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DXXXIX (F VI, 4)

TO AULUS MANLIUS TORQUATUS (AT ATHENS)
ROME (JANUARY)
I have no news to give you, and if there is some after all, I know that you are usually informed of it by your family. About the future, however, difficult as it always is to speak, you may yet sometimes get nearer the truth by conjecture, when the matter is of the kind whose issue admits of being foreseen. In the present instance I think that I perceive thus much, that the war will not be a protracted one, though even as to that there are some who think I am wrong. For myself, even as I write this, I believe that something decisive has occurred, not that I know it for certain, but because the conjecture is an easy one. For while all chances in war are open, and the results of all battles are uncertain, yet on this occasion the forces on both sides are so large, and are said to be in such a state of preparation for a pitched battle, that whichever of the two conquers it will be no matter of surprise. It is an opinion that grows daily stronger that even if there is considerable difference in the merits of the causes of the combatants, there will yet be little difference in the way in which they will use their victory. Of the one side we have now had a pretty full experience: of the other there is no one that does not reflect how much reason there is to fear an armed victor inflamed with rage.

On this point, if I appear to increase your anxiety while I ought to have been lightening it by consolation, I confess that I can find no consolation for our common disasters except that one, which after all—if you can avail yourself of it—is the highest and the one to which I have daily greater recourse: namely, that the consciousness of good intentions is the greatest consoler of misfortune, and that there is no serious evil except misconduct. As from this last we are so far removed, that our sentiments have been absolutely unimpeachable, while it is the result of our policy, not the policy itself, which is criticised: and as we have fulfilled all our obligations, let us bear what has happened without excessive grief. But I do not take upon myself, after all, to console you for misfortunes affecting all alike. Rightly to console them requires a greater intelligence, and to bear them requires unique courage. But anyone can easily shew you why you ought not to feel any sorrow peculiar to yourself. For as to Caesar's decision concerning your restoration, though he has been somewhat slower in relieving you than I had thought he would be, I have no doubt whatever. As to the other party, I do not think that you are at a loss to know my sentiments. Finally, there is the pain that you feel at being so long absent from your family. It is distressing, especially considering the character of your sons, than which nothing can be more charming. But, as I said in my last letter, the state of things is such that everyone thinks his own position the most miserable of all, and most dislikes being precisely where he is. For my part, I consider that the most wretched of all are we who are at Rome, not merely because in all misfortunes it is more painful to see than to hear, but also because we are more exposed to all the risks of sudden perils, than if we were out of town. For myself however, who set up to console you, my feelings have become softened, not so much by literature, to which I have always been devoted, as by lapse of time. You remember how keen my sorrow was. In regard to that the first consolation is that I shewed greater foresight than the rest, when I desired to have peace on any terms however inequitable. And although this was from chance, and not from any prophetic powers of mine, yet I take pleasure in this poor reputation for wisdom. Another source of consolation common to us both is that, if I am called upon to end my life, I shall not be torn from a republic such as I should grieve to lose, especially as I shall then be beyond all consciousness. An additional consolation is my age and the fact that my life is now all but over, which both gives me pleasure in reflecting upon its honourably accomplished career, and forbids my fearing any violence at a period to which nature herself has now almost brought me. Lastly, considering what a great man, or rather what great men, fell in that war, it seems shameless to decline to share the same fortune, if circumstances render it necessary. For my part, I regard everything as possible for myself, nor is there any evil too great for me to believe to be hanging over my head. But since there is more evil in fear than in the thing itself which is feared, I cease to indulge in it, especially as that now hangs over me, in which there will not only be no pain, but also the end of all pain. But I have said enough, or rather more than was needed. It is not love of talking, however, but affection for you that makes my letters too long. I was sorry to hear that Servius had left Athens; for I do not doubt that your daily meeting, and the conversation of a man at once most intimate and of the highest character and wisdom have been a great alleviation to you. Pray keep up your spirits, as you ought and are accustomed to do, by your own virtue. For myself, I shall look after everything with zeal and diligence which I may think to be in accordance with your wishes or for the interests of your self and your family. In doing so I shall imitate your goodness to me, I shall never equal your services.


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