CDLXXIX (F IX, I5)
TO L. PAPIRIUS PAETUS (AT NAPLES)I will answer two letters of yours: one which I received four days ago from Zethus, a second which your letter-carrier Phileros brought. From your former letter I gathered that you were much gratified by my anxiety about your health, and I rejoice that you have been convinced of it. 1 But, believe me, you will never see it in its full reality from a letter. For though I perceive that I am being sought out and liked by a considerable number of people—a thing it is impossible for me to deny—there is not one of them all nearer to my heart than yourself. For that you love me, and have done so for a long while and without interruption, is indeed a great thing, or rather the greatest, but it is shared with you by many: but that you are yourself so lovable, so gracious, and so delightful in every way—that you have all to yourself. Added to that is your wit, not Attic, but more pungent than that of the Attics, good Roman wit of the true old city style. Now I—think what you will of it—am astonishingly attracted by witticisms, above all of the native kind, especially when I see that they were first infected by Latinism, when the foreign element found its way into the city, and now-a-days by the breeched 2 and Transalpine tribes also, so that no trace of the old-fashioned style of wit can be seen. Accordingly when I see you, I seem—to confess the truth—to see all the Granii, the Lucilii, as well as the Crassi and Laelii. Upon my life, I have no one left but you in whom I can recognize any likeness of the old racy cheerfulness. And when to these graces of wit there is added your strong affection for me, do you wonder that I have been so severely alarmed at so grave a blow to your health? In your second letter you say in self-defence that you did not advise me against the purchase at Naples, 3 but recommended caution. You put it politely, and I did not regard it in any other fight. However, I gathered the same idea as I do from this letter, that you did not think it open to me to take the course which I thought I might-namely, to abandon politics here, not indeed entirely, but to a great extent. You quote Catulus and all that period. 4 Where is the analogy? I did not myself at that time desire to absent myself for any length of time from the guardianship of the constitution: for I was sitting at the helm and holding the rudder; whereas now I have scarcely a place in the hold. Do you suppose the number of senatorial decrees will be any the less if I am at Naples? While I am at Rome and actually haunting the forum, senatorial decrees are written out in the house of your admirer, my intimate friend. 5 And whenever it occurs to him, I am put down as backing a decree, and am informed of its having reached Armenia and Syria, professing to have been made in accordance with my vote, before any mention has been made of the business at all. 6 And, indeed, I would not have you think that I am joking about this; for I assure you I have had letters from kings at the other end of the earth, thanking me for having voted for giving them the royal title, as to whom I was not only ignorant of their having been called kings, but of their very existence even. What, then, am I to do? After all, as long as this friend of ours-this guardian of morals 7 —is here, I will follow your advice: but directly he goes away I am off to your mushrooms. If I have a house there, I will make the expenses allowed for a day by the sumptuary law last over ten days. But if I don't find anything to suit me, I have made up my mind to reside with you: for I know I could not please you more. I am beginning to despair of Sulla's house, as I told you in my last, but I have not, after all, quite given it up. Pray do what you suggest, inspect it with some builders. If there is no defect in walls or roof, the rest will meet my views very well.