Letters to Atticus/2.6

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Letters to Atticus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
2.6 (XXXII)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus at Rome[edit]

Antium, April 59 BC[edit]

As to my promise to you in a former letter that there should be some product of this country excursion, I cannot confirm it to any great extent: for I have become so attached to idleness that I cannot be torn from its arms. Accordingly, I either enjoy myself with books, of which I have a delightful stock at Antium, or I just count the waves—for the rough weather prevents my shrimping! From writing my mind positively recoils. For the geographical treatise, upon which I had settled, is a serious undertaking: so severely is Eratosthenes, whom I had proposed as my model, criticised by Serapio and Hipparchus: what think you will be the case if Tyrannio[1] is added to the critics? And, by Hercules, the subject is difficult of explanation and monotonous, and does not seem to admit of as much embellishment as I thought, and, in short—which is the chief point—any excuse for being idle seems to me a good one: for I am even hesitating as to settling at Antium and spending the rest of my life there, where, indeed, I would rather have been a duovir[2] than at Rome. You, indeed, have done more wisely in having made yourself a home at Buthrotum. But, believe me, next to that free town of yours comes the borough of the Antiates. Could you have believed that there could be a town so near Rome, where there are many who have never seen Vatinius? Where there is no one besides myself who Cares whether one of the twenty commissioners[3] is alive and well? Where no one intrudes upon me, and yet all are fond of me? This, this is the place to play the statesman in. For yonder, not only am I not allowed to do so, but I am sick of it besides. Accordingly, I will compose a book of secret memoirs for your ear alone in the style of Theopompus, or a more acrid one still.[4] Nor have I now any politics except to hate the disloyal, and even that without any bitterness, but rather with a certain enjoyment in writing. But to return to business: I have written to the city quaestors about my brother's affair. See what they say to it, whether there is any hope of the cash in denarii; or whether we are to be palmed off with Pompeian cistophori.[5] Furthermore, settle what is to be done about the wall. Is there anything else? Yes! Let me know when you are thinking of starting.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. A captive brought by Lucullus, who became a friend of Cicero and tutor to his son and nephew.
  2. One of the two yearly officers of a colony--they answer to the consuls at Rome. Therefore Cicero means, "I wish I had been a consul in a small colony rather than a consul at Rome."
  3. For distribution of land under Caesar's law. P. Vatinius was a tribune this year, and worked in Caesar's interests.
  4. Theopompus of Chios, the historian (Att. 6.1.12). Born about B.C. 378. His bitterness censured by Polybius, 8.11-13.
  5. The money due from the treasury to Q. Cicero in Asia. He wants it to be paid in Roman currency (denarii), not in Asiatic coins (cistophori), a vast amount of which Pompey had brought home and deposited in the treasury. So an Indian official might like sovereigns instead of rupees if he could get them.