Letters to his brother Quintus/1.2

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Letters to his brother Quintus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
1.2 (LII)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Tullius Cicero in Asia[edit]

Rome, 26 October 59 BC[edit]

Statius arrived at my house on the 25th October. His arrival gave me uneasiness, because you said in your letter that you would be plundered by your household in his absence. However, I thought it a very happy circumstance that he anticipated the expectation of his arrival, and the company that would have assembled to meet him, if he had left the province with you, and had not appeared before. For people have exhausted their remarks, and many observations have been made and done with of the "Nay, but I looked for a mighty man"[1] kind, which I am glad to have all over before you come. But as for the motive for your sending him--that he might clear himself with me--that was not at all necessary. For, to begin with, I had never suspected him, nor in what I wrote to you about him was I expressing my own judgment; but since the interest and safety of all of us who take part in public business depends, not on truth alone, but on report also, I wrote you word of what people were saying, not what I thought myself. How prevalent and how formidable that talk was Statius ascertained himself on his arrival. For he was present when certain persons at my house gave vent to some complaints on that very subject, and had the opportunity of perceiving that the observations of the malevolent were being directed at himself especially. But it used to annoy me most when I was told that he had greater influence with you, than your sober time of life and the wisdom of a governor required. How many people, do you suppose, have solicited me to give them a letter of introduction to Statius? How often, do you suppose, has he himself, while talking without reserve to me, made such observations as, "I never approved of that," "I told him so," "I tried to persuade him," "I warned him not to"? And even if these things show the highest fidelity, as I believe they do, since that is your judgment, yet the mere appearance of a freedman or slave enjoying such influence cannot but lower your dignity: and the long and short of it is--for I am in duty bound not to say anything without good grounds, nor to keep back anything from motives of policy--that Statius has supplied all the material for the gossip of those who wished to decry you; that formerly all that could be made out was that certain persons were angry at your strictness; but that after his manumission the angry had something to talk about.

Now I will answer the letters delivered to me by L. Caesius, whom, as I see you wish it, I will serve in every way I can. One of them is about Zeuxis of Blaundus, whom you say was warmly recommended to you by me though a most notorious matricide. In this matter, and on this subject generally, please listen to a short statement, lest you should by chance be surprised at my having become so conciliatory towards Greeks. Seeing, as I did, that the complaints of Greeks, because they have a genius for deceit, were allowed an excessive weight, whenever I was told of any of them making complaint of you, I appeased them by every means in my power. First, I pacified the Dionysopolitans, who were very bitter: whose chief man, Hermippus, I secured not only by my conversation, but by treating him as a friend. I did the same to Hephaestus of Apameia; the same to that most untrustworthy fellow, Megaristus of Antandrus; the same to Nicias of Smyrna; I also embraced with all the courtesy I possessed the most trumpery of men, even Nymphon of Colophon. And all this I did from no liking for these particular people, or the nation as a whole: I was heartily sick of their fickleness and obsequiousness, of feelings that are not affected by our kindness, but by our position.

But to return to Zeuxis. When he was telling me the same story as you mention in your letter about what M. Cascellius had said to him in conversation, I stopped him from farther talk, and admitted him to my society. I cannot, however, understand your virulence when you say that, having sewn up in the parricide's-sack two Mysians at Smyrna, you desired to display a similar example of your severity in the upper part of your province, and that, therefore, you had wished to inveigle Zeuxis into your hands by every possible means. For if he had been brought into court, he ought perhaps not to have been allowed to escape: but there was no necessity for his being hunted out and inveigled by soft words to stand a trial, as you say in your letter--especially as he is one whom I learn daily, both from his fellow citizens and from many others, to be a man of higher character than you would expect from such an obscure town as his.[2] But, you will say, it is only Greeks to whom I am indulgent. What! did not I do everything to appease L. Caecilius? What a man! how irritable! how violent! In fact, who is there except Tuscenius,[3] whose case admitted of no cure, have I not softened? See again, I have now on my hands a shifty, mean fellow, though of equestrian rank, called Catienus: even he is going to be smoothed down. I don't blame you for having been somewhat harsh to his father, for I am quite sure you have acted with good reason: but what need was there of a letter of the sort which you sent to the man himself? "That the man was rearing the cross for himself from which you had already pulled him off once; that you would take care to have him smoked to death, and would be applauded by the whole province for it." Again, to a man named C. Fabius--for that letter also T. Catienus is handing round--"that you were told that the kidnapper Licinius, with his young kite of a son, was collecting taxes." And then you go on to ask Fabius to burn both father and son alive if he can; if not, to send them to you, that they may be burnt to death by legal sentence. That letter sent by you in jest to C. Fabius, if it really is from you, exhibits to ordinary readers a violence of language very injurious to you.

Now, if you will refer to the exhortations in all my letters, you will perceive that I have never found fault with you for anything except harshness and sharpness of temper, and occasionally, though rarely, for want of caution in the letters you write. In which particulars, indeed, if my influence had had greater weight with you than a somewhat excessive quickness of disposition, or a certain enjoyment in indulging temper, or a faculty for epigram and a sense of humour, we should certainly have had no cause for dissatisfaction. And don't you suppose that I feel no common vexation when I am told how Vergilius is esteemed, and your neighbour C. Octavius?[4] I For if you only excel your neighbours farther up country, in Cilicia and Syria, that is a pretty thing to boast of! And that is just the sting of the matter, that though the men I have named are not more blameless than yourself, they yet outdo you in the art of winning favour, though they know nothing of Xenophon's Cyrus or Agesilaus; from which kings, in the exercise of their great office, no one ever heard an irritable word. But in giving you this advice, as I have from the first, I am well aware how much good I have done.[5]

Now, however, as you are about to quit your province, pray do leave behind you--as I think you are now doing--as pleasant a memory as possible. You have a successor of very mild manners; in other respects, on his arrival, you will be much missed. In sending letters of requisition, as I have often told you, you have allowed yourself to be too easily persuaded. Destroy, if you can, all such as are inequitable, or contrary to usage, or contradictory to others. Statius told me that they were usually put before you ready written, read by himself, and that, if they were inequitable, he informed you of the fact: but that before he entered your service there had been no sifting of letters; that the result was that there were volumes containing a selection of letters, which were usually adversely criticised.[6] On this subject I am not going to give you any advice at this time of day, for it is too late; and you cannot but be aware that I have often warned you in various ways and with precision. But I have, on a hint from Theopompus, entrusted him with this message to you: do see by means of persons attached to you, which you will find no difficulty in doing, that the following classes of letters are destroyed--first, those that are inequitable; next, those that are contradictory; then those expressed in an eccentric or unusual manner; and lastly, those that contain reflections on anyone. I don't believe all I hear about these matters, and if, in the multiplicity of your engagements, you have let certain things escape you, now is the time to look into them and weed them out. I have read a letter said to have been written by your nomenclator Sulla himself, which I cannot approve: I have read some written in an angry spirit. But the subject of letters comes in pat: for while this sheet of paper was actually in my hands, L. Flavius, praetor-designate and a very intimate friend, came to see me. He told me that you had sent a letter to his agents, which seemed to me most inequitable, prohibiting them from taking anything from the estate of the late L. Octavius Naso, whose heir L. Flavius is, until they had paid a sum of money to C. Fundanius; and that you had sent a similar letter to the Apollonidenses, not to allow any payment on account of the estate of the late Octavius till the debt to Fundanius had been discharged. It seems to me hardly likely that you have done this; for it is quite unlike your usual good sense. The heir not to take anything? What if he disowns the debt? What if he doesn't owe it at all? Moreover, is the praetor wont to decide whether a debt is due?[7] Don't I, again, wish well to Fundanius? Am I not his friend? Am I not touched with compassion? No one more so: but in certain matters the course of law is so clear as to leave no place for personal feeling. And Flavius told me that expressions were used in the letter, which he said was yours, to the effect that you would "either thank them as friends, or make yourself disagreeable to them as enemies." In short, he was much annoyed, complained of it to me in strong terms, and begged me to write to you as seriously as I could. This I am doing, and I do strongly urge you again and again to withdraw your injunction to Flavius's agents about taking money from the estate, and not to lay any farther injunction on the Apollonidenses contrary to the rights of Flavius. Pray do everything you can for the sake of Flavius and, indeed, of Pompey also. I would not, upon my honour, have you think me liberal to him at the expense of any inequitable decision on your part: but I do entreat you to leave behind you some authority, and some memorandum of a decree or of a letter under your hand, so framed as to support the interests and cause of Flavius. For the man, who is at once very attentive to me, and tenacious of his own rights and dignity, is feeling extremely hurt that he has not prevailed with you either on the grounds of personal friendship or of legal right; and, to the best of my belief, both Pompey and Caesar have, at one time or another, commended the interests of Flavius to you, and Flavius has written to you personally, and certainly I have. Wherefore, if there is anything which you think you ought to do at my request, let it be this. If you love me, take every care, take every trouble, and insure Flavius's cordial thanks both to yourself and myself. I cannot use greater earnestness in making any request than I use in this.

As to what you say about Hermias, it has been in truth a cause of much vexation to me. I wrote you a letter in a rather unbrotherly spirit, which I dashed off in a fit of anger and now wish to recall, having been irritated by what Lucullus's freedman told me, immediately after hearing of the bargain. For this letter, which was not expressed in a brotherly way, you ought to have brotherly feeling enough to make allowance. As to Censorinus, Antonius, the Cassii, Scaevola--I am delighted to hear from you that you possess their friendship. The other contents of that same letter of yours were expressed more strongly than I could have wished, such as your "with my ship at least well trimmed"[8] and your "die once for all."[9] You will find those expressions to be unnecessarily strong. My scoldings have always been very full of affection. They mention certain things for complaint,[10] but these are not important, or rather, are quite insignificant. For my part, I should never have thought you deserving of the least blame in any respect, considering the extreme purity of your conduct, had it not been that our enemies are numerous. Whatever I have written to you in a tone of remonstrance or reproach I have written from a vigilant caution, which I maintain, and shall maintain; and I shall not cease imploring you to do the same. Attalus of Hypaepa has begged me to intercede with you that you should not prevent his getting the money paid which has been decreed for a statue of Q. Publicius. In which matter I both ask as a favour and urge as a duty, that you should not consent to allow the honour of a man of his character, and so close a friend of mine, to be lowered or hindered by your means. Furthermore, Licinius, who is known to you, a slave of my friend Aesopus, has run away. He has been at Athens, living in the house of Patron the Epicurean as a free man. Thence he has made his way to Asia. Afterwards a certain Plato of Sardis, who is often at Athens, and happened to be at Athens at the time that Licinius arrived there, having subsequently learnt by a letter from Aesopus that he was an escaped slave, arrested the fellow, and put him into confinement at Ephesus; but whether into the public prison, or into a slave mill, we could not clearly make out from his letter. But since he is at Ephesus, I should be obliged if you would trace him in any manner open to you, and with all care either [send him] or bring him home with you. Don't take into consideration the fellow's value: such a good-for-nothing is worth very little; but Aesopus is so much vexed at his slave's bad conduct and audacity, that you can do him no greater favour than by being the means of his recovering him.

Now for the news that you chiefly desire. We have so completely lost the constitution that Cato,[11] a young man of no sense, but yet a Roman citizen and a Cato, scarcely got off with his life because, having determined to prosecute Gabinius for bribery, when the praetors could not be approached for several days, and refused to admit anyone to their presence, he mounted the rostra in public meeting and called Pompey an "unofficial dictator." No one ever had a narrower escape of being killed. From this you may see the state of the whole Republic. People, however, show no inclination to desert my cause. They make wonderful professions, offers of service, and promises: and, indeed, I have the highest hopes and even greater spirit--so that I hope to get the better in the struggle, and feel confident in my mind that, in the present state of the Republic, I need not fear even an accident. However, the matter stands thus: if Clodius gives notice of an action against me, the whole of Italy will rush to my support, so that I shall come off with many times greater glory than before; but if he attempts the use of violence, I hope, by the zeal not only of friends but also of opponents, to be able to meet force with force. All promise me the aid of themselves, their friends, clients, freedmen, slaves, and, finally, of their money. Our old regiment of loyalists is warm in its zeal and attachment to me. If there were any who had formerly been comparatively hostile or lukewarm, they are now uniting themselves with the loyalists from hatred to these despots. Pompey makes every sort of promise, and so does Caesar: but my confidence in them is not enough to induce me to drop any of my preparations. The tribunes-designate are friendly to us. The consuls-designate make excellent professions. Some of the new praetors are very friendly and very brave citizens-Domitius, Nigidius, Memmius, Lentulus[12]--the others are loyalists also, but these are eminently so. Wherefore keep a good heart and high hopes. However, I will keep you constantly informed on particular events as they occur from day to day.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. all' aiei] tina phôta megan kai kalon edegmên "but I ever expected some big and handsome man" (Homer, Odyssey 9.513). Statius had been manumitted by Quintus Cicero, and there had been much talk about it, as we have already heard. See A 2.18, and A 2.19
  2. Reading quam pro civitate sua for prope quam civitatem suam. I think prope and pro (pr) might easily have been mistaken for each other, and if the order of quam and pro (mistaken for prope) were once changed, the case of civitate would follow. Prof. Tyrrell, who writes the town Blandus, would read molliorem for nobiliorem, and imagines a pun on the meaning of Blandius. But the name of the town seems certainly Blaundus, Blaundos, or Mlaundos (Stephanus, Blaudos); see Head, Hist. Num. p. 559: and Cicero, though generally punning on names, would hardly do so here, where he is making a grave excuse.
  3. Whom he called (Q FR 1.1) "a madman and a knave."
  4. C. Vergilius Balbus, propraetor in Sicily (pro Planc. § 95, Q FR 1.1). C. Octavius (father of Augustus), in Macedonia. L. Marcius Philippus was propraetor of Syria B.C. 61-59. The governor of Cilicia in the same period is not known; probably some one left in charge by Pompey.
  5. I have endeavoured to leave the English as ambiguous as the Latin. Cicero may mean that he has done some good, for at the end of Q FR 1.1 he says that Quintus has improved in these points, and had been better in his second than in his first year. On the other hand, the context here seems rather to point to the meaning "how little good I have done"--impatiently dismissing the subject of temper.
  6. These "requisitionary letters" were granted by a provincial governor to certain persons requiring supplies, payment of debts, or legal decisions in their favour in the provinces, or other privileges, and, if carelessly granted, were open to much abuse. Cicero, in his own government of Cilicia, boasted that he had signed none such in six months. The ill-wishers of Quintus had apparently got hold of a number of these letters signed by him (having been first written out by the suitors themselves and scarcely glanced at by him), and a selection of them published to prove his injustice or carelessness.
  7. The governor of a province would stand in such a matter in the place of the praetor in Rome, i.e., he would decide on questions of law, not of fact, as, whether a debt was due or not. However, Quintus perhaps only erred in the form of his injunction. He might forbid the deceased's estate being touched till the question of Fundanius's debt was decided; but in his letter he assumed (as he had no right to do) that the claim was good. Substantially it seems to me that Quintus was right, and certainly in his appeal to him Cicero does not follow his own injunction to disregard personal feelings.
  8. orthan tan naun. Quintus had written, it seems, defiantly about the slanders afloat against him, and had quoted two Greek proverbial sayings. The first is found in Stobaeus, 108 (extract from Teles): "It was a fine saying of the pilot, 'At least, Poseidon, a ship well trimmed,'" i.e., if you sink my ship, she shall at least go down with honour. Quintus means, "whatever my enemies may do afterwards, I will keep my province in a sound state as long as I am here."
  9. hapax thanein, perhaps "Better to die once for all than give in to every unjust demand." The editors quote Aeschylus, PV. 769:
        kreisson gar eisapax thanein
        ê tas hapasas hêmeras paschein kakôs.

    But I don't feel sure that this is the passage alluded to.
  10. Reading queruntur for quae sunt.
  11. Gaius Cato, tribune B.C. 56.
  12. L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, who as praetor threatened Caesar with impeachment, and as consul (B.C. 54) tried to get him recalled. He was, in B.C. 50-49, appointed Caesar's successor in Gaul, defended Marseilles against him, and eventually fell in the battle of Pharsalia. P. Nigidius Figulus supported Cicero during the Catiline conspiracy. Gaius Memmius, aedile B.C. 60 (see p. 51). Lucretius dedicated his poem to him. L. Cornelius Lentulus Crus, consul B.C. 49, accused Clodius in B.C. 61, murdered in Africa after Pompey, B.C. 48.