previous next

2% of the text is displayed below. If you wish to view the entire text, please click here

B.C. 45. Dictator, r.p.c., C. Iulius Caesar III. Magister Equitum, M. Aemilius Lepidus. Coss., C. Iulius Caesar IV., sine collega. Q. Fabius Maximus, mort., C. Caninius Rebilus, C. Trebonius.

B.C. 45. Dictator, r.p.c., C. Iulius Caesar III. Magister Equitum, M. Aemilius Lepidus. Coss., C. Iulius Caesar IV., sine collega. Q. Fabius Maximus, mort., C. Caninius Rebilus, C. Trebonius.
During this year Cicero remained at Rome or some of his country villas, till the death of his daughter Tullia after childbirth. In deep grief he retired to Astura, where he sought consolation partly in prosecuting a design for building a temple in her memory, partly in writing. He produced a Consolatio, and the two treatises, de Finibus and Academica (the latter first in two books, afterwards rearranged in four). He also projected, but did not carry out, a treatise on the reconstruction of the constitution, to be addressed to Caesar. In December of the previous year Caesar had started for Spain to attack the Pompeian army commanded by Gnaeus and Sextus Pompeius. The victory of Munda (17th March) and the subsequent death of Gnaeus seemed to settle the question of Spain—though the opposition under Sextus Pompeius survived many years—and Caesar returned to Rome in October. Much of the correspondence of this year concerns Cicero's grief for his daughter. When he touches on political affairs, however, his discontent with the Caesarian government and general policy is made very evident.

DXXIX (F xv, 18)

1 MY letter would have been longer, had not the messenger come for it when he was just on the point of starting for you. It would have been longer also if it had any persiflage in it, for we cannot be serious with safety. "Can we laugh, then?" you will say. No, by Hercules, not very easily. Yet other means of distraction from our troubles we have none. "Where, then," you will say, "is your philosophy?" Yours indeed is in the kitchen, mine in the schools. 2 For I am ashamed of being a slave. Accordingly, I pose as being busy about other things, to avoid the reproach of Plato. 3 We have no Certain intelligence from Spain as yet—in fact, no news at all. For my sake I am sorry that you are out of town, for your own I am glad. But your letter-carrier is getting clamorous. Good-bye then, and love me as you have done from boyhood.

DXXX (F XV, 16)

I think you must be a little ashamed at this being the third letter inflicted on you before I have a page or a syllable from you. But I will not press you: I shall expect, or rather exact, a longer letter. For my part, if I had a messenger always at hand, I should write even three an hour. For somehow it makes you seem almost present when I write anything to you, and that not "by way of phantoms of images," as your new friends express it, 4 who hold that "mental pictures" are caused by what Catius called "spectres"—for I must remind you that Catius Insuber the Epicurean, lately dead, calls "spectres" what the famous Gargettius, and before him Democritus, used to call "images." Well, even if my eyes were capable of being struck by these "spectres," because they spontaneously run in upon them at your will, I do not see how the mind can be struck. You will be obliged to explain it to me, when you return safe and sound, whether the "spectre" of you is at my command, so as to occur to me as soon as I have taken the fancy to think about you; and not only about you, who are in my heart's core, but supposing I begin thinking about the island of Britain—will its image fly at once into my mind? But of this later on. I am just sounding you now to see how you take it. For if you are angry and annoyed, I shall say more and demand that you be restored to the sect from which you have been ejected by "violence and armed force." 5 In an injunction of this sort the words "within this year" are not usually added. Therefore, even if it is now two or three years since you divorced Virtue, 6 seduced by the charms of Pleasure, 7 it will still be open for me to do so. And yet to whom am I speaking? It is to you, the most gallant of men, who ever since you entered public life have done nothing that was not imbued to the utmost with the highest principle. In that very sect of yours I have a misgiving that there must be more stuff than I thought, if only because you accept it. "How did that come into your head?" you will say. Because I had nothing else to say. About politics I can write nothing: for I don't choose to write down my real opinions.


FOR my book not having been delivered to you so quickly, forgive my timidity, and pity my position. My son, I am told, was very much alarmed at the book 8 being put in circulation, and with reason—since it does not matter so much in what spirit it is written, as in what spirit it is taken—for fear lest a stupid thing like that should stand in my light, and that too when I am still suffering for the sins of my pen. In that matter my fate has been a strange one: for whereas a slip of the pen is cured by erasure, and stupidity is punished by loss of reputation, my mistake is corrected by exile: though my greatest crime is having spoken ill of the enemy when engaged in active service. There was no one on our side, I presume, who did not pray for victory for himself; no one who, even when offering sacrifice for something else, did not breathe a wish for Caesar's speedy defeat. If he imagines that not to be the case, he is a very fortunate man. If he does know it, and has no delusion on the subject, why be angry with a man who has written something against his views, when he has pardoned all those who offered every sort of petition to the gods against his safety?

But to return to my subject, the cause of my fear was this. I have written about you, on my honour, sparingly and timidly, not merely checking myself, but almost beating a retreat. Now everyone knows that this style of writing ought not merely to be free, but even vehement and lofty. One is thought to have a free hand in attacking another, yet you must take care not to fall into mere violence: it is not open to one to praise oneself, lest the result should be the vice of egotism: there is no other course than to praise the man, on whom any blame that you may cast is necessarily set down to weakness or jealousy. And I rather think that you will like it all the better, and think it more suited to your present position. For what I could not do in good style, it was in my power first of all not to touch upon, and, as next best, to do so as sparingly as possible. But after all I did check myself: I softened many phrases, cut out many, and a very large number I did not write down at all. Then, as in a ladder, if you were to remove some rounds, cut out others, leave some loosely fastened, you would be contriving the means of a fall, not preparing a way of ascent, just so with a writer's genius: if it is at once hampered and frustrated by so many disadvantages, what can it produce worth listening to or likely to satisfy? When, indeed, I come to mention Caesar himself, I tremble in every limb, not from fear of his punishing, but of his criticising me. For I do not know Caesar thoroughly. What do you think of a courage that talks thus to itself? "He will approve of this: that expression is open to suspicion." "What if I change it to this? But I fear that will be worse." Well, suppose I am praising some one: "Shan't I offend him ?" Or when I am criticising some one adversely: "What if it is against his wish ?" "He punishes the pen of a man engaged in a campaign: what will he do to that of a man conquered and not yet restored ?"

You yourself add to my alarm, because in your Orator you shield yourself under the name of Brutus, 9 and try to make him a party to your apology. When the universal "patron" does this, what ought I to do—an old client of yours, and now everyone's client? Amidst such misgivings therefore created by fear, and on the rack of such blind suspicion, when most of what one writes has to be adapted to what one imagines are the feelings of another, not to one's own judgment, I feel how difficult it is to come off successfully, though you have not found the same difficulty, because your supreme and surpassing genius has armed you for every eventuality. Nevertheless, I told my son to read the book to you, and then to take it away, or only to give it to you on condition that you would promise to correct it, that is, if you would give it a totally new complexion.

About my journey to Asia, though the necessity for my making it was very urgent, I have obeyed your commands. Why should I urge you to exert yourself for me? You are fully aware that the time has come when my case must be decided. There is no occasion, my dear Cicero, for you to wait for my son. He is a young man: he cannot from his warmth of feeling, or his youth, or his timidity, think of all necessary measures. The whole business must rest on you: you is all my hope. Your acuteness enables you to hit upon the measures which Caesar likes, and which win his favour. Everything must originate with you, and be brought to the desired conclusion by you. You have great influence with Caesar himself, very great with all his friends. If you will convince yourself of this one thing, that your duty is not merely to do what you are asked—though that is a great and important thing—but that the whole burden rests on you, you will carry it through: unless—which I don't believe—my misfortunes make me too inconsiderate, or my friendship too bold, in placing this burden upon you. But your lifelong habits suggest an excuse for both: for from your habit of exerting yourself for your friends, your intimates have come not so much to hope for that favour at your hands, as to demand it as a right. As for my book, which my son will give you, I beg that you will not let it out of your hands, or that you will so correct it as to prevent it doing me any harm.



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.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: