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Cicero at Pompey's headquarters, from June, B.C. 49, to August, B.C. 48.

THE correspondence in this volume (January, B.C. 48-February, B.C. 44) opens with a letter to Atticus from Pompey's headquarters in Epirus. There are only nine letters during the fifteen or sixteen months which intervene between Cicero's departure from Italy and his return after the battle of to Pharsalia. One of these is from Caelius (p. 4), foreshadowing the disaster which soon afterwards befell that facile intelligence but ill-balanced character; and one from Dolabella (p. 6), inspired with a genuine wish—in which Caesar shared—that Cicero should withdraw in time from the chances and dangers of the war. Cicero's own letters deal mostly with the anxiety which he was feeling as to his property at home, which was at the mercy of the Caesarians, and, in case of Pompey's defeat, would doubtless be seized by the victorious party, except such of it as was capable of being conceded or held in trust by his friends. He was no doubt prevented from writing freely on the state of affairs in the camp, and on war news generally, by a sort of military censorship to which letters were exposed (p. 4); but he is by the beginning of B.C. 48 evidently in the lowest spirits, and not in the least hopeful of Pompey's success. This may partly be accounted for by ill-health (p. 10), but from the very first he seems to have been convinced that things were going wrong. He says that he avoided taking active duties of any sort,1 because of his dissatisfaction with what was being done. But part of this dissatisfaction seems really to have arisen from fact that Pompey did not offer him any employment of importance.2 This made him still more inclined to listen to Cato, who met him with the remark that he would have been much more useful to his country in Italy, and that his joining Pompey's army was quite unnecessary. Cicero must have felt this a mortifying result of what seemed to himself an heroic resolve, arrived at after months of painful indecision. He avenged himself by indulging in bitter epigrams and sarcastic comments, which no doubt amused his hearers, but did not tend to make him agreeable to Pompey, who, however, was forced to borrow a considerable sum of money of him—the savings of his provincial government, which he had deposited with some companies of publicani in Asia.3 Such an obligation does not make it easier to endure caustic wit in a creditor, and there is no doubt that Cicero was a disturbing element in the camp, and made himself thoroughly disagreeable. His defence of himself on this point in the second Philippic (§§ 37-39) is not very convincing. But we are more in sympathy with other reasons for discontent, which he dwelt upon a few years later in letters to his friends. It was not only the hopelessness of the military position and the inferiority of Pompey's miscellaneous army which disgusted him; it was the evident reasons actuating the aristocratic followers of Pompey. Not only did they desire a bloody revenge on the opposite party, and the attainment of offices and honours from which their opponents were to be ousted; but they were for the most part deeply involved in debt, and were looking forward to confiscations on a vast scale to recruit their bankrupt fortunes.4 It was the old story of the "Lucerian talk" which had revolted Cicero in Italy at the beginning of the war. It became more and more plain to him that there would be little to choose between the victory of either side, as far as the amount of suffering and injustice inflicted on Roman society was concerned. His just criticism on Pompey's mistake after winning the battle of Dyrrachium, in allowing himself to be drawn away from his base of supplies, and with his raw soldiers giving battle to Caesar's veterans, may very well be a criticism conceived after the event, or gathered from the remarks of others. But it is at least plain that he recognized the decisive nature of the defeat at Pharsalia, and quickly resolved not to continue the war. When the news of that disaster reached the fleet at Dyrrachium, Cato and young Gnaeus Pompeius desired Cicero, as the only consular present, to take command of it. Plutarch says that on his refusal Pompey and some of his friends drew their swords and threatened his life, but that he was rescued by Cato and allowed to go to Brundisium. Plutarch's narrative, however, is suspiciously inaccurate, as it implies that Cicero went at once to Brundisium, whereas it is plain from his letters that he sailed by Corcyra to Patrae.5


1 P. 10. Cp. pp.114, 115.

2 τὸ μηδὲν μέγα αὐτῷ χρῆσθαι Πομπήιον (Plut. Cic. 38).

3 See pp.2, 9.

4 See pp.17, 79, 87, 114, 115, etc.

5 P.14. Plut. Cic. 39.

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