Letters to Atticus/2.14

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Letters to Atticus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
2.14 (XL)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus at Rome[edit]

Formiae, April 59 BC[edit]

How you rouse my curiosity as to what Bibulus says, as to your conversation with "Iuno," and even as to your "fast" dinner party! Therefore make haste to come, for my ears are thirsty for news. However, there is nothing which I think is now more to be dreaded by me than that our dear Sampsiceramus, finding himself belaboured by the tongues of all, and seeing these proceedings easy to upset, should begin striking out. For myself, I have so completely lost all nerve, that I prefer a despotism, with the existing peace, to a state of war with the best hopes in the world. As to literary composition, to which you frequently urge me, it is impossible! My house is a basilica rather than a villa, owing to the crowds of visitors from Formiae. But (you'll say) do I really compare the Aemilian tribe to the crowd in a basilica?[1] Well, I say nothing about the common ruck—the rest of them don't bother me after ten o'clock: but C. Arrius is my next door neighbour, or rather, he almost lives in my house, and even declares that the reason for his not going to Rome is that he may spend whole days with me here philosophizing! And then, lo and behold, on my other side is Sebosus, that friend of Catulus! Which way am I to turn? By heaven, I would start at once for Arpinum, only that I see that the most convenient place to await your visit is Formiae: but only up to the 6th of May! For you see with what bores my ears are pestered. What a splendid opportunity, with such fellows in the house, if anyone wanted to buy my Formian property![2] And in spite of all this am I to make good my words, "Let us attempt something great, and requiring much thought and leisure"? However, I will do something for you, and not spare my labour.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. At comparem for at quam partem. At has its usual force of introducing a supposed objection. I can't, say you, compare the Aemilian tribe, the Formiani, to a crowd in a court-house! They are not so bad as that, not so wasteful of time! I take basilica to mean the saunterers in a basilica, as we might say "the park" for the company in it, "the exchange" for the brokers in it. I feel certain that Prof. Tyrrell is wrong in ascribing the words sed ... sunt to a quotation from Atticus's letter. What is wanted is to remove the full stop after sunt. The contrast Cicero is drawing is between the interruption to literary work of a crowd of visitors and of one or two individuals always turning up. The second is the worse—and here I think all workers will agree with him: the crowd of visitors (vulgus) go at the regular hour, but individuals come in at all hours.
  2. Because he would be inclined to sell it cheap in his disgust.