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Letter XLII: ad familiares 16.11

Near Rome, Jan. 12, 49 B.C. Cicero reached Rome, after his absence in Cilicia, Jan. 4, 49 B.C. (cf. 2), but, being anxious to obtain a triumph, remained without the city. This enabled him to avoid participating in the exciting debates which took place in the senate Jan. 1-2 and 5-6, and left him free to negotiate for peace between Caesar and Pompey. On Jan. 1 Curio, Caesar's representative, laid before the senate a proposition to the effect that Caesar should be allowed to sue for the consulship while absent from the city, in accordance with the special law passed in 52 B.C. granting him that privilege (cf. Intr. 26), or if it should be considered necessary for him to give up his army and provinces, that Pompey should be required to do the same. Although this document was read in the senate, the consuls refused to allow a vote upon it, and after fiery speeches by Lentulus, Scipio, and others, it was voted uti ante certam diem (July 1, 49) Caesar exercitum dimittat; si non faciat, eum adversus rem publicam facturum videri (Caes. B. C. 1.2). After consultations with Pompey, whose imperium, as he was still governor of Spain, did not allow him to enter the city, on Jan. 7 the senate passed the senatus consultum ultimum: dent operam consules praetores tribuni plebis quique pro consulibus sint ad urbem, ne quid res publica detrimenti capiat (Caes. B. C. 1.5).

QQ.: cf. Ep. XL. introd. note.

doleo ... valere: that while the course of political events was of such absorbing interest at Rome, Cicero's thoughts are first directed towards Tiro and Tiro's illness, affords a striking proof of his affection for his faithful freedman.

quartanam: the appearance of the febris quartana indicated convalescence. Cf. Juv. 4.57 quartanam sperantibus aegris.

Curius: cf. Ep. XXXIX.2n.

obviam mihi: cf. Cicero's account of his reception on returning from exile in Ep. XV. 5.

mederi: Cicero's absence from Italy while civil war was brewing, his absence from the senate during the stormy debates of the first week in January, as well as his well-known opportunism in politics, and his friendly relations with both Caesar and Pompey, seemed to make him the natural mediator between the opposing factions. That he hoped to effect a compromise is clear from many remarks in the Letters (cf., e.g., Ep. LXV. 5). What many condemn as cowardice in his course during the Civil War finds at least partial justification in his desire to keep a neutral attitude, which would enable him to negotiate a peace.

ex utraque parte : among others Cicero is thinking of the Pompeians Scipio and Lentulus, and the Caesarians Antony and Cassius; cf. Caes. B. C. 1.1-4, and see Ep. LXV. 6 victa est, etc.

minacis ... litteras : the letter read by Curio in the senate Jan. 1 (see introd. note). Caesar (B. C. 1.5) characterizes the propositions contained in his letter as lenissima postulata. Cicero's characterization of the letter would seem to be justified, however, by Caesar's own statement of his purpose in B. C. 1.22 ut se et populum Romanum factione paucorum oppressum in libertatem vindicaret. See also Dio Cass. 41.1.

provinciam: Caesar was proconsul of Gallia Cisalpina, Illyricum, and Gallia Narbonensis.

Curio meus: cf. Ep. VII.3n. He advised Caesar to advance upon Rome at once, without waiting to offer a compromise.

nulla vi expulsi: Antonius and Q. Cassius, two of the tribunes, vetoed the senatus consultum ultimum (cf. introd. note), and although such action was strictly within the limits of their power, serious threats were made against them in the senate. Cf. Caes. B. C. 1.2 refertur confestim de intercessione tribunorum. Dicuntur sententiae graves: ut quisque acerbissime crudelissimeque dixit, ita maxime ab inimicis Caesaris collaudatur, and according to Dio Cassius 41.3 the consul Lentulus went so far as to summon them ὑπεξελθεῖν πρὶν τὰς ψήφους διενεχθῆναι. The principle that the tribune could not be held responsible for his official acts seems to have been first called into question in the year 98 B.C. , in the case of C. Furius, who had been tribune in the preceding year, and similar prosecutions occurred in the years 94 B.C. , 86 B.C. , 74 B.C. , 66 B.C. , and 65 B.C. (cf. Herzog, 1.1167 ff.; Madvig, Verf. u. Verw. 1.467). The case before us would seem to have been the first instance when an attempt was made to hold a tribune accountable during his term of office. As Caesar puts it, de sua salute septimo die (of the calendar year) cogitare coguntur, B. C. 1.5. Cf. also Appian, Bell. Civ. 2.33. Cicero's words, therefore, nulla vi expulsi, while technically true, misrepresent the real state of the case. It was this infringement of the rights of the tribune which Caesar urged in justification of his advance upon Rome.

ad Caesarem: Caesar was at Ravenna.

senatus, etc.: cf. Caes. B. C. 1.5.

ex hac ... parte : i.e. on the side of the Optimates.

qui ... timere: this thought recurs frequently in the letters of the next six months; cf., e.g., Att. 8.8.1 (Pompeius) eundem (i.e. Caesarem) repente timere coeperat, condicionem pacis nullam probarat, nihil ad bellum pararat.

senatus ... triumphum: the right of introducing a subject rested with the presiding officer.

maius suum beneficium: a greater favor on his part, since he could arrange a triumph more worthy of Cicero after the disposal of Caesar's case.

nos Capuam sumpsimus : Cicero's principal duty was to protect Campania and raise levies there. Cf. Att. 7.14.2 me Pompeius Capuam venire voluit et adiuvare dilectum, in quo parum prolixe respondent Campani coloni; see also Intr. 29.

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  • Commentary references from this page (6):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 7.14.2
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 8.8.1
    • Caesar, Civil War, 1.1
    • Caesar, Civil War, 1.2
    • Caesar, Civil War, 1.22
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