Letters to Atticus/3.7

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Letters to Atticus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
3.7 (LXII)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus at Rome[edit]

Brudisium, 29 April 58 BC[edit]

I arrived at Brundisium on the 17th of April. On that day your slaves delivered me your letter, and some other slaves, on the next day but one, brought me another. As to your invitation and advice to stay at your house in Epirus, your kindness is most gratifying, and far from being a novelty. It is a plan that would have exactly suited my wishes, if I might have spent all my time there: for I loathe a crowd of visitors, I can scarcely bear the light, and that solitude, especially in a spot so familiar, would have been the reverse of disagreeable. But to put up there as a mere stage in my journey! In the first place it is far out of my way, and in the next it is only four days from Autronius and the rest, and in the third place you are not there. Had I been going to reside permanently, a fortified castle would have been an advantage, but to one only passing through it is unnecessary. Why, if I had not been afraid, I should have made for Athens[1]—there were circumstances that made me much wish to go—but as it is, I have enemies in the neighbourhood, you are not there, and I fear they[2] might hold even that town not to be the legal distance from Italy, nor do you mention by what day I am to expect you. As to your urging me to remain alive, you carry one point—that I should not lay violent hands upon myself: the other you cannot bring to pass—that I should not regret my policy and my continuance in life. For what is there to attach me to it, especially if the hope which accompanied me on my departure is nonexistent? I will not attempt to enumerate all the miseries into which I have fallen through the extreme injustice and unprincipled conduct, not so much of my enemies, as of those who were jealous of me, because I do not wish to stir up a fresh burst of grief in myself, or invite you to share the same sorrow. I say this deliberately—that no one was ever afflicted with so heavy a calamity, that no one had ever greater cause to wish for death; while I have let slip the time when I might have sought it most creditably. Henceforth death can never heal, it can only end my sorrow.[3] In politics I perceive that you collect all circumstances that you think may inspire me with a hope of a change: and though they are insignificant, yet, since you will have it so, let us have patience. In spite of what you say, you will catch us up if you make haste. For I will either come into Epirus to be near you, or I will travel slowly through Candavia.[4] My hesitation about Epirus is not caused by vacillation on my part, but by the fact that I do not know where I am likely to see my brother. As to him, I neither know how I am to see him, nor how I shall let him go. That is the greatest and most distressing of all my distresses. I would indeed have written to you oftener, and at greater length, had it not been that sorrow, while it has affected all parts of my intellect, has above all entirely destroyed my faculty for this kind of writing. I long to see you. Take care of your health. Brundisium, 29 April.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. He means that had it not been for enemies in Greece and Epirus, he should not only have gone as far south as Epirus, but farther—to Athens. There is a good deal to be said for Schutz's reading, Achaiam for Athenas, but as the MS. reading can be explained, it is safer to keep it.
  2. The Clodian party at Rome. "That town" is Athens.
  3. "I have lost my chance of dying with honour; henceforth death may end my grief, but cannot heal my damaged reputation." Reliqua tempora, i.e., other opportunities of suicide.
  4. A mountain range in Illyria, over which the via Egnatia passes (mod. Elbassán).