Letters to Atticus/4.16

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Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus in Epirus or on his journey to Asia, from Rome, ?24 June 54 BC[1]

The bare fact of my letter being by the hand of an amanuensis will be a sign of the amount of my engagements. I have no fault to find with you as to the number of your letters, but most of them told me nothing except where you were, or at most showed by the fact that they Came from you that no harm had happened to you. Of this class of letters there were two which gave me very great pleasure, dated by you from Buthrotum almost at the same time: for I was anxious to know that you had had a favourable crossing. But this constant supply of your letters did not give me so much pleasure by the richness of their contents as by their frequency. The one which your guest, M. Paccius, delivered to me was important and full of matter. I will therefore answer it. And this is the first thing I have to say: I have shown Paccius, both by word and deed, what weight a recommendation from you has: accordingly, he is among my intimate friends, though unknown to me before.

Now for the rest. Varro, of whom you write, shall be got in somewhere, if l can but find a place for him.[2] But you know the style of my Dialogues: just as in those On the Orator, which you praise to the skies, a mention of anyone by the interlocutors was impossible, unless he had been known to or heard of by them, so in the "Dialogue on the Republic," which I have begun, I have put the discussion in the mouths of Africanus, Philus, Laelius, and Manilius. I have added two young men, Q. Tubero and P. Rutilius, and the two sons-in-law of Laelius, Scaevola and Fannius. So I am thinking how (since I employ introductions to each book, as Aristotle does in what he calls his "Exoterics") to contrive some pretext for naming your friend in a natural way, as I understand is your wish. May I only be enabled to carry out my attempt! For, as you cannot but observe, I have undertaken a subject wide, difficult, and requiring the utmost leisure—the very thing that, above all others, I lack.

In those books which you commend you complain of the absence of Scaevola among the speakers. Well, I did not withdraw him without a set purpose, but I did exactly what that god of our idolatry, Plato, did in his Republic. When Socrates had come to the Piraeus on a visit to Cephalus, a wealthy and cheerful old man, during all the introductory conversation the old man takes part in the discussion; then, after having himself made a speech very much to the point, he says that he wants to go away to attend on the religious rites, and does not return again. I believe Plato hardly thought that it would be quite natural, if he kept a man of that age any longer in a conversation so protracted. I thought that I was bound to be still more careful in the case of Scaevola, who was at the age and with the broken health as you remember he then was, and who had enjoyed such high offices, that it was scarcely in accordance with etiquette for him to be staying several days in the Tusculan villa of Crassus. Besides, the conversation in the first book was not unconnected with Scaevola's special pursuits: the other books, as you know, contain a technical discussion. In such I was unwilling that that facetious veteran, as you know he was, should take part.

As to Pilia's business, which you mention, I will see to it. For the matter is quite clear, as you say, from the information supplied by Aurelianus, and in managing it I shall have also an opportunity of glorifying myself in my Tullia's eyes. I am supporting Vestorius: for I know that it gratifies you, and I am careful that he should understand that to be the case. But do you know the sort of man he is? Though he has two such good-natured people to deal with, nothing can exceed his impracticability.

Now as to what you ask about Gaius Cato. You know that he was acquitted under the lex Junia Licinia:[3] I have to tell you that he will be acquitted under the lex Fufia,[4] and not so much to the satisfaction of his defenders as of his accusers. However, he has become reconciled to myself and Milo. Drusus has had notice of prosecution by Lucretius. The 3rd of July is the day fixed for challenging his jurors. About Procilius[5] there are sinister rumours—but you know what the courts are. Hirrus is on good terms with Domitius.[6] The senatorial decree which the present consuls have carried about the provinces—"whoever henceforth, etc."—does not seem to me likely to have any effect.

As to your question about Messalla, I don't know what to say: I have never seen candidates so closely matched. Messalla's means of support you know. Scaurus has had notice of prosecution from Triarius. If you ask me, no great feeling of sympathy for him has been roused. Still, his aedileship is remembered with some gratitude, and he has a certain hold on the country voters from the memory of his father. The two remaining plebeian candidates have compensating advantages which make them about equal: Domitius Calvinus is strong in friends, and is farther supported by his very popular exhibition of gladiators; Memmius finds favour with Caesar's veterans and relies on Pompey's client towns in Gaul. If this does not avail him, people think that some tribune will be found to push off the elections till Caesar comes back, especially since Cato has been acquitted.

I have answered your letter brought by Paccius. Now for the rest. From my brother's letter I gather surprising indications of Caesar's affection for me, and they have been confirmed by a very cordial letter from Caesar himself. The result of the British war is a source of anxiety. For it is ascertained that the approaches to the island are protected by astonishing masses of cliff. Moreover, it is now known that there isn't a pennyweight of silver in that island, nor any hope of booty except from slaves, among whom I don't suppose you can expect any instructed in literature or music.

Paullus has almost brought his basilica in the forum to the roof, using the same columns as were in the ancient building: the part for which he gave out a contract he is building on the most magnificent scale.[7] Need I say more? Nothing could be more gratifying or more to his glory than such a monument. Accordingly, the friends of Caesar—I mean myself and Oppius, though you burst with anger—have thought nothing of 60,000 sestertia for that monument, which you used to speak of in such high terms, in order to enlarge the forum and extend it right up to the Hall of Liberty. The claims of private owners could not be satisfied for less. We will make it a most glorious affair. For in the Campus Martius we are about to erect voting places for the comitia tributa, of marble and covered, and to surround them with a lofty colonnade a mile in circumference: at the same time the Villa Publica will also be connected with these erections.[8] You will say: "What good will this monument do me?" But why should I trouble myself about that? I have told you all the news at Rome: for I don't suppose you want to know about the lustrum, of which there is now no hope,[9] or about the trials which are being held under the (Cincian) law.[10]

Now allow yourself to be scolded, if you deserve it. For you say in the letter from Buthrotum, delivered to me by C. Decimus, that you think you will have to go to Asia. There did not, by Hercules, seem to me to be anything that made it matter in the least whether you did the business by agents or in person; or anything to make you go so often and so far from your friends. But I could have wished that I had urged this on you before you had taken any step. For I certainly should have had some influence on you. As things are, I will suppress the rest of my scolding. May it only have some effect in hastening your return! The reason of my not writing oftener to you is the uncertainty I am in as to where you are or are going to be.

However, I thought I ought to give this letter to a chance messenger, because be seemed to be likely to see you. Since you think you really will go to Asia, pray tell me by what time we may expect you back, and what you have done about Eutychides.


  1. Shuckburgh has recombined the paragraphs of this letter and A 4.17 into two slightly different letters (see A 4.16 & part of 17 and A 4.17 & parts of 16 at Perseus. I have disentangled and recombined the paragraphs to match the Latin text. Nicknack009
  2. That is, as an interlocutor in the dialogue On the Republic, which Cicero was engaged in writing.
  3. A law re-enacting the lex Didia, and enacting under penalties that no law was to be brought forward without due publication beforehand.
  4. A law which enabled the magistrates and tribunes to stop legislation by obnuntiatio.
  5. Procilius had been condemned de vi. The rumours, I suppose, were as to the jury having been corrupted.
  6. The consul consul L. Domitius Ahenobarbus and C. Lucceius Hirrus, the latter a warm partisan of Pompey, who was supposed to be agitating for a dictatorship.
  7. L. Aemilius Paullus (consul B.C. 50) restored the basilica built by his ancestor M. Aemilius Lepidus in B.C. 179, and appears to have added largely to it, or even built a new one.
  8. These works seem to have been contemplated by the censors and senate, and Cicero speaks of himself and Oppius as doing them because they supported the measure. They were partly carried out by Caesar, but not completed till the time of Augustus.
  9. Because the tribunes stopped it--the formal act at the end of the censor's office—by obnuntiationes.
  10. The name of the law mentioned here is uncertain. The lex Cincia de mmuneribus forbade advocates taking fees for pleading. Shackleton Bailey reads Clodia.