Letters to Atticus/2.16

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Letters to Atticus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
2.16 (XLII)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus at Rome[edit]

Formiae, 29 April 59 BC[edit]

On the day before the Kalends of May, when I had dined and was just going to sleep, the letter was delivered to me containing your news about the Campanian land. You needn't ask: at first it gave me such a shock that there was no more sleep for me, though that was the result of thought rather than pain. On refection, however, the following ideas occurred to me. In the first place, from what you had said in your previous letter—"that you had heard from a friend of his[1] that a proposal was going to be made which would satisfy everybody"—I had feared some very sweeping measure, but I don't think this is anything of the sort. In the next place, by way of consolation, I persuaded myself that the hope of a distribution of land is now all centred on the Campanian territory.[2] That land cannot support more than 5,000, 50 as to give ten iugera apiece:[3] the rest of the crowd of expectants must necessarily be alienated from them. Besides, if there is anything that more than another could inflame the feeling of the aristocrats, who are, I notice, already irritated, it is this; and all the more that with port-dues in Italy abolished,[4] and the Campanian land divided, what home revenue is there except the five per cent. on manumissions? And even that, I think, it will only take a single trumpery harangue, cheered by our lackeys, to throw away also. What our friend Gnaeus can be thinking of I can't imagine—

For still he blows, and with no slender pipe,
But furious blasts by no mouth-band restrained

to be induced to countenance such a measure as that. For hitherto he has fenced with these questions: "he approved Caesar's laws, but Caesar must be responsible for his proceedings in carrying them"; "he himself was satisfied with the agrarian law"; "whether it could be vetoed by a tribune or no was nothing to do with him"; "he thought the time had come for the business of the Alexandrine king to be settled"; "it was no business of his to inquire whether Bibulus had been watching the sky on that occasion or no"; "as to the publicani he had been willing to oblige that order"; "what was going to happen if Bibulus came down to the forum at that time he could not have guessed."[5] But now, my Sampsiceramus, what will you say to this? That you have secured us a revenue from the Antilibanus and removed that from the Campanian land? Well, how do you mean to vindicate that? "I shall coerce you," says he, "by means of Caesar's army." You won't coerce me, by Hercules, by your army so much as by the ingratitude of the so-called boni who have never made me any return, even in words, to say nothing of substantial rewards. But if I had put out my strength against that coterie, I should certainly have found some way of holding my own against them. As things are, in view of the controversy between your friend Dicaearchus and my friend Theophrastus—the former recommending the life of action, the latter the life of contemplation--I think I have already obeyed both. For as to Dicaearchus, I think I have satisfied his requirements; at present my eyes are fixed on the school which not only allows of my abstaining from business, but blames me for not having always done so. Wherefore let me throw myself, my dear Titus, into those noble studies, and let me at length return to what I ought never to have left. As to what you say about Quintus's letter, when he wrote to me he was also "in front a lion and behind a ----."[6] I don't know what to say about it; for in the first lines of his letter he makes such a lamentation over his continuance in his province, that no one could help being affected: presently he calms down sufficiently to ask me to correct and edit his Annals. However, I would wish you to have an eye to what you mention, I mean the duty on goods transferred from port to port. He says that by the advice of his council he has referred the question to the senate. He evidently had not read my letter, in which after having considered and investigated the matter, I had sent him a written opinion that they were not payable.[7] If any Greeks have already arrived at Rome from Asia on that business, please look into it and, if you think it right, explain to them my opinion on the subject. If, to save the good cause in the senate, I can retract, I will gratify the publicani: but if not, to be plain with you, I prefer in this matter the interests of all Asia and the merchants; for it affects the latter also very seriously. I think it is a matter of great importance to us. But you will settle it. Are the quaestors, pray, still hesitating on the cistophorus question?[8] If nothing better is to be had, after trying everything in our power, I should be for not refusing even the lowest offer. I shall see you at Arpinum and offer you country entertainment, since you have despised this at the seaside.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Caesar.
  2. The old territory of Capua and the Stellatian Plain had been specially reserved from distribution under the laws of the Gracchi, and this reservation had not been repealed in subsequent laws: ad subsidia reipublicae vectigalem relictum (Suet. Caes. 20; cp. Cic. Phil. 2.101).
  3. According to Suetonius 20,000 citizens had allotments on the ager publicus in Campania. But Dio says (38.1) that the Campanian land was exempted by the lex Iulia also. Its settlement was probably later, by colonies of Caesar's veterans. A iugerum is five-eighths of an acre.
  4. See Letter XXIX. They were abolished B.C. 60.
  5. This and the mention of Caesar's "army" (a bodyguard) is explained by Suet. Caes. 20: "Having promulgated his agrarian law, Caesar expelled his colleague, Bibulus, by force of arms from the Forum when trying to stop proceedings by announcing bad omens ... and finally reduced him to such despair that for the rest of his year of office he confined himself to his house and only announced his bad omens by means of edicts." Bibulus appears to have been hustled by the mob also.
  6. prosthe leôn opithen de --. Cicero leaves Atticus, as he often does, to fill up the rest of the line, drakôn, messê de chimaira (Hom. 51.6.181). He means, of course, that Quintus is inconsistent.
  7. The question seems to be as to goods brought to a port and paying duty, and then, not finding a sale, being transferred to another port in the same province. The publicani at the second port demanded the payment of a duty again, which Cicero decides against them.
  8. Schutz takes this to mean, "Are the quaestors now doubting as to paying even cistophori?" i.e., are they, so far from paying in Roman denarii, even hesitating to pay in Asiatic? But if so, what is the extremum which Cicero advises Quintus to accept? Prof. Tyrrell, besides, points out that the quaestors could hardly refuse to pay anything for provincial expenses? It is a question between cistophori and denarii. See Letter XXXII.