive it of the light of your countenance also, when already bereft of many illustrious sons. Finally, if it was the sign of high spirit not to be a supplicant to the victor, is it not perhaps a sign of pride to spurn his kindness? If it was the act of a wise man to absent himself from his country, is it not perhaps a proof of insensibility not to regret her? And, if you are debarred from enjoying a public station, is it not perhaps folly to refuse to enjoy a private one? The crowning argument is this: even if your present mode of life is more convenient, you must yet reflect whether it is not less safe. The sword owns no law: but in foreign lands there is even less scruple as to committing a crime. I am personally so anxious for your safety, that in this respect I take rank with your brother Marcellus, or at any rate come next to him. It is your business to take measures for your own interests, civil rights, life, and property.


1 "When we only know a thing by hearsay, we are apt to exaggerate its gravity: when we see it we know better its true proportions." The reverse is often stated by Cicero himself, that what is seen gives keener pain than what is heard (see p.138, etc.). Both are in a way true.

2 From the time of Sulla and Marius onwards.

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