previous next

The genuineness of the letters
ad M. Brutum

As controversy has thus raged round the character of Brutus, so has it done also on the genuineness of the two books of letters between Brutus and Cicero. The question has been fully stated and the latest arguments reviewed by the Dublin editors, and need not be discussed over again here. The general result is that the two books are shewn to be part of one book, the ninth, of a much larger collection once existing; that those in Book II. should precede those in Book I.; and that the evidence is in favour of the genuineness of all the letters except 1.16, 17 (pp.243-252). Even of these the Dublin editors think that the evidence in their favour is on the whole stronger than that against them. The MS. authority of these two letters is not different from that for the rest of the book, but I believe that there are many points both of style and historical allusion that would strike a reader of the correspondence as suspicious. The letter to Cicero is worse than that to Atticus both in substance and in style, but neither is worthy of the reputation of Brutus. We unfortunately do not know the details of Cicero's dealings with Octavian well enough to pronounce with certainty that he did not write to him in the tone to which Brutus objects. But we do know that the senate—acting under Cicero's influence—in their vote of honours to the army rather studiously ignored Octavian's services,1 and rejected the mission of Salvidienus when he asked for the consulship for him. If Cicero was at the same time writing in flattering terms to him and proposing an ovation, he was playing a very treacherous and very dangerous game. Therefore if Letters 1. 16, 17 are to be put aside as later compositions, we should be glad to think that 1.15 (pp. 318-324) must follow in the same road: and the panegyric on Messalla—so premature, and so likely to be inserted afterwards—makes the spuriousness at any rate of part of the letter highly probable. There seems to be a kind of fashion in criticism. Forty or fifty years ago there was a tendency to throw doubt on the genuineness of ancient writings with a kind of triumphant scepticism; now the pendulum has swung back—for the most part happily so—and the impulse is to defend everything. Neither fashion is wholly in the right.

1 App. B. C. iii. 74, 86.

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: