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CDXCV (F IX, 21)

You don't say so! You think yourself a madman for imitating the thunder of my eloquence, as you call it? 1 You certainly would have been beside yourself if you had failed to do so: but since you even beat me at it, you ought to jeer at me rather than at yourself. So you had no need of that quotation from Trabea, 2 rather the fiasco was mine. But, after all, what do you think of my style in letters? Don't I talk with you in the vulgar tongue? Why, of course one doesn't write always in the same style. For what analogy has a letter with a speech in court or at a public meeting? Nay, even as to speeches in court, it is not my practice to handle all in the same style. Private causes and such as are of slight importance we plead in simpler language; those that affect a man's civil existence or reputation, of course, in a more ornate style: but letters it is our custom to compose in the language of everyday life. Well, but letting that pass, how did it come into your head, my dear Paetus, to say that there never was a Papirius who was not a plebeian? For, in fact, there were patrician Papirii, of the lesser houses, of whom the first was L. Papirius Mugillanus, censor with L. Sempronius Atratinus—having already been his colleague in the consulship—in the 312th year of the city. But in those days they were called Papisii. After him thirteen sat in the curule chair before L. Papirius Crassus, who was the first to drop the form Papisius. This man was named dictator, with L. Papirius Cursor as Master of the Horse, in the 415th year of the city, and four years afterwards was consul with Kaeso Duilius. Cursor came next to him, a man who held a very large number of offices; 3 then comes L. Masso, who rose to the aedileship; then a number of Massones. The busts of these I would have you keep—all patricians. Then follow the Carbones and Turdi. These latter were plebeians, whom I opine that you may disregard. For, except the Gaius Carbo who was assassinated by Damasippus, there has not been one of the Carbones who was a good and useful citizen. We knew Gnaeus Carbo and his brother the wit: were there ever greater scoundrels? About the one who is a friend of mine, the son of Rubrius, I say nothing. There have been those three brothers Carbo—Gaius, Gnaeus, Marcus. Of these, Marcus, a great thief, was condemned for malversation in Sicily on the accusation of Publius Flaccus: Gaius, when accused by Lucius Crassus, is said to have poisoned himself with cantharides; he behaved in a factious manner as tribune, and was also thought to have assassinated Publius Africanus. 4 As to the other, 5 who was put to death by my friend Pompey at Lilybaeum, there was never, in my opinion, a greater scoundrel. Even his father, on being accused by M. Antonius, is thought to have escaped condemnation by a dose of shoemaker's vitriol. Wherefore my opinion is that you should revert to the patrician Papirii: you see what a bad lot the plebeians were.

1 Paetus had apparently compared his presumption to that of Salmoneus: "Demens, qui nimbos et non imitabile fulmen Aere et cornipedum pulsu simularet equorum" (Verg. Aen. 6.590).

2 Quintus Trabea, a writer of comedies, who flourished about B.C. 120. Cicero quoted him before (see vol. ii., p. 80); but it does not appear what the quotation made by Paetus was-some think the remark about imitating thunder.

3 The hero of the second Samnite war was consul six times, dictator three times.

4 See Vol. ii., p.215. C. Papirius Carbo, a friend and supporter of Tib. Gracchus, and one of the commissioners (after the death of Tiberius) for carrying out his land law. He was tribune in B.C. 131.

5 Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, consul in B.C. 85, 84, and 82, the partisan of Marius. For his death at the hands of Pompey, see vol. ii., p.347.

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