Letters to Atticus/4.18

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Letters to Atticus by Marcus Tullius Cicero
4.18 (CLIII)
Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus in Asia, from Rome, October 54 BC

As it is,[1] to tell you my opinion of affairs, we must put up with it. You ask me how I have behaved. With firmness and dignity. "What about Pompey," you will say, "how did he take it?" With great consideration, and with the conviction that he must have some regard for my position, until a satisfactory atonement had been made to me. "How, then," you will say, "was the acquittal secured?" It was a case of mere dummies,[2] and incredible incompetence on the part of the accusers—that is to say, of L. Lentulus, son of Lucius, who, according to the universal murmur, acted collusively. In the next place, Pompey was extraordinarily urgent; and the jurors were a mean set of fellows. Yet, in spite of everything, there were thirty-two votes for conviction, thirty-eight for acquittal. There are the other prosecutions hanging over his head: he is by no means entirely free yet. You will say, "Well, then, how do you bear it?" With the best air possible, by heaven! and I really do plume myself on my behaviour. We have lost, my dear Pomponius, not only all the healthy sap and blood of our old constitution, but even its colour and outward show. There is no Republic to give a moment's pleasure or a feeling of security. "And is that, then," you will say, "a satisfaction to you?" Precisely that. For I recall what a fair course the state had for a short time, while I was at the helm, and what a return has been made me! It does not give me a pang that one man absorbs all power. The men to burst with envy are those who were indignant at my having had some power. There are many things which console me, without my departing an inch from my regular position; and I am returning to the life best suited to my natural disposition—to letters and the studies that I love. My labour in pleading I console by my delight in oratory. I find delight in my town house and my country residences. I do not recall the height from which I have fallen, but the humble position from which I have risen. As long as I have my brother and you with me, let those fellows be hanged, drawn, and quartered for all I care: I can play the philosopher with you. That part of my soul, in which in old times irritability had its home, has grown completely callous. I find no pleasure in anything that is not private and domestic. You will find me in a state of magnificent repose, to which nothing contributes more than the prospect of your return. For there is no one in the wide world whose feelings are so much in sympathy with my own. But now let me tell you the rest. Matters are drifting on to an interregnum; and there is a dictatorship in the air, in fact a good deal of talk about it, which did Gabinius also some service with timid jurors. All the candidates for the consulship are charged with bribery. You may add to them Gabinius, on whom L. Sulla had served notice, feeling certain that he was in a hopeless position—Torquatus having, without success, demanded to have the prosecution. But they will all be acquitted, and henceforth no one will be condemned for any. thing except homicide. This last charge is warmly pressed, and accordingly informers are busy. M. Fulvius Nobilior has been convicted. Many others have had the wit to abstain from even putting in an appearance. Is there any more news? Yes! After Gabinius's acquittal another panel of jurors, in a fit of irritation, an hour later condemned Antiochus Gabinius, some fellow from the studio of Sopolis, a freedman and orderly officer of Gabinius, under the lex Papia. Consequently he at once remarked, "So the Republic will not acquit me under the law of treason as it did you!"[3] Pomptinus wants to celebrate a triumph on the 2nd of November. He is openly opposed by the praetors Cato and Servilius and the tribune Q. Mucius. For they say that no law for his imperium was ever carried:[4] and this one too was carried, by heaven, in a stupid way. But Pomptinus will have the consul Appius on his side.[5] Cato, however, declares that he shall never triumph so long as he is alive. I think this affair, like many of the same sort, will come to nothing. Appius thinks of going to Cilicia without a law, and at his own expense.[6]

I received a letter on the 24th of October from my brother and from Caesar, dated from the nearest coasts of Britain on the 26th of September. Britain done with ... hostages taken no booty ... a tribute, however, imposed; they were on the point of bringing back the army. Q. Pilius has just set out to join Caesar. If you have any love for me or your family, or any truth in you, or even if you have any taste left, and any idea of enjoying all your blessings, it is really time for you to be on your way home, and, in fact, almost here. I vow I cannot get on without you. And what wonder that I can't get on without you, when I miss Dionysius so much? The latter, in fact, as soon as the day comes, both I and my young Cicero will demand of you. The last letter I had from you was dated Ephesus, 9th of August.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. The beginning of the letter is lost, referring to the acquittal of Gabinius on a charge of majestas.
  2. gorgeia gumna, "mere bugbears."
  3. Antiochus Gabinius was tried, not for treason (maiestas), but under the lex Papia, for having, though a peregrinus, acted as a citizen; but he says "will not acquit me of treason," because he means to infer that his condemnation was really in place of Gabinius, whose acquittal had irritated his jury; therefore he was practically convicted of majestas instead of his patron Gabinius. I have, accordingly, ventured to elicit the end of a hexameter from the Greek letters of the MS., of which no satisfactory account has been given, and to read Itaque dixit statim "respublica lege maiestatis ou soi ken ar' isa m' apheiê (or aphiêi)." The quotation is not known. Antiochus Gabinius was doubtless of Greek origin and naturally quoted Greek poetry. Sopolis was a Greek painter living at Rome (Pliny, N. H. 35.40, 43).
  4. Pomptinus had been waiting outside Rome for some years to get his triumph. The negant latum de imperio must refer to a lex curiata originally conferring his imperium, which his opponents alleged had not been passed. The insulse latum refers to the law now passed granting him the triumph in spite of this. This latter was passed by the old trick of the praetor appearing in the campus before daybreak to prevent obnuntiatio. The result was that the tribunes interrupted the procession, which led to fighting and bloodshed (Dio, 39, 65).
  5. Because he wanted to go to his province himself in spite of having failed to get a lex curiata.
  6. i.e., without waiting for the senate to vote the usual outfit (ornare provinciam).