Letters to Atticus/3.24
To Atticus at Rome
When, some time ago, I received letters from you all stating that with your consent the vote for the expenses of the consular provinces had been taken, though I was nervous as to the result of the measure, I yet hoped that you saw some good reason for it beyond what I could see: but when I was informed by word of mouth and by letters that this policy of yours was strongly censured, I was much disturbed, because the hope which I had cherished, faint as it was, seemed completely destroyed. For if the tribunes are angry with us, what hope can there be? And, indeed, they seem to have reason to be angry, since they, who had undertaken my cause, have not been consulted on the measure; while by your assenting to it they have been deprived of all the legitimate influence of their office: and that though they profess that it was for my sake that they wished to have the vote for the outfit of the consuls under their control, not in order to curtail their freedom of action, but in order to attach them to my cause: that as things stand now, supposing the consuls to choose to take part against me, they can do so without let or hindrance, but if they wish to do anything in my favour they are powerless if the tribunes object. For as to what you say in your letter, that, if your party had not consented, they would have obtained their object by a popular vote--that would have been impossible against the will of the tribunes. So I fear, on the one hand, that I have lost the favour of the tribunes; and on the other, even supposing that favour to remain, that the tie has been lost by which the consuls were to be attached. Added to this is another disadvantage, the abandonment of the weighty resolution--as, indeed, it was reported to me--that the senate should pass no decree until my case had been decided, and that, too, in the case of a measure which was not only not urgent, but even contrary to custom and unprecedented. For I think there is no precedent for voting the provincial outfit of magistrates when still only designate: so that, since in a matter like this the firm line on which my cause had been taken up has been infringed, there is now no reason why any decree should not be passed. It is not surprising that those friends to whom the question was referred assented, for it was difficult to find anyone to express an opinion openly against proposals so advantageous to two consuls. It would in any case have been difficult not to be complaisant to such a warm friend as Lentulus, or to Metellus after the exceedingly kind way in which he put aside his quarrel with me. But I fear that, while failing to keep a hold on them, we have lost the tribunes. How this matter has occurred, and in what position the whole business stands, I would have you write to me, and in the same spirit as before: for your outspoken candour, even if not altogether pleasant, is yet what I prefer.
- 72 The phrase ornare provincias, ornare consules, etc., means the vote in the senate deciding the number of troops, amount of money, and other outfit that the magistrates going to their provinces were to have. The provinces to be taken by outgoing consuls were decided before the elections--in this case they were Cilicia and Spain. But the ornatio usually took place after the consuls had entered on their office, i.e., after the 1st of January. For this year, however--we don't know why--it had taken place before the 1st of December, B.C. 58. The result of this would be that the new tribunes for B.C. 57--entering on their office 10th December, B.C. 58--would have no voice in the matter, and would thus lose a great hold on the consuls. Most of these tribunes were supporters of Cicero, while he was doubtful as to one of the consuls--Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos. He thinks, therefore, that his cause has lost by this measure, for the tribunes will have less power of putting force on the consuls to do anything for him, and yet the same power of stopping them should they wish to do anything of their own accord. Besides, the new tribunes may be alienated by what they may think a measure derogatory to their position. These fears came to nothing; the tribunes were loyal to Cicero, and the consul Piso forwarded his recall.
- Because the tribunes could have vetoed any measure brought before the people, and so could have forced the consuls to come to terms.
- I.e., that the senate would pass no decree prior to one recalling Cicero.