Letters to friends/5.2

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Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Metellus Celer in Cisalpine Gaul[edit]

Rome, 62 BC[edit]

M. Tullius, son of Marcus, to Q. Metellus Celer, son of Quintus, proconsul wishes health. If you and the army are well I shall be glad. You say in your letter that you "thought, considering our mutual regard and the reconciliation effected between us, that you were not likely to be held up to ridicule by me." To what you refer I do not clearly understand, but I suspect that you have been informed that, while arguing in the senate that there were many who were annoyed at my having saved the state, I said that your relations, whose wishes you had been unable to withstand, had induced you to pass over in silence what you had made up your mind you ought to say in the senate in my praise. But while saying so I also added this—that the duty of supporting the Republic had been so divided between us that I was defending the city from internal treachery and the crime of its own citizens, you Italy from armed enemies and covert conspiracy[1] yet that this association in a task so noble and so glorious had been imperilled by your relations, who, while you had been complimented by me in the fullest and most laudatory terms, had been afraid of any display of mutual regard on your part being put to my credit. As this sentence betrayed how much I had looked forward to your speech, and how mistaken I had been in that expectation, my speech caused some amusement, and was received with a moderate amount of laughter; but the laugh was not against you, it was rather at my mistake, and at the open and naive confession of my eagerness to be commended by you. Surely it cannot but be a compliment to you that in the hour of my greatest triumph and glory I yet wished for some testimony of approval from your lips. As to your expression, "considering our mutual regard "—I don't know your idea of what is "mutual" in friendship; mine is an equal interchange of good feeling. Now if I were to mention that I passed over a province for your sake, you might think me somewhat insincere; for, in point of fact, it suited my convenience, and I feel more and more every day of my life the advantage and pleasure which I have received from that decision. But this I do say—the moment I had announced in public meeting my refusal of a province, I began at once thinking how I might hand it on to you. I say nothing as to the circumstances of your allotment: I only wish you to suspect that nothing was done in that matter by my colleague without my cognizance. Recall the other circumstances: how promptly I summoned the senate on that day after the lots had been drawn, at what a length I spoke about you. You yourself said at the time that my speech was not merely complimentary to you, but absolutely a reflection on your colleagues. Further, the decree of the senate passed on that day has such a preamble that, so long as it is extant, there can never be any doubt of my services to you. Subsequently, when you had gone out of town; I would have you recall my motions in the senate, my speeches in public meetings, my letters to yourself. And having reviewed all these together, I would like you to judge yourself whether you think that your approach to Rome the last time you came quite showed an adequate return for all these services.[2] Again, as to your expression, "the reconciliation effected between us "—I do not understand why you speak of "reconciliation" in the case of a friendship that had never been broken. As to what you say, that your brother Metellus ought not "to have been attacked by me for a mere word," in the first place I would like to assure you that your feeling and fraternal partiality—so full of human kindness and natural affection—meet with my warmest approbation; in the next place I must claim your indulgence if I have in any matter opposed your brother in the interests of the Republic, for my devotion to the Republic is paramount. If however, it is my personal safety that I have defended against a most ruthless assault of his, I think you should be content that I make no complaint even to you of your brother's injurious conduct. Now, when I had become aware that he was deliberately making every preparation to use his tribunician office to my ruin, I appealed to your wife Claudia[3] and your sister Mucia[4] (of whose kindness to me for the sake of my friendship with Pompey I had satisfied myself by many instances) to deter him from that injurious conduct. And yet, as I am sure you have heard, on the last day of December he inflicted upon me—a consul and the preserver of my country—an indignity such as was never inflicted upon the most disloyal citizen in the humblest office: that is to say, he deprived me when laying down my office of the privilege of addressing the people—an indignity, however, which after all redounded to my honour. For, upon his forbidding me to do anything but take the oath, I pronounced an oath at once the most absolutely true and the most glorious in a loud voice—an oath which the people swore also in a loud voice to be absolutely true. Though I had actually suffered this signal indignity, I yet on that same day sent common friends to Metellus to persuade him to alter his resolution; to whom he answered that he was no longer free to do so. And, in fact, a short time previously he had said in a public meeting that a man who had punished others without trial ought not himself to be allowed the privilege of speech. What a model of consistency! What an admirable citizen! So he deemed the man who had saved the senate from massacre, the city from the incendiary, Italy from war, deserving of the same penalty as that inflicted by the senate with the unanimous approval of all loyal citizens, upon those who had intended to set fire to the city, butcher magistrates and senate, and stir up a formidable war! Accordingly, I did withstand your brother Metellus to his face: for on the 1st of January, in the senate, I maintained a debate with him on the state of the Republic, such as taught him that he had to contend with a man of courage and firmness. On the 3rd of January,[5] on again opening the debate, he kept harping on me and threatening me at every third word of his speech; nor could any intention be more deliberate than his was to overthrow me by any means in his power, not by calm and judicial argument, but by violence and mere browbeating. If I had not shown some boldness and spirit in opposing his intemperate attack, would not everyone have concluded that the courage I had displayed in my consulship was the result of accident rather than design? If you did not know that Metellus was contemplating these measures in regard to me you must consider that you have been kept in the dark by your brother on matters of the utmost importance: if, on the other hand, he did entrust any part of his designs to you, then surely I ought to be regarded by you as a man of placable and reasonable temper for not addressing a word of reproach to you even on such occurrences as these Understanding then that it was by no "mere word" (as you express it) of Metellus that I was roused, but by his deliberate policy and extraordinary animosity towards me next observe my forbearance—if "forbearance" is the name to be given to irresolution and laxity under a most galling indignity. I never once delivered a vote in a speech against your brother every time a motion was before the house I assented without rising to those whose proposal appeared to me to be the mildest. I will also add that, though in the circumstances there was no obligation upon me to do so, yet so far from raising objections I actually did my best to secure that my enemy, because he was your brother, should be relieved from penalties by a decree of the senate.[6] Wherefore I have not "attacked" your brother, but only defended myself from your brother's attack; nor have I been "fickle" (to quote your word), but, on the contrary, so constant, that I remained faithful to my friendship to you, though left without any sign of kindness from you. For instance, at this moment, though your letter amounts almost to a threat, I am writing back an answer such as you see. I not only pardon your vexation, I even applaud it in the highest degree; for my own heart tells me how strong is the influence of fraternal affection. I ask you in your turn to put a liberal construction upon my vexation, and to conclude that when attacked by your relatives with bitterness, with brutality, and without cause, I not only ought not to retract anything, but, in a case of that kind, should even be able to rely upon the aid of yourself and your army. I have always wished to have you as a friend: I have taken pains to make you understand that I am a warm friend to you. I abide by that sentiment, and shall abide by it as long as you will let me; and I shall more readily cease to be angry with your brother for love of you, than I shall from anger with him abate in the smallest degree my kindness for you.


  1. Metellus had been employed with Antonius against the camp at Faesulae, but was now engaged against some Alpine tribes
  2. When Metellus was commanding against Catiline, it is suggested that he marched towards Rome to support his brother, but this is conjecture.
  3. Sister of P. Clodius. Of this famous woman we shall hear often again. She is believed to be the Lesbia of Catullus, and she is the "Palatine Medea" of the speech pro Caelio. Yet, in spite of Cicero's denunciations of her, he seems at one time to have been so fond of her society as to rouse Terentia's jealousy.
  4. Wife of Pompey--divorced by him on his return from the East.
  5. On the next meeting of the senate. The second was a dies comitialis on which the senate usually did not meet (Caes. B. Civ. 1.1).
  6. For the riots caused by his contests with Cato (on which the senate seems to have passed the senatus consultum ultimum), and for his having left Rome while tribune.