Letters to his brother Quintus/3.2

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Letters to his brother Quintus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
3.2 (CXLIX)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Tullius Cicero in Gaul[edit]

Rome, October 54 BC[edit]

In the evening of the 10th of October Salvius started on board ship for Ostia with the things you wished sent to you from home. On that same day Memmius[1] gave Gabinius such a splendid warming in public meeting that Calidius couldn't say a word for him. Tomorrow (which is strictly the day after tomorrow, for I am writing before daybreak) there is a trial before Cato for the selection of his prosecutor between Memmius, Tiberius Nero, and Gaius and Lucius, sons of M. Antonius. I think the result will be in favour of Memmius, though a strong case is being made out for Nero. In short, he is in a fairly tight fix, unless our friend Pompey, to the disgust of gods and men, upsets the whole concern. Let me give you a specimen of the fellow's impudence, and extract something amusing from the public disasters. Gabinius having given out wherever he came that he was demanding a triumph, and having suddenly, the excellent general! invaded the city of his enemies by night,[2] did not venture to enter the senate. Meanwhile, exactly on the tenth day, on which he was bound to report the number of the enemy and of his own soldiers who had been killed, he slunk into the house, which was very thinly attended. When he made as if to go out, he was stopped by the consuls. The publicani were introduced. The fellow was assailed on every side, and my words stinging him more than all, he lost patience, and in a voice quivering with anger called me "Exile." Thereupon—Heavens I never had such a compliment paid me in all my life—the senate rose up to a man with a loud shout and made a menacing movement in his direction : the publicani made an equal noise and a similar movement. In fine, they all behaved exactly as you would have done. It is the leading topic of conversation out of the house. However, I refrain from prosecuting, with difficulty, by Hercules! yet refrain I do: either because I don't want to quarrel with Pompey—the impending question of Milo is enough in that direction—or because we have no jurors worthy of the name. I fear a fiasco: besides, there is the ill-will of certain persons to me, and I am afraid my conducting the prosecution might give him some advantage: besides, I do not despair of the thing being done both without me and yet partly through my assistance. All the candidates for the consulships have had prosecutions for bribery lodged against them: Domitius Calvinus by Memmius (the tribune), Memmius (the candidate) by Q. Acutius, an excellent young man and a good lawyer, Messalla by Q. Pompeius, Scaurus by Triarius. The affair causes great commotion, because it is a plain alternative between shipwreck for the men concerned or for the laws. Pressure is being applied to prevent the trials taking place. It looks like an interregnum again. The consuls desire to hold the comitia: the accused don't wish it, and especially Memmius, because he hopes that Caesar's approach[3] may secure him the consulship. But he is at a very low ebb. Domitius, with Messalla as his colleague, I think is a certainty. Scaurus has lost his chance. Appius declares that he will relieve Lentulus even without a curiate law,[4] and, indeed, he distinguished himself amazingly that day (I almost forgot to mention it) in an attack upon Gabinius. He accused him of lèse majesté, and gave the names of his witnesses without Gabinius answering a word. That is all the public news. At home all is well: your house itself is being proceeded with by the contractors with fair expedition.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. C. Memmius, a tribune of this year, not the same as the C. Memmius Gemellus of letter A 4.7.
  2. Referring to the fact that Gabinius, on his arrival outside Rome, without the usual procession of friends which met a returning proconsul, skulked about till nightfall, not venturing to enter Rome (the city of his enemies!) in daylight. By entering Rome he gave up his imperium and could no longer ask a triumph.
  3. Caesar was accustomed to come to North Italy (Gallia Cisalpina) for the winter to Ravenna or Luca, and there he could be communicated with and exercise great influence.
  4. That is, he would go to his province of Cilicia on the strength of his nomination or allotment by the senate. There was some doubt as to the question whether such allotment did not give imperium even without a lex curiata. Besides, the consul had already imperium, and he might consider it to be uninterrupted if he left Rome immediately. However, as there was always an interval between the end of the consulship and the quitting Rome paludatus, the lex curiata had generally been considered necessary (Caes. B.C. 1.6). After 52 BC the lex Pompeia enacted a five years' interval, when, of course, a law would be necessary.