Letters to friends/14.4

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Letters to friends by Marcus Tullius Cicero
14.4 (LXI)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Terentia, Tulliola, and young Cicero at Rome[edit]

Brundisium, 29 April 58 BC[edit]

Yes, I do write to you less often than I might, because, though I am always wretched, yet when I write to you or read a letter from you, I am in such floods of tears that I cannot endure it. Oh, that I had clung less to life! I should at least never have known real sorrow, or not much of it, in my life. Yet if fortune has reserved for me any hope of recovering at any time any position again, I was not utterly wrong to do so: if these miseries are to be permanent, I only wish, my dear, to see you as soon as possible and to die in your arms, since neither gods, whom you have worshipped with such pure devotion, nor men, whom I have ever served, have made us any return. I have been thirteen days at Brundisium in the house of M. Laenius Flaccus, a very excellent man, who has despised the risk to his fortunes and civil existence in comparison to keeping me safe, nor has been induced by the penalty of a most iniquitous law to refuse me the rights and good offices of hospitality and friendship. May I some time have the opportunity of repaying him! Feel gratitude I always shall. I set out from Brundisium on the 29th of April,[1] and intend going through Macedonia to Cyzicus. What a fall! What a disaster! What can I say? Should I ask you to come—a woman of weak health and broken spirit? Should I refrain from asking you? Am I to be without you, then? I think the best course is this : if there is any hope of my restoration, stay to promote it and push the thing on: but if, as I fear, it proves hopeless, pray come to me by any means in your power. Be sure of this, that if I have you I shall not think myself wholly lost. But what is to become of my darling Tullia? You must see to that now: I can think of nothing. But certainly, however things turn out, we must do everything to promote that poor little girl's married happiness and reputation. Again, what is my boy Cicero to do? Let him, at any rate, be ever in my bosom and in my arms.[2] I can't write more. A fit of weeping hinders me. I don't know how you have got on; whether you are left in possession of anything, or have been, as I fear, entirely plundered. Piso, as you say, I hope will always be our friend. As to the manumission of the slaves you need not be uneasy. To begin with, the promise made to yours was that you would treat them according as each severally deserved. So far Orpheus has behaved well, besides him no one very markedly so. With the rest of the slaves the arrangement is that, if my property is forfeited, they should become my freedmen, supposing them to be able to maintain at law that status.[3] But if my property remained in my ownership, they were to continue slaves, with the exception of a very few. But these are trifles. To return to your advice, that I should keep up my courage and not give up hope of recovering my position, I only wish that there were any good grounds for entertaining such a hope. As it is, when, alas ! shall I get a letter from you? Who will bring it me? I would have waited for it at Brundisium, but the sailors would not allow it, being unwilling to lose a favourable wind. For the rest, put as dignified a face on the matter as you can, my dear Terentia. Our life is over: we have had our day: it is not any fault of ours that has ruined us, but our virtue. I have made no false step, except in not losing my life when I lost my honours. But since our children preferred my living, let us bear every-thing else, however intolerable. And yet I, who encourage you, cannot encourage myself. I have sent that faithful fellow Clodius Philhetaerus home, because he was hampered with weakness of the eyes. Sallustius seems likely to outdo everybody in his attentions. Pescennius is exceedingly kind to me; and I have hopes that he will always be attentive to you. Sica had said that he would accompany me; but he has left Brundisium. Take the greatest possible care of your health, and believe me that I am more affected by your distress than my own. My dear Terentia, most faithful and best of wives, and my darling little daughter, and that last hope of my race, Cicero, good-bye!

29 April, from Brundisium.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Reading prid. Kal. instead of a. d. II. Kal., which Tyrrell calls audacius in Schütz. But absolute nonsense is not to be kept even for a MS.
    1. Cicero says that he has been thirteen days at Brundisium. In the next letter he tells Atticus he arrived on the 17th. That, in the Roman way of counting, brings it to prid. (29th).
    2. Either the date at the end of the letter is wrong, or prid. must be used here
    3. There is no such date properly as a. d. II. Pal. The day before prid. is a. d. III.
    In regard to dates we must remember that Cicero is using the pre-Julian calendar, in which all months, except February, March, May, July, and October, had twenty-nine days. These last four had thirty-one and February twenty-eight.
  2. Cicero does not mean that young Marcus is to come to him at once, but that, when Tullia's marriage portion is settled, Terentia is to bring him with her if she comes. Really he didn't mean any of them to come, at any rate for a long while. Piso is Tullia's husband.
  3. If Cicero's property was confiscated, it might be held that the slaves went with it, and would be sold with it, and that his manumission of them was an evasion, which could not hold good at law. If his property was not confiscated, they were to remain in their status as slaves. See Letter Author:Marcus Tullius Cicero/Letters/CXCII.