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Letter LXXXVII: ad familiares 9.14

Pompeii, May 3, 44 B.C. One of the many demagogues in Rome at this time, Herophilus or Amatius by name, who claimed to be descended from Gaius Marius, took advantage of the excitement to erect an altar to Caesar in the Forum, on the spot where Caesar's body had been burned. Although Herophilus was put to death as an instigator of riot, the altar which he had erected remained, and a column in Caesar's honor was soon after set up. Dolabella, Cicero's former son-ln-law, who was one of the consuls for 44, during the absence from Rome of his colleague Antony, had the altar and column destroyed, and those concerned in the movement put to death (cf. Att. 14.15.1). It was this action on Dolabella's part which called forth this enthusiastic letter from Cicero. The extravagant tone of the letter has been condemned by many, but Cicero's real purpose was not so much to compliment Dolabella for the vigor of his action, although he appreciated that, as to attach him definitely to the cause of Brutus and Cassius. This hope of Cicero was short-lived. Dolabella's action had been merely a bid for a bribe from the Caesarians, and when this was forthcoming, he ceased to pose as a republican; cf. Intr. 56.


valetudinis causa: the Bay of Naples was and still is a favorite health resort. Cf. ad Baias, Ep. V.10n.

necessarii mei: Cicero's hold upon the municipia was a strong one; cf. concursu Italiae, Ep. XV.4n.

ad caelum, etc.: cf. Bibulus in caelo est, Ep. VII. 2.


Nestorem: Nestor's age and experience made him the privileged Counselor of his more youthful superior Agamemnon.

iuvenem consulem: Dolabella had been advanced to the consulship by Caesar before reaching the age required by law.


L. Caesar: cf. Ep. 1.2 n.

cum ... vales: the indicative with cum explicative, after expressions of emotion, etc., is regular till after Cicero's time.

sororis filium: i.e. Antony; cf. Ep. 1.2 n.


hereditatem ... cernere: a technical term used of one who wishes to accept an inheritance.

haec iocatus sum: i.e. haec iocandi causa dixi; cf. defendam, Ep. XCI.7n.; Verr. 2.1.71 quod interpellavit (= interpellandi causa dixit) Hortensius.


singularem probitatem: cf., however, Intr. 23; cuius salutem, Ep. XXXIV.6n .

locum augendi: with this intransitive use of the gerund, cf. Att. 7.20.2 turpitudo coniungendi cum tyranno, and see Weissenborn De Gerundio et Gerundivo linguae Latinae, p. 138: neutri verborum generi gerundia esse adscribenda.

amare ... dilexisse : cf. diligit ... amavit, Ep. XXXII.5n.


summa severitas animadversionis : cf. Cic. Phil. 1.5 talis animadversia fuit Dolabellae, cum in audaces sceleratosque servos, tum in impuros et nefarios liberos, talisque eversio illius exsecratae columnae ut mihi mirum videatur tam valde reliquum tempus ab illo uno die dissensisse. Cf. also introd. note.

infimo cuique gratissima : cf. Att. 14.16.2 mihi quidem videtur Brutus noster iam vel coronam auream per forum ferre posse; quis enim audeat laedere proposita cruce aut saxo, praesertim tantis plausibus, tanta approbatione infimorum?

accessus ... recessus : the figure seems to be taken from the movements of an army in face of the enemy. Hofmann, however, believes that Cicero is thinking of the ebb and flow of the tide.


ad tempus ... ad exemplum, you have done a very great service, not only for the moment, but also in the way of an example (for the future).

illos viros : i.e. the liberatores.

mi Dolabella: Cicero rarely addresses his correspondents by name (cf. Ep. X. n.). The fact that Dolabella is addressed three times in this letter gives to it a tone of earnestness and of real or assumed affection. For Dolabella's reply to this letter cf. Att. 14.21. rescripsit ad eas (litteras) quarum exemplum tibi miseram sane luculente.


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  • Commentary references from this page (6):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 14.15.1
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 14.16.2
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 14.21
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 7.20.2
    • Cicero, Philippics, 1.5
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.1.71
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