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Letter XXXII: ad familiares 13.1

Athens, between June 25 and July 6, 51 B.C. Gaius Memmius was praetor in 58 B.C. , and in 57 B.C. went out as governor of Bithynia, where the poets Catullus and Helvius Cinna were members of his staff (cf. Cat. 10 and 28, and for a sketch of Memmius as an orator, Cic. Brut. 247.) He belonged at that time to the party of the Optimates, but later he became a democrat, and in 54 B.C. was supported by Caesar for the consulship, but having made a disgraceful political bargain with the consuls of that year (Att. 4.15.7), was banished. At this time he was living in Athens, and having become the owner of the garden and of the ruins of the house which had belonged to Epicurus, he proposed to pull the house down in order to put up a dwelling of his own. The Epicureans, greatly distressed, applied to Cicero through Atticus to intercede with Memmius in their behalf. Cicero, although not on the best of terms with Memmius, acceded to their request. Nothing is known of the result of his intercession.

As an example of Cicero's skill in handling a delicate subject, this letter may be compared with the one to Lucceius (Ep. XVI II.). The case was beset with difficulties. Memmius had been banished, unjustly as he thought, at the moment when he was suing for the consulship. He was now passing a disappointed life in exile, and was so far estranged from Cicero that he had gone to Mytilene to avoid him. He had been annoyed by the importunity of the Epicureans, for whom at the best he had apparently great contempt, in spite of the fact that Lucretius had dedicated to him the de Rerum Natura, and his selfish nature brooked no interference with his plans. Finally, Patro, the leader of the Epicurean school, was personally distasteful to him.

Cicero's itinerary from Minturnae to Athens was as follows: Cumae, Beneventum, May 11; Venusia, May 14; Tarentum, May 18; Brundisium, May 22; Actium, June 14; Athens, June 25. The longest stop on the way was a halt of three weeks at Brundisium.

non satis, etc.: before Cicero reached Athens.

te ... visurus essem: Memmius had withdrawn to Mitylene, to avoid meeting Cicero (Att. 5.11.6), because the latter had been unwilling to defend him against the charge of ambitus.

iniuria: although the banishment of Memmius was deserved, technically it was iniuria, because, as Memmius had turned state's evidence, and had brought a charge of ambitus against Cn. Domitius Calvinus (Q. fr. 3.2.3), he might have reasonably expected exemption from punishment.

cum Patrone ... sunt, Patro and I are quite devoted to one another. Patro was at the head of the Epicurean school in Athens. Cicero was an adherent of the Academy, and had little in common with the Epicureans.

de suis commodis et praemiis: possibly fees due him from his students, which Cicero helped him to collect.

meme: the colloquial double form for the acc.; cf. Intr. 87b and the double form tete, Plaut. Epid. 82, Ter. Ad. 33.

Phaedro: the Epicurean Phaedrus was one of Cicero's first teachers in philosophy.

Philonem: until he came to Rome as a fugitive in 88 B.C. , Philo had been the leader of the New Academy at Athens. His teachings made a deep impression upon Cicero, and determined his philosophical attitude.

uti te sibi placarem: Memmius and Patro had not been on good terms for some unknown reason; cf. Att. 5.11.6.

illud parietinarum: with a minimizing force; cf. hoc litterarum, Ep. XXXIII. 3n.

aedificationem: for aedificandi consilium (Manutius).

offensiuncula: cf. pulchellus, Ep. V.10n.

nisi: Brix, on Plaut. Trin. 233, says: 'nisi has after negative sentences (i.e. in old Latin) the force of a weak adversative particle, however, but.' This archaic force is retained in the passage before us; cf. nihil mihi gratius facere potes, nisi tamen id erit mihigratissimum, si quae tibi mandavi confeceris, Att. 5.14.3.

honorem officium: his reputation and his duty as leader of the Epicurean sect.

testamentorum ius: Epicurus had bequeathed his garden and house to his disciples.

Phaedri obtestationem: Phaedrus had probably enjoined upon his successor Patro the necessity of recovering the property.

nihil: cf. Ep. XXV.4n.

nec ... nec introduce distinct phases of the general thought, and so do not destroy the negation.

non quo sit ex istis: Atticus was an Epicurean.

diligit ... amavit: Tyrrell cites Cic. Ep. ad Brut. 1.1.1: Clodius trib. pleb. designatus valde me diligit, vel ut ἐμφατικώτερον dicam, valde me amat.

decretum illud: the right of Memmius to remove the ruins of the house of Epicurus rested upon a decree of the Areopagus.

sic habeto: cf. Ep. XXVI.1n.

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hide References (9 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (9):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 4.15.7
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 5.11.6
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 5.14.3
    • Cicero, Letters to his brother Quintus, 3.2.3
    • Cicero, Letters to Brutus, 1.1.1
    • Catullus, Poems, 10
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 2.1
    • Plautus, Epidicus, 1.1
    • Terence, The Brothers, 1.1
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