Letters to Atticus/4.2
To Atticus in Epirus
If by any chance you get letters less frequently from me than from others, I beg you not to put it down to my negligence, or even to my engagements; for though they are very heavy, there can be none sufficient to stop the course of our mutual affection and of the attention I owe to you. The fact is that, since my return to Rome, this is only the second time that I have been told of anyone to whom I could deliver a letter, and accordingly this is my second letter to you. In my former I described the reception I had on my return, what my political position was, and how my affairs were For happy though but ill, for ill not worst. The despatch of that letter was followed by a great controversy about my house. I delivered a speech before the pontifices on the 29th of September. I pleaded my cause with care, and if I ever was worth anything as a speaker, or even if I never was on any other occasion, on this one at any rate my indignation at the business, and the importance of it, did add a certain vigour to my style. Accordingly, the rising generation must not be left without the benefit of this speech, which I shall send you all the same, even if you don't want it. The decree of the pontifices was as follows: "If neither by order of the people nor vote of the plebs the party alleging that he had dedicated had been appointed by name to that function, nor by order of the people or vote of the plebs had been commanded to do so, we are of opinion that the part of the site in question may be restored to M. Tullius without violence to religion." Upon this I was at once congratulated—for no one doubted that my house was thereby adjudged to me—when all on a sudden that fellow mounts the platform to address a meeting, invited to speak by Appius, and announces at once to the people that the pontifices had decided in his favour, but that I was endeavouring to take forcible possession; he exhorts them to follow himself and Appius to defend their own shrine of Liberty. Hereupon, when even those credulous hearers partly wondered and partly laughed at the fellow's mad folly, I resolved not to go near the place until such time as the consuls by decree of the senate had given out the contract for restoring the colonnade of Catulus. On the 1st of October there was a full meeting of the senate. All the pontifices who were senators were invited to attend, and Marcellinus, who is a great admirer of mine, being called on to speak first, asked them what was the purport of their decree. Then M. Lucullus, speaking for all his colleagues, answered that the pontifices were judges of a question of religion, the senate of the validity of a law: that he and his colleagues had given a decision on a point of religion; in the senate they would with the other senators decide on the law. Accordingly, each of them, when asked in their proper order for their opinion, delivered long arguments in my favour. When it came to Clodius's turn, he wished to talk out the day, and he went on endlessly; however, after he had spoken for nearly three hours, he was forced by the loud expression of the senate's disgust to finish his speech at last. On the decree in accordance with the proposal of Marcellinus passing the senate against a minority of one, Serranus interposed his veto. At once both consuls referred the question of Serranus's veto to the senate. After some very resolute speeches had been delivered—"that it was the decision of the senate that the house should be restored to me": "that a contract should be given out for the colonnade of Catulus": "that the resolution of the house should be supported by all the magistrates": "that if any violence occurred, the senate would consider it to be the fault of the magistrate who vetoed the decree of the senate"—Serranus became thoroughly frightened, and Cornicinus repeated his old farce: throwing off his toga, he flung himself at his son-in-law's feet. The former demanded a night for consideration. They would not grant it: for they remembered the 1st of January. It was, however, at last granted with difficulty on my interposition. Next day the decree of the senate was passed which I send you. Thereupon the consuls gave out a contract for the restoration of the colonnade of Catulus: the contractors immediately cleared that portico of his away to the satisfaction of all. The buildings of my house the consuls, by the advice of their assessors, valued at 2,000,000 sesterces. The rest was valued very stingily. My Tusculan villa at 500,000 sesterces : my villa at Formiae at 250,000 sesterces—an estimate loudly exclaimed against not only by all the best men, but even by the common people. You will say, "What was the reason?" They for their part say it was my modesty—because I would neither say no, nor make any violent expostulation. But that is not the real cause: for that indeed in itself would have been in my favour. But, my dear Pomponius, those very same men, I tell you, of whom you are no more ignorant than myself, having clipped my wings, are unwilling that they should grow again to their old size. But, as I hope, they are already growing again. Only come to me! But this, I fear, may be retarded by the visit of your and my friend Varro. Having now heard the actual course of public business, let me inform you of what I have in my thoughts besides. I have allowed myself to be made legatus to Pompey, but only on condition that nothing should stand in the way of my being entirely free either to stand, if I choose, for the censorship—if the next consuls hold a censorial election—or to assume a "votive commission" in connexion with nearly any fanes or sacred groves. For this is what falls in best with our general policy and my particular occasions. But I wished the power to remain in my hands of either standing for election, or at the beginning of the summer of going out of town: and meanwhile I thought it not disadvantageous to keep myself before the eyes of the citizens who had treated me generously. Well, such are my plans in regard to public affairs; my domestic affairs are very intricate and difficult. My town house is being built: you know how much expense and annoyance the repair of my Formian villa occasions me, which I can neither bear to relinquish nor to look at. I have advertised my Tusculan property for sale; I don't much care for a suburban residence. The liberality of friends has been exhausted in a business which brought me nothing but dishonour: and this you perceived though absent, as did others on the spot, by whose zeal and wealth I could easily have obtained all I wanted, had only my supporters allowed it. In this respect I am now in serious difficulty. Other causes of anxiety are somewhat more of the tacenda kind. My brother and daughter treat me with affection. I am looking forward to seeing you.
- The speech de Domo sua ad Pontifices. The genuineness of the existing speech has been doubted. But it may very well be said that no one but Cicero could have written it. It is not certainly one of his happiest efforts, in spite of what he says here; but he is not unaccustomed to estimate his speeches somewhat highly, and to mistake violence for vigour.
- He will send it to Atticus to get copied by his librarii, and published.
- Appius Claudius Pulcher, brother of P. Clodius, was a praetor this year.
- It is not clear that Clodius was wrong; the pontifices decided that for a valid consecration an order of the people was requisite, and, of course, Clodius could allege such an order. Cicero devoted the greater part of his speech, therefore, to shewing (1) that Clodius's adoption was invalid, and that he was therefore no tribune, and incapable of taking an order of the people; (2) that the law was a privilegium, and therefore invalid. The pontifices did not consider either of these points, which were not properly before them, or within their competence; they merely decided the religious question—that unless there had been a jussus populi or plebis scitus there was no valid consecration.
- Or perhaps only "statue of Liberty," as the temple was not yet completed.
- A portico or colonnade, built by Q. Catulus, the conqueror of the Cimbri, on the site of the house of M. Flaccus, who was killed with Saturninus in B.C. 100. It was close to Cicero's house, and what Clodius appears to have done was to pull down the portico, and build another, extending over part of Cicero's site, on which was to be a temple for his statue of Liberty.
- Cn. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus was called on first as consul-designate for B.C. 56.
- Sext. Attilius Serranus, a tribune. He had been a quaestor in Cicero's consulship, but had opposed his recall.
- Cn. Oppius Cornicinlis, the father-in-law of Serranus, is said in p. red. at Quir. § 13 to have done the same in the senate on the 1st of January, when Serranus also went through the same form of "demanding a night" for consideration.
- Prof. Tyrrell brackets porticum. But I do not understand his difficulty, especially as he saw none in the last letter. Cicero (de Domo, § 102) certainly implies that Clodius had, at any rate, partly pulled down the porticus Catuli, in order to build something on a larger scale, which was to take in some of Cicero's site. This was now to come down, and so leave Cicero his area, and, I presume, the old porticus Catuli was to be restored.
- Cicero had given Crassus 3,500,000 for it. See Letter XVI.
- I.e., my modest reserve. There does not seem any reason for Tyrrell's emendation of num for nam.
- I have translated Klotz's text. That given by Prof. Tyrrell is, to me at any rate, quite unintelligible. Cicero's legatio under Pompey appears to have been, in fact, honorary, or libera, for he doesn't seem to have done anything. He wishes to reserve the right of resigning it to stand for the censorship (censors were elected in the following year), or of turning it into a votiva legatio, to visit certain sacred places on the plea of performing a vow, thus getting the opportunity, if he desired it, of retiring temporarily from Rome in a dignified manner. The force of prope seems to be "almost any, I Care not what." It was not likely that a man with his stormy past would do for the delicate duties of the censorship, and he would save appearances by going on a votiva legatio. See Letter XLIV.
- Facile careo, others read non facile, " I don't like being without a suburban residence."
- The thing which brought him "nothing but dishonour" was his quitting Rome, and the consequent expenses connected with winning over friends, or paying for Milo's bravoes to face those of Clodius. In the last part of the sentence he seems to mean that, had his supporters backed him properly, he would have got everything necessary to make good his losses from the liberality of the senate. Others explain that defensores really means Pompey only.
- This and the omission of his wife in the next clause, as the similar hint at the end of the last letter seem to point to some misunderstanding with Terentia, with whom, however, a final rupture was postponed for nearly twelve years (B.C. 45).