previous next



Owing to your having in familiar style, as you were quite entitled to do, dropped your praenomen in your letter to me, I was at first doubtful whether it did not come from Volumnius the senator, with whom I am very intimate, but presently the εὐτραπελία of the letter itself convinced, me that it was yours. 1 In that letter I was delighted with everything except this: you are not shewing yourself a very energetic agent in maintaining my rights in my mines of (Attic) salt. For you say that, ever since my departure, everybody's bons mots, and among those even Sestius's, 2 are fathered on me. What! do you allow that? Don't you stand up for me? Don't you protest? Why, I did hope that I had left my bons mots with such a clear stamp on them, that their style might be recognized at a glance. But as there is so much scum in the city, that nothing can be so graceless as not to seem graceful 3 to some one, do your best, an you love me, to maintain, on your solemn affidavit, 4 that they are none of mine, unless sharp double meaning, subtle hyperbole, neat pun, laughable παρὰ προσδοκίαν—unless everything else, in fact, which I set forth in the person of Antonius in my second book de Oratore, 5 shall appear en réglé and really witty. For as to your complaints about the law courts I care much less. Let all the defendants, for what I care, go hang! If Selius himself is eloquent enough to establish his freedom, I don't trouble myself. But my prerogative of wit, please let us defend by any amount of injunctions. In that department you are the only rival I fear: I don't think anything of the rest. Do you suppose I am laughing at you? I never knew before that you were so sharp! But, by Hercules, joking apart, I did think your letter very witty and neatly turned. But those particular stories, 6 laughable as they in fact were, did not, all the same, make me laugh. For I am anxious that the friend to whom you refer should have as much weight as possible in his tribuneship, both for his own sake—for, as you know, he is a great favourite of mine—and also, by Hercules, for that of the Republic, which, however, ungrateful to myself it may be, I shall never cease to love. You, however, my dear Volumnius, since you have begun doing so, and now see also that it gives me pleasure, write to me as often as possible about affairs in the city, about politics. I like the gossiping style of your letter. Farther—more, speak seriously to Dolabella, whom I see and believe to be very anxious for my regard, and to be most affectionately disposed towards me: encourage him in that disposition, and make him wholly mine; not, by Hercules, that there is anything lacking in him, but as I am very much set upon it, I don't think I am showing too much anxiety.

1 εὐτραπελία gracious playfulness," suggesting his friend's cognomen Eutrapelus.

2 Though it cannot be proved, there is no reason why this may not refer to P. Sestius, Cicero's client of B.C. 56, and also the author of the speech which it gave Catullus a fit of the colic to read or hear read (Cat. 44). Though Cicero may have had every respect for him, he may also have thought poorly of his style of wit. Cicero's own faculty for witticisms is often referred to, and at times got him into trouble, as in the camp of Pompey in B.C. 49-48 (2 Phil. 30). For the poor style of Sestius's writing see Letter CCCXIV.

3 He uses two words, ἀκύθηρονand venustum, which involve a play on words—" without Cytherea" and "Venus-like "—which cannot well be represented in English.

4 Sacramento, properly the deposit paid into court by the parties to a suit as security.

5 De Oratore, 2.235ff., where, however, the speaker is not Antonius, but C. Iulius Caesar Strabo Vopiscus. The de Oratorewas composed in B.C. 55.

6 Illa Editors generally wish to insert some word here, such as Curionis or extrema, to make the meaning clear. But we must remember that Cicero is answering a letter, and his correspondent would have no doubt of his meaning, though we are left to guess it. The next sentence shows that the reference is to Curio, of whose election Cicero therefore knows, which dates the letter as not earlier than December. See Letter CCXXV.

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: