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Letter XVIII: ad familiares 5.12

Arpinum, June, 56 B.C. A thorough analysis of this letter to Lucceius, as Böckel points out, will reveal the fact that it is as carefully constructed as any of Cicero's orations:


Yet, while the earnestness of his purpose is apparent throughout, by the light conversational tone which he gives the letter Cicero glosses over the 'impudence' of his request, puts the seriousness of the offense against historical truth in the background, and strives to secure the consent of Lucceius on the score of friendship. For Cicero's own judgment of the epistle, cf. Att. 4.6.4 epistulam, Lucceio nunc quam misi, qua meas res ut scribat rogo, fac ut ab eo sumas--valde bella est. L. Lucceius was an orator and a man of some literary note. In politics and military affairs he was less successful; he was a candidate with Caesar for the consulship in 60 B.C. (cf. Ep. VI.11n), but was defeated, and in the Civil War was one of the intemperate leaders in Pompey's camp.

subrusticus: cf. Intr. 77. The opposite idea to pudor subrusticus is conveyed by frons urbana (Hor. Ep. 1.9.11

ardeo commendari tuis: Böckel notes that the orator and the historian adopt the periodic form of construction with the verb at the end of the clause, as the one best fitted to impart dignity and force to what they say, while often in letters, as in this passage, a writer affects an apparent carelessness upon this point in order to convey the impression of spontaneity and sincerity.

genus scriptorum tuorum: we know very little more of the historical work of Lucceius than this letter tells us. Cf. Asconius, pp.91-93, ed. Orelli.

Italici belli et civilis: the Social War and the struggle between Sulla and the Marian party.

Callisthenes, etc.: subjects of some verb like scripserunt suggested by fecerunt. Callisthenes wrote not only a general history of Greece (Ἑλληνικά), but a special treatise on the Phocian War. Timaeus published a history of his native land, Sicily, and also a sketch of the campaigns of Pyrrhus. Polybius wrote, besides his universal history, an account of the war of Numantia. The last illustration is especially in point, for as Polybius was led to write a separate history of the Numantine War by his friendship for its hero Scipio, Cicero hopes that Lucceius may be induced by a similar sentiment to compose a special treatise.

primum ... deinde: Cicero makes two requests of Lucceius: (1) that he shall write a separate treatise, (2) that he shall emphasize his achievements.

bene et naviter: archaic and colloquial. The use of bene with the force of valde to intensify adjectives and adverbs came into vogue in Cicero's time. Only two instances of this use occur in Latin comedy, but having once found a foothold in the language, it became quickly a favorite colloquialism. Cf. Ital. bene and Fr. bien. Cf. also sane, Ep. XVI.2n., and see Intr. 90.

te plane etiam atque etiam rogo: cf. hoc te vehementer etiam atque etiam rogo, Cic. Fam. 13.5.3.

leges historiae neglegas: cf. Cic. de Or. 2.62 nam quis nescit primam esse historiae legem, ne quid falsi dicere audeat? deinde ne quid veri non audeat? ne quae suspicio gratiae sit in scribendo? ne quae simultates? haec scilicet fundamenta nota sunt omnibus. See also Pliny, Ep. 7.33.10 nam nec historia debet egredi veritatem et honeste factis veritas sufficit. But the prevailing ancient conception of history was a low one; see Quint. 10.1. 31; Sen. N. Q. 7.16.1, 2. Both Atticus and Cicero wrote an account of Cicero's consulship in Greek; cf. Att. 2.1.1-2.

a qua: the use of the preposition shows that gratia is personified.

Herculem Xenophontium: cf. Xen. Mem. 2.1.21.

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

modicum quoddam corpus: corpus is an entire 'work'; liber a part complete in itself.

habet delectationem : this recalls Verg. Aen. 1.203forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit”.

ceteris ... iucunda: for the sentiment, cf. Lucr. 2.1-4.

Epaminondas: cf. de Fin. 2.97; Tusc. Disp. 2.59. The career of Epaminondas was a favorite theme in the schools of the rhetoricians (de Fin. 2.67). Cicero confesses to a similar feeling (Tusc. Disp. 1.96) on reading the account of Theramenes's death.

fuga exituque: the MSS. read fuga redituque, but Themistocles died in exile, so that some change is necessary. See Crit. Append.

fabulam: the technical word for a drama. The comparison suggested by it is only partially carried out in the following clause.

actus : the main divisions in the play; actiones: the subdivisions of the actus. Cf. Krebs, Antibarbarus, on actus and scaena.

adsentatiuncula quadam, by a bit of flattery, as it were; cf. pulchellus, Ep. V.10n.

neque enim tu is es, etc., for neither are you the man not to know what you are, and not to think that the people are envious who do not admire you rather than that those persons are sycophants who praise you.

Alexander, etc.: cf. Pliny, N. H. 7.125 idem hic imperator edixit nequis ipsum alius quam Apelles pingeret, quam Pyrgoteles scalperet, quam Lysippus ex aere duceret. Cf. also Hor. Ep. 2.1. 239.

vel si nulla, etc.: cf. Tac. Agr. 46.

qui neque, etc.: cf. Nep. Ages. 8.

qui ... laborarunt, who have exerted themselves along that line, i.e. of commemorating their names by having likenesses of themselves made by painters or sculptors.

Xenophontis libellus : the Agesilaus.

Timaeo: as historian of Sicily, he recorded with praise the distinguished services which Timoleon of Corinth rendered the Sicihans in their struggles for independence.

ab Herodoto: in his account of the Persian wars.

cum in Sigeum venisset: cf. Cic. pro Arch. 24.

Hector Naevianus : i.e. Hector in the tragedy (Hector proficiscens) of Naevius. Writing to his literary friend Luccejus, Cicero cites the exact authority (Hector Naevianus) without hesitation. In a letter to Cato (Ep. XXXVI II.), making the same quotation, he adds, inquit Hector, opinor apud Naevium.

scribam ipse de me: Cicero had already written a 'Memoir' of his consulship in Greek (Att. 2.1.1; ( 1.20.6), and two years later he composed a poem in three books upon the same subject (Fam. 1.9.23).

multorum: e.g. Sulla and M. Scaurus.

praecones: after the other contests the heralds contended with one another, and the victor received a wreath.

gloriola: cf. note on adsentatiuncula above.

si ... molestum: a polite Colloquial formula; cf. Catul. 55.1 si forte non molestum est; Martial 1.96.1 si non molestum est teque non piget; Plaut. Rud. 120sed nisi molestumst, paucis percontarier volo ego ex te”; Ter. Ad. 806ausculta paucis, nisi molestumst, Demea”; Cic. Cluent. 168. Cf. also Intr. 100.

rescribas: no reply is preserved or mentioned elsewhere. It is quite possible, however, that Lucceius complied with Cicero's request; cf. Att. 4.11.2.

commentarios: perhaps Cicero refers to these notes when he writes to Atticus a year later: tu Lucceio nostrum librum dabis, Att. 4.11.2.

cessabis.: for the tense, cf. Intr. 84 6.

nos diliges: most of Cicero's letters end abruptly, but when a polite formula is used, it is commonly, (1) an admonition concerning the health of the recipient, as in most of the letters to Atticus, e.g. cura ut valeas; (2) an expression of esteem: te valde amamus nosque a te amari cum volumus, tum etiam confidimus (Fam. 7.14); (3) both (1) and (2) cura ut valeas et me, ut amas, ama (Fam. 7.5); bene valeet me dilige; or (4) a reference to the family of the recipient: Piliae et puellae Caeciliae bellissimae salutem dices (Att. 6.4). Cf. also Intr. 62.

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hide References (21 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (21):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 13.5.3
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 1.9.23
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 7.14
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 7.5
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.1.1
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 4.11.2
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 4.6.4
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 6.4
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 2.1
    • Catullus, Poems, 55
    • Cicero, For Archias, 24
    • Plautus, Rudens, 1.2
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.203
    • Tacitus, Agricola, 46
    • Terence, The Brothers, 5.3
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 2.62
    • Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, 2.1
    • Cornelius Nepos, Agesilaus, 8
    • Cicero, de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, 2.67
    • Cicero, de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, 2.97
    • Horace, Epistulae, 2.1
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