Letters to Atticus/2.17

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Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus at Rome[edit]

Formiae, May 59 BC[edit]

I quite agree with your letter. Sampsiceramus is getting up a disturbance. We have everything to fear. He is preparing a despotism and no mistake about it: For what else is the meaning of that sudden marriage union,[1] the Campanian land affair, the lavish expenditure of money? If these measures were final, even then the mischief had been very great; but the nature of the case makes finality impossible. For how could these measures possibly give them any pleasure in themselves? They would never have gone so far as this unless they had been paving the way for other fatal steps. Immortal Gods! But, as you say, at Arpinum about the 10th of May we will not weep over these questions, lest the hard work and midnight oil I have spent over my studies shall turn out to have been wasted, but discuss them together calmly. For I am not so much consoled by a sanguine disposition as by philosophic "indifference,"[2] which I call to my aid in nothing so much as in our civil and political business. Nay, more, whatever vanity or sneaking love of reputation there is lurking in me—for it is well to know one's faults—is tickled by a certain pleasurable feeling. For it used to sting me to the heart to think that centuries hence the services of Sampsiceramus to the state would loom larger than my own. That anxiety, at least, is now put to rest. For he is so utterly fallen that, in comparison with him, Curius might seem to be standing erect after his fall.[3] But all this when we meet. Yet, as far as I can see, you will be at Rome when I come. I shall not be at all sorry for that, if you can conveniently manage it. But if you come to see me, as you say in your letter, I wish you would fish out of Theophanes how "Arabarches"[4] is disposed to me. You will, of course, inquire with your usual zeal, and bring me the result to serve as a kind of suggestion for the line of conduct I am to adopt. From his conversation we shall be able to get an inkling of the whole situation.


  1. The marriage of Pompey with Caesar's daughter Iulia.
  2. adiaphoria, a word taken from the Stoics, huic [Zenoni] summum bonum est in his rebus neutram in partem moveri, quae adiaphoria ab ipso dicitur (Acad. 2.130).
  3. C. Curius, one of the Catiline set, who had been ignominiously expelled from the senate.
  4. Another nickname of Pompey, from the title of the head of the Thebais in Egypt. Like Sampsiceramus and the others, it is meant al a scornful allusion to Pompey's achievements in the East, and perhaps his known wish to have the direction of affairs in Egypt.