Letters to Atticus/2.1

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Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus in Greece[edit]

Rome, June 60 BC[edit]

On the 1st of June, as I was on my way to Antium, and eagerly getting out of the way of M. Metellus's gladiators, your boy met me, and delivered to me a letter from you and a history of my consulship written in Greek.[1] This made me glad that I had some time before delivered to L. Cossinius a book, also written in Greek, on the same subject, to take to you. For if I had read yours first you might have said that I had pilfered from you. Although your essay (which I have read with pleasure) seemed to me just a trifle rough and bald, yet its very neglect of ornament is an ornament in itself, as women were once thought to have the best perfume who used none. My book, on the other hand, has exhausted the whole of Isocrates's unguent case, and all the paint-boxes of his pupils, and even Aristotle's colours. This, as you tell me in another letter, you glanced over at Corcyra, and afterwards I suppose received it from Cossinius.[2] I should not have ventured to send it to you until I had slowly and fastidiously revised it. However, Posidonius, in his letter of acknowledgment from Rhodes, says that as he read my memoir, which I had sent him with a view to his writing on the same subject with more elaboration, he was not only not incited to write, but absolutely made afraid to do so. In a word, I have routed the Greeks. Accordingly, as a general rule, those who were pressing me for material to work up, have now ceased to bother me. Pray, if you like the book, see to there being copies at Athens and other Greek towns[3] for it may possibly throw some lustre on my actions. As for my poor speeches, I will send you both those you ask for and some more also, since what I write to satisfy the studious youth finds favour, it seems, with you also. [For it suited my purpose[4]—both because it was in his Philippics that your fellow citizen Demosthenes gained his reputation, and because it was by withdrawing from the mere controversial and forensic style of oratory that he acquired the character of a serious politician—to see that I too should have speeches that may properly be called consular. Of these are, first, one delivered on the 1st of January in the senate, a second to the people on the agrarian law, a third on Otho, a fourth for Rabirius, a fifth on the Sons of the Proscribed, a sixth when I declined a province in public meeting, a seventh when I allowed Catiline to escape, which I delivered the day after Catiline fled, a ninth in public meeting on the day that the Allobroges made their revelation, a tenth in the senate on the 5th of December. There are also two short ones, which may be called fragments, on the agrarian law. This whole cycle I will see that you have. And since you like my writings as well as my actions, from these same rolls you will learn both what I have done and what I have said—or you should not have asked for them, for I did not make you an offer of them.]

You ask me why I urge you to come home, and at the same time you intimate that you are hampered by business affairs, and yet say that you will nevertheless hasten back, not only if it is needful, but even if I desire it. Well, there is certainly no absolute necessity, yet I do think you might plan the periods of your tour somewhat more conveniently. Your absence is too prolonged, especially as you are in a neighbouring country, while yet I cannot enjoy your society, nor you mine. For the present there is peace, but if my young friend Pulcher's[5] madness found means to advance a little farther, I should certainly summon you from your present sojourn. But Metellus is offering him a splendid opposition and will continue to do so. Need I say more? He is a truly patriotic consul and, as I have ever thought, naturally an honest man. That person, however, makes no disguise, but avowedly desires to be elected tribune. But when the matter was mooted in the senate, I cut the fellow to pieces, and taunted him with his changeableness in seeking the tribuneship at Rome after having given out at Hera, in Sicily,[6] that he was a candidate for the aedileship; and went on to say that we needn't much trouble ourselves, for that he would not be permitted to ruin the Republic any more as a plebeian, than patricians like him had been allowed to do so in my consulship. Presently, on his saying that he had completed the journey from the straits in seven days, and that it was impossible for anyone to have gone out to meet him, and that he had entered the city by night,[7] and making a great parade of this in a public meeting, I remarked that that was nothing new for him: seven days from Sicily to Rome, three hours from Rome to Interamna![8] Entered by night, did he? so he did before! No one went to meet him? neither did anyone on the other occasion, exactly when it should have been done! In short, I bring our young upstart to his bearings, not only by a set and serious speech, but also by repartees of this sort. Accordingly, I have come now to rally him and jest with him in quite a familiar manner. For instance, when we were escorting a candidate, he asked me "whether I had been accustomed to secure Sicilians places at the gladiatorial shows?" " No," said I. "Well, I intend to start the practice," said he, "as their new patron; but my sister,[9] who has the control of such a large part of the consul's space, won't give me more than a single foot." "Don't grumble," said I, "about one of your sister's feet; you may lift the other also." A jest, you will say, unbecoming to a consular. I confess it, but I detest that woman--so unworthy of a consul. For

A shrew she is and with her husband jars,

and not only with Metellus, but also with Fabius,[10] because she is annoyed at their interference in this business.[11] You ask about the agrarian law: it has completely lost all interest, I think. You rather chide me, though gently, about my intimacy with Pompey. I would not have you think that I have made friends with him for my own protection; but things had come to such a pass that, if by any chance we had quarreled, there would inevitably have been violent dissensions in the state. And in taking precautions and making provision against that, I by no means swerved from my well-known loyalist policy, but my object was to make him more of a loyalist and induce him to drop somewhat of his time-serving vacillation: and he, let me assure you, now speaks in much higher terms of my achievements (against which many had tried to incite him) than of his own. He testifies that while he served the state well, I preserved it. What if I even make a better citizen of Caesar,[12] who has now the wind full in his sails—am I doing so poor a service to the Republic? Furthermore, if there was no one to envy me, if all, as they ought to be, were my supporters, nevertheless a preference should still be given to a treatment that would cure the diseased parts of the state, rather than to the use of the knife. As it is, however, since the knighthood, which I once stationed on the slope of the Capitoline,[13] with you as their standard-bearer and leader, has deserted the senate, and since our leading men think themselves in a seventh heaven, if there are bearded mullets in their fish-ponds that will come to hand for food, and neglect everything else, do not you think that I am doing no mean service if I secure that those who have the power, should not have the will, to do any harm? As for our friend Cato, you do not love him more than I do: but after all, with the very best intentions and the most absolute honesty, he sometimes does harm to the Republic. He speaks and votes as though he were in the Republic of Plato, not in the scum of Romulus. What could be fairer than that a man should be brought to trial who has taken a bribe for his verdict? Cato voted for this: the senate agreed with him. The equites declared war on the senate, not on me, for I voted against it. What could be a greater piece of impudence than the equites renouncing the obligations of their contract? Yet for the sake of keeping the friendship of the order it was necessary to submit to the loss. Cato resisted and carried his point. Accordingly, though we have now had the spectacle of a consul thrown into prison,[14] of riots again and again stirred up, not one of those moved a finger to help, with whose support I and the consuls that immediately followed me were accustomed to defend the Republic. "Well, but," say you, "are we to pay them for their support?" What are we to do if we can't get it on any other terms? Are we to be slaves to freedmen or even slaves? But, as you say, assez de serieux! Favonius[15] carried my tribe with better credit than his own; he lost that of Lucceius. His accusation of Nasica[16] was not creditable, but was conducted with moderation: he spoke so badly that he appeared when in Rhodes to have ground at the mills more than at the lessons of Molon.[17] He was somewhat angry with me because I appeared for the defence: however, he is now making up to me again on public grounds. I will write you word how Lucceius is getting on when I have seen Caesar, who will be here in a couple of days. The injury done you by the Sicyonians you attribute to Cato and his imitator Servilius.[18] Why? did not that blow reach many excellent citizens? But since the senate has so determined, let us commend it, and not be in a minority of one.[19] My "Amaltheia"[20] is waiting and longing for you. My Tusculan and Pompeian properties please me immensely, except that they have overwhelmed me—me, the scourge of debt—not exactly in Corinthian bronze, but in the bronze which is current in the market.[21] In Gaul I hope peace is restored. My "Prognostics," [22] along with my poor speeches, expect shortly. Yet write and tell me what your ideas are as to returning. For Pomponia sent a message to me that you would be at Rome some time in July. That does not agree with your letter which you wrote to me about your name being put on the Census roll. Paetus, as I have already told you, has presented me with all books left by his brother. This gift of his depends upon your seeing to it with care. Pray, if you love me, take measures for their preservation and transmission to me. You could do me no greater favour, and I want the Latin books preserved with as much care as the Greek. I shall look upon them as virtually a present from yourself. I have written to Octavius:[23] I had not said anything to him about you by word of mouth; for I did not suppose that you carried on your business in that province, or look upon you in the light of general money-lender: but I have written, as in duty bound, with all seriousness.


  1. Nep. Att. 18.
  2. Atticus seems to have seen a copy belonging to some one else at Corfu. Cicero explains that he had kept back Atticus's copy for revision.
  3. Cicero evidently intends Atticus to act as a publisher. His librarii will make copies. See Letter XVIII, note 10.
  4. The passage in brackets is believed by some, not on very good grounds, to be spurious. Otho is L. Roscius Otho, the author of the law as to the seats in the theatre for the equites. The "proscribed" are those proscribed by Sulla, their sons being forbidden to hold office, a disability which Cicero maintained for fear of civil disturbances. See in Pis. §§ 4-5.
  5. Pulchellus, i.e., P. Clodius Pulcher, the diminutive of contempt.
  6. Where he had been as quaestor. Hera is said to be another name for Hybla. Some read heri, "only yesterday."
  7. Clodius is showing off his modesty. It was usual for persons returning from a province to send messengers in front, and to travel deliberately, that their friends might pay them the compliment of going out to meet them. Entering the city after nightfall was another method of avoiding a public reception. See Suet. Aug. 53].
  8. See Letter XXI, note 3.
  9. Clodia, wife of the consul Metellus. See XIV, note 4.
  10. We don't know who this is; probably a cavaliere servente of Clodia's.
  11. I.e., in the business of her brother Clodius's attempt to get the tribuneship.
  12. Though Caesar has been mentioned before in regard to his candidature for the consulship, and in connection with the Clodius Case, this is the first reference to him as a statesman. He is on the eve of his return from Spain, and already is giving indication of his coalition with Pompey. His military success in Spain first clearly demonstrated his importance.
  13. During the meeting of the senate at the time of the Catilinarian conspiracy (Phil. 2.16).
  14. The consul Caecilius Metellus was imprisoned by the tribune Flavius for resisting his land law (Dio, 37.50).
  15. M. Favonius, an extreme Optimate. Ille Catonis Aemulus (Suet. Aug. 13]). He had a bitter tongue, but a faithful heart (Plut. Pomp. 60, 73; Vell. 2.73). He did not get the praetorship (which he was now seeking) till B.C. 49. He was executed after Philippi (Dio, 47, 49).
  16. P. Scipio Nasica Metellus Pius, the future father-in-law of Pompey, who got the praetorship, was indicted for ambitus by Favonius.
  17. Apollonios Molôn of Alabanda taught rhetoric at Rhodes. Cicero had himself attended his lectures. He puns on the name Molon and molae, "mill at which slaves worked."
  18. See Letters XXIV, XXV.
  19. Reading discessionibus, "divisions in the senate," with Manutius and Tyrrell, not dissentionibus; and deinde ne, but not st for si.
  20. His study, which he playfully calls by this name, in imitation of that of Atticus. See Letter XVIII.
  21. See Letter XV.
  22. His translation of the Prognostics of Aratus.
  23. Gaius Octavius, father of Augastus, governor of Macedonia.