Letters to Atticus/1.20

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Letters to Atticus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
1.20 (XXV)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus in Epirus[edit]

Rome, 13 May 60 BC[edit]

On my return to Rome from my villa at Pompeii on the 12th of May, our friend Cincius handed me your letter dated 13th February. It is this letter of yours which I will now proceed to answer. And first let me say how glad I am that you have fully understood my appreciation of you;[1] and next how excessively rejoiced I am that you have been so extremely reasonable in regard to those particulars in which you thought[2] that I and mine had behaved unkindly, or with insufficient consideration for your feelings: and this I regard as a proof of no common affection, and of the most excellent judgment and wisdom. Wherefore, since you have written to me in a tone so delightful, considerate, friendly and kind, that I not only have no call to press you any farther, but can never even hope to meet from you or any other man with so much gentleness and good nature, I think the very best course I can pursue is not to say another word on the subject in my letters. When we meet, if the occasion should arise, we will discuss it together. As to what you say about politics, your suggestions indeed are both affectionate and wise, and the course you suggest does not differ substantially from my own policy—for I must neither budge an inch from the position imposed upon me by my rank, nor must I without forces of my own enter the lines of another, while that other, whom you mention in your letter, has nothing large-minded about him, nothing lofty,—nothing which is not abject and time-serving. However, the course I took was, after all, perhaps not ill-calculated for securing the tranquillity of my own life; but, by heaven, I did greater service to the Republic than, by suppressing the attacks of the disloyal, I did to myself, when I brought conviction home to the wavering mind of a man of the most splendid fortune, influence and popularity, and induced him to disappoint the disloyal and praise my acts. Now if I had been forced to sacrifice consistency in this transaction, I should not have thought anything worth that price; but the fact is that I have so worked the whole business, that I did not seem to be less consistent from my complacency to him, but that he appeared to gain in character by his approbation of me. In everything else I am so acting, and shall continue so to act, as to prevent my seeming to have done what I did do by mere chance. My friends the loyalists, the men at whom you hint, and that "Sparta" which you say has fallen to my lot,[3] I will not only never desert, but even if I am deserted by her, I shall still stand by my ancient creed. However, please consider this, that since the death of Catulus I am holding this road for the loyalists without any garrison or Company. For as Rhinton, I think, says:

Some are stark naught, and some care not at all.[4]

However, how our friends the fish-breeders[5] envy me I will write you word another time, or will reserve it till we meet. But from the senate-house nothing shall ever tear me: either because that course is the right one, or because it is most to my interests, or because I am far from being dissatisfied with the estimation in which I am held by the senate. As to the Sicyonians, as I wrote to you before,[6] there is not much to be hoped for in the senate. For there is no one now to lay a complaint before it. Therefore, if you are waiting for that, you will find it a tedious business. Fight some other way if you can. At the time the decree was passed no one noticed who would be affected by it, and besides the rank and file of the senators voted in a great hurry for that clause. For cancelling the senatorial decree the time is not yet ripe, because there are none to complain of it, and because also many are glad to have it so, some from spite, some from a notion of its equity. Your friend Metellus is an admirable consul: I have only one fault to find with him—he doesn't receive the news from Gaul of the restoration of peace with much pleasure. He wants a triumph, I suppose. I could have wished a little less of that sort of thing: in other respects he is splendid. But the son of Aulus behaves in such a way, that his consulship is not a consulship but a stigma on our friend Magnus. Of my writings I send you my consulship in Greek completed. I have handed that book to L. Cossinius. My Latin works I think you like, but as a Greek you envy this Greek book. If others write treatises on the subject I will send them to you, but I assure you that, as soon as they have read mine, somehow or other they become slack. To return to my own affairs, L. Papirius Paetus, an excellent man and an admirer of mine, has presented me with the books left him by Servius Claudius. As your friend Cincius told me that I could take them without breaking the lex Cincia,[7] I told him that I should have great pleasure in accepting them, if he brought them to Italy. Wherefore, as you love me, as you know that I love you, do try by means of friends, clients, guests, or even your freedmen or slaves, to prevent the loss of a single leaf. For I am in urgent need of the Greek books which I suspect, and of the Latin books which I know, that he left: and more and more every day I find repose in such studies every moment left to me from my labours in the forum. You will, I say, do me a very great favour, if you will be as zealous in this matter as you ever are in matters in which you suppose me to feel strongly; and Paetus's own affairs I recommend to your kindness, for which he thanks you extremely. A prompt visit from yourself is a thing which I do not merely ask for, I advise it.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Contained in Letter XXII.
  2. Reading tibi for mihi, as Prof. Tyrrell suggests.
  3. Spartên elaches keinên kosmei. "Sparta is your lot, do it credit," a line of Euripides which had become proverbial.
  4. hoi men par' ouden eisi, tois d' ouden melei. Rhinton, a dramatist, circa B.C. 320-280 (of Tarentum or Syracuse).
  5. See Letters XXIII, XXIV, XXVI.
  6. See XXIV.
  7. The lex Cincia (B.C. 204) forbade the taking of presents for acting as advocate in law courts.