Letters to Atticus/3.23

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus at Rome[edit]

Dyrrachium, 29 November 58 BC[edit]

On the 26th of November I received three letters from you, one dated 25th of October, in which you exhort me to await the month of January with a good heart, and write at length on such topics as you think tend to encourage my hopes--as to the zeal of Lentulus, the goodwill of Metellus, and the general policy of Pompey. In the second letter, contrary to your usual custom, you append no date, but give sufficient indication of the time of its writing. For the law having been published by the eight tribunes, you mention that you wrote this letter on the very same day, that is, the 29th of October,[1] and you say what good you think that publication has done. In regard to which, if my restoration is to be despaired of along with this law, I would have you think in your affection for me that my fruitless exertions are pitiable rather than foolish: but if there is any ground for hope, try and secure that my cause may be hereafter supported with greater attention to details by the new magistrates. For this bill of the old tribunes[2] had three clauses, of which the one relating to my return was carelessly drafted. For nothing is restored to me except my citizenship and senatorial rank: which, in the circumstances of my position, suffices me, but it does not escape your observation what special provisions will have to be made, and in what manner. The second clause is the usual one--"If anything be done in virtue of this law against other laws."[3] But observe, my dear Pomponius, what the object of the third clause is, and by whom it has been put in. For you know that Clodius provided that it should be scarcely possible, or rather altogether impossible, for his law to be deprived of validity either by senate or people. But you must see that the penal provisions of such laws as are repealed have never been observed. For in that case hardly any law could be repealed at all--for there is no law which does not hedge itself in by trying to make repeal difficult--but when a law is repealed, so is the clause meant to prevent its repeal. Now, though this is in truth the case, since it has been the universal doctrine and practice, our eight tribunes introduced the following clause: If any provision is contained in this bill which, in view of existing laws or plebiscites (i.e., Clodius's law), it is not lawful without incurring penalty, now or heretofore, whether to publish, repeal, amend, or supersede, or whereby he who has so published or amended would be liable to penalty or fine--such provision is not enacted by this law. And observe that this contingency did not touch the case of those eight tribunes, for they were not bound by a law emanating from their own body.[4] Which makes one the more suspicious of some evil intention, since they have added a clause which did not affect themselves, but was against my interests: so that the new tribunes, if they happened to be somewhat timid, would think it still more necessary to employ the clause. [5] And Clodius did not fail to notice this. For he said in the public meeting of November the third, that by this clause a limit to their legal powers was laid down for the tribunes-designate; and yet it cannot escape your notice that in no law is there a clause of the sort: whereas, if it had been necessary, everybody would have employed it in repealing a law. How this point came to escape Ninnius[6] and the rest, pray find out, and who introduced the clause, and how it was that the eight tribunes did not hesitate to bring my case before the senate--which implies that they did not think that clause of the law binding--and were yet so cautious in their proposal for its repeal, as to be afraid (though not personally liable) of what need not be taken into Consideration, even by those who are bound by the law. This clause I would not have the new tribunes propose; however, let them only carry something, no matter what: I shall be content with the single clause recalling me, so long only as the business is done. I have for some time been feeling ashamed of writing at such length; for I fear by the time you read this it will be all up with any hopes, so that this minute criticism of mine may seem pitiable to you and ridiculous to others. But if there is any ground for hope, pray look at the law which Visellius[7] drafted for T. Fadius. I like it very much: for that of our friend Sestius, which you say has your approbation, I don't like.

The third letter is dated 12th of November, in which you explain with wisdom and care what the circumstances are which seem to cause a postponement of my affair, and about Crassus, Pompey, and the rest. Accordingly, I beg you, if there is any hope that the matter can be settled by the zeal of the loyalists, by the exertion of influence, and by getting numbers on our side, to endeavour to break through all difficulties at a rush, to throw your whole weight into the attempt, and incite others to do the same. But if, as I perceive from your conjectures as well as my own, there is no hope left, I beg and implore you to cherish my brother Quintus, whom I to our mutual misery have ruined, and not allow him to do anything to himself which would be to the detriment of your sister's son. My little Cicero, to whom, poor boy! I leave nothing but prejudice and the blot upon my name, pray protect to the best of your power. Terentia, that most afflicted of women, sustain by your kindness. I shall start for Epirus as soon as I have received news of the first days of the new tribunate.[8] Pray describe fully to me in your next letter what sort of a beginning is made.

29 November.


  1. This bill for Cicero's recall would, of course, be vetoed by Clodius, and could not therefore be passed, but it would probably influence the action of the new tribunes for B.C. 57.
  2. I.e., the tribunes of B.C. 58.
  3. I.e., securing indemnity to the proposers if there is a technical breach of existing laws, something like the common clause- "all statutes to the contrary notwithstanding."
  4. The Clodian law.
  5. Because they would not be protected as the previous tribunes were by the fact of the Clodian law (which alone was contravened) having emanated from their own collegium.
  6. L. Quadratus Ninnius, tribune-elect. On the 1st of June next he brought forward the question of Cicero's restoration in the senate.
  7. Cicero's Cousin, C. Visellius Varro, a learned jurisconsult (Brut. § 264; Verr. 1.71).
  8. The tribunes came into office on the 10th of December, nearly three weeks before the consuls, praetors, etc., who entered office on the 1st of January.