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CLXIX (F VII, 12)

TO C. TREBATIUS TESTA (IN GAUL)
ROME (?FEBRUARY)
I was wondering what had made you cease writing to me. My friend Pansa 1 has informed me that you have become an Epicurean! What a wonderful camp yours must be! What would you have done if I had sent you to Tarentum 2 instead of Samobriva? I was already a little doubtful about you, when I found you supporting the same doctrine as my friend Selius ! 3 But on what ground will you support the principles of civil law, if you act always in your own interest and not in that of your fellow citizens? What, too, is to become of the legal formula in cases of trust, "as should be done among honest men"? For who can be called honest who does nothing except on his own behalf? What principle will you lay down "in dividing a common property," when nothing can be "common" among men who measure all things by their own pleasure ? 4 How, again, can you ever think it right to swear by Jupiter lapis, when you know that Jupiter cannot be angry with anyone? 5 What is to become of the people of Ulubrae, 6 if you have decided that it is not right to take part in civic business? Wherefore, if you are really and truly a pervert from our faith, I am much annoyed; but if you merely find it convenient to humour Pansa, I forgive you. Only do write and tell us how you are, and what you want me to do or to look after for you.


1 C. Vibius Pansa had been in Gaul, and was now home to stand for the tribuneship, which he obtained for B.C. 52-51.

2 Where he would have been in luxury.

3 A follower of the new academy, with which Cicero was more in sympathy than with the Epicurean ethics, but apparently only partly so. The leading doctrine was the denial of the possibility of knowledge, and, applied to ethics, this might destroy all virtue.

4 All these jesting objections to a lawyer being an Epicurean are founded on the Epicurean doctrine that individual feeling is the standard of morals, and the summum bonum is the good of the individual. The logical deduction that a man should therefore hold aloof from politics and social life, as involving social obligations and standards, was, of course, evaded in practice.

5 For the Epicureans believed the gods to exist, but not to trouble themselves with the affairs of men. In taking an oath by Jupiter lapis the swearer took a stone in his hand and said, "If I abide by this oath may he bless me: but if I do otherwise in thought or deed, may all others be kept safe, each in his own country, under his own laws, in enjoyment of his own goods, household gods, and tombs—may I alone be cast out, even as this stone is now." Then he throws down the stone. This passage from Polybius (iii. 25) refers to treaties, but the same form seems to have been used in suits about land.

6 Ulubrae—like other municipia—had a patronus at Rome to look after its interests. If Trebatius (who was its patronus) would take no part in politics, he would be of no use to the Ulubrani. πολιτεύεσθαι"to act as a citizen," "to act as a member of a political body."

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