Letters to Atticus/3.8

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Letters to Atticus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
3.8 (LXIII)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus at Rome[edit]

Thessalonica, 29 May 58 BC[edit]

I wrote to you at Brundisium, when on the point of starting, the reasons for my not going to Epirus: namely, the proximity of Achaia, which was full of enemies of the most unscrupulous character, and secondly, the difficulty of leaving it when I wished to resume my journey. Added to this, while I was at Dyrrachium two messages reached me: the first, that my brother was coming from Ephesus to Athens by ship; the second, that he was coming through Macedonia by land. Accordingly, I sent a message to meet him at Athens, telling him to come thence to Thessalonica. I myself continued my journey, and arrived at Thessalonica on the 23rd of May, but have no certain intelligence about his journey except that he had left Ephesus some time ago. At present I am feeling very nervous as to what steps are being taken at Rome. Although you say in one of your letters, dated the 15th of May, that you hear that he will be vigorously prosecuted, in another you say that things are calming down. But then the latter is dated a day before the former; which makes me all the more anxious. So while my own personal sorrow is every day tearing my heart and wearing out my strength, this additional anxiety indeed scarcely leaves me any life at all. However, the voyage itself was very difficult, and he perhaps, being uncertain where I was, has taken some other course. For my freedman Phaetho saw nothing of him. Phaetho was driven by the wind from Ilium[1] to Macedonia, and met me at Pella. How formidable other circumstances are I am fully aware, and I don't know what to say to you. I fear everything, nor is there any misery which would not seem possible in my present unfortunate position. Miserable as I still am in the midst of my heavy trials and sorrows, now that this anxiety is added to them, I remain at Thessalonica in a state of suspense without venturing upon any step whatever.

Now to answer you. I have not seen Caecilius Trypho. I comprehend from your letter what you and Pompey have been saying. That any movement in politics is impending I cannot see as clearly as you either see, or perhaps only suggest for my consolation. For, as the Case of Tigranes was passed over, all hope of a rupture is at an end.[2] You bid me thank Varro: I will do so; also Hypsaeus.[3] As to your advice not to go farther off till the acta[4] of the month of May reach me, I think I shall do as you suggest. But where to stay? I have not yet come to any decision. And indeed my mind is so uneasy about Quintus, that I can determine on nothing. However, I will let you know immediately. From the incoherent nature of my letters I think you will understand the agitation of my mind, caused not so much by my misery, though I have been overwhelmed by an incredible and unparalleled calamity, as by the recollection of my blunder. For by whose unprincipled advice I was egged on and betrayed you certainly now perceive,[5] and oh that you had perceived it before, and had not given your whole mind to lamentation along with me! Wherefore, when you are told that I am prostrate and unmanned with grief, consider that I am more distressed at my own folly than at the result of it, in having believed a man whom I did not think to be treacherous. My writing is impeded both by the recollection of my own disasters, and by my alarm about my brother. Yes, pray look after and direct all the affairs you mention. Terentia expresses the warmest gratitude to you. I have sent you a copy of the letter which I have written to Pompey. Thessalonica, 29 May.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Reading ab Ilio with Madvig for ab illo.
  2. Tigranes, a son of the king of Armenia, was brought to Rome by Pompey to adorn his triumph, and put under the care of Lucius Flavius. This prince was, for a bribe, released by Clodius by a trick, and the attempt to get him away led to a scuffle in which lives were lost. Pompey regarded this as a slight upon himself, and his partisan, the consul Gabinius, attempted to prevent it. But both were hustled in the forum and treated with insults. The hope of a breach in the triumvirate arose from the supposition that Clodius had the support of Caesar in his high-handed proceeding (Dio, 38.30; Plut. Pomp. 48; Ascon. 47).
  3. P. Plautius Hypsaeus, who had been Pompey's quaestor and on intimate terms with him. He had been, it seems, interesting himself on Cicero's behalf.
  4. The gazette of public transactions and measures passed in the senate, which was sent round to the provinces. We shall hear of it again.
  5. The next letter shows that he means Hortensius. The blunder which he complains of having committed, by the advice of Hortensius, is that of having left Rome, rather than stay and brave the impeachment.