Letters to Atticus/2.18

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Letters to Atticus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
2.18 (XLIV)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus on his way to Epirus[edit]

Rome, 59 BC[edit]

I have received several letters from you, which showed me with what eagerness and anxiety you desired to know the news. We are bound hard and fast on every side, and are no longer making any difficulty as to being slaves, but fearing death and exile as though greater evils, though they are in fact much smaller ones. Well, this is the position—one unanimously groaned over, but not relieved by a word from anyone. The object, I surmise, of the men in power is to leave nothing for anyone to lavish. The only man who opens his mouth and openly disapproves is the young Curio. He is loudly cheered, and greeted in the forum in the most complimentary manner, and many other tokens of goodwill are bestowed on him by the loyalists; while Fufius[1] is pursued with shouts, jeers, and hisses. From such circumstances it is not hope but indignation that is increased, for you see the citizens allowed to express their sentiments, but debarred from carrying them out with any vigour. And to omit details, the upshot is that there is now no hope, I don't say of private persons, but even of the magistrates being ever free again. Nevertheless, in spite of this policy of repression, conversation, at least in society and at dinner tables, is freer than it was. Indignation is beginning to get the better of fear, though that does not prevent a universal feeling of despair. For this Campanian law[2] contains a cause imposing an oath to be taken by candidates in public meeting, that they will not suggest any tenure of public land other than that provided in the Julian laws. All the others take the oath without hesitation: Laterensis[3] is considered to have shown extraordinary virtue in retiring from his canvass for the tribuneship to avoid the oath. But I don't care to write any more about politics. I am dissatisfied with myself, and cannot write without the greatest pain. I hold my own position with some dignity, considering the general repression, but considering my achievements in the past, with less courage than I should like. I am invited by Caesar in a very gentlemanly manner to accept a legation, to act as legatus to himself, and even an "open votive legation" is offered me. But the latter does not give sufficient security, since it depends too much on the scrupulousness of Pulchellus[4] and removes me just when my brother is returning;[5] the former offers better security and does not prevent my returning when I please. I am retaining the latter, but do not think I shall use it. However, nobody knows about it. I don't like running away; I am itching to fight. There is great warmth of feeling for me. But I don't say anything positive: you will please not to mention it. I am, in fact, very anxious about the manumission of Statius and some other things, but I have become hardened by this time. I could wish, or rather ardently desire, that you were here: then I should not want advice or consolation. But anyhow, be ready to fly hither directly I call for you.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. See Letter XIX.
  2. I.e., Caesar's agrarian law, by which some of the Campanian ager publicus was to be divided.
  3. M. Iuventius Laterensis. See Letter L.
  4. Pulchellus, i.e., P. Clodius Pulcher. The diminutive is used to express contempt. Cicero, since his return to Rome, is beginning to realize his danger.
  5. A libera legatio was really a colourable method of a senator travelling with the right of exacting certain payments for his expenses from the Italian or provincial towns. Sometimes it was simply a libera legatio, a sinecure without any pretence of purpose, sometimes it was voti causa, enabling a man to fullil some vow he was supposed to have made. It was naturally open to much abuse, and Cicero as consul had passed a law for limiting it in time. Clodius would become tribune on 10 December, and this libera legatio would protect Cicero as long as it lasted, but it would not, he thinks, last long enough to outstay the tribuneship: if he went as legatus to Caesar in Gaul, he would be safe, and might choose his own time for resigning and returning to Rome.