Letters to Atticus/4.3

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To Atticus in Epirus[edit]

Rome, 24 November 57 BC[edit]

I am very well aware that you long to know what is going on here, and also to know it from me, not because things done before the eyes of the whole world are better realized when narrated by my hand than when reported to you by the pens or lips of others, but because it is from my letters that you get what you want—a knowledge of my feelings in regard to the occurrences, and what at such a juncture is the state of my mind, or, in a word, the conditions in which I am living. On the 3rd of November the workmen were driven from the site of my house by armed ruffians: the porticus Catuli,[1] which was being rebuilt on a contract given out by the consuls, in accordance with a decree of the senate, and had nearly reached the roof, was battered down: the house of my brother Quintus[2] was first smashed with volleys of stones thrown from my site, and then set on fire by order of Clodius, firebrands having been thrown into it in the sight of the whole town, amidst loud exclamations of indignation and sorrow, I will not say of the loyalists—for I rather think there are none—but of simply every human being. That madman runs riot: thinks after this mad prank of nothing short of murdering his opponents: canvasses the city street by street: makes open offers of freedom to slaves. For the fact is that up to this time, while trying to avoid prosecution,[3] he had a case, difficult indeed to support, and obviously bad, but still a case: he might have denied the facts, he might have shifted the blame on others, he might even have pleaded that some part of his proceedings had been legal. But after such wrecking of buildings, incendiaries, and wholesale robberies as these, being abandoned by his supporters, he hardly retains on his side Decimus the marshal,[4] or Gellius; takes slaves into his confidence; sees that, even if he openly assassinates everyone he wishes to, he will not have a worse case before a court of law than he has at present. Accordingly, on the 4th of November, as I was going down the Sacred Way, he followed me with his gang. There were shouts, stone-throwing, brandishing of clubs and swords, and all this without a moment's warning. I and my party stepped aside into Tettius Damio's vestibule: those accompanying me easily prevented his roughs from getting in. He might have been killed himself.[5] But I am now on a system of cure by regimen: I am tired of surgery. The fellow, seeing that what everybody called for was not his prosecution but his instant execution, has since made all your Catilines seem models of respectability.[6] For on the 12th of November he tried to storm and set fire to Milo's house, I mean the one on Germalus:[7] and so openly was this done, that at eleven o'clock in the morning he brought men there armed with shields and with their swords drawn, and others with lighted torches. He had himself occupied the house of P. Sulla[8] as his headquarters from which to Conduct the assault upon Milo's. Thereupon Q. Flaccus led out some gallant fellows from Milo's other house (the Anniana): killed the most notorious bravoes of all Clodius's gang: wanted to kill Clodius himself; but my gentleman took refuge in the inner part of Sulla's house. The next thing was a meeting of the senate on the i4th. Clodius stayed at home: Marcellinus[9] was splendid: all were keen. Metellus[10] talked the business out by an obstructive speech, aided by Appius, and also, by Hercules! by your friend on whose firmness you wrote me such a wonderfully true letter! Sestius[11] was fuming. Afterwards the fellow vows vengeance on the city if his election is stopped. Marcellinus's resolution having been exposed for public perusal (he had read it from a written copy, and it embraced our entire case—the prosecution was to include his violent proceedings on the site of my house, his arson, his assault on me personally, and was to take place before the elections), he put up a notice that he intended to watch the sky during all comitial days.[12] Public speeches of Metellus disorderly, of Appius hot-beaded, of Publius stark mad. The upshot, however, was that, had not Milo served his notice of bad omens in the campus, the elections would have been held. On the i9th of November Milo arrived on the campus before midnight with a large company. Clodius, though he had picked gangs of runaway slaves, did not venture into the campus. Milo stopped there till midday,[13] to everybody's great delight and his own infinite credit: the movement of the three brethren[14] ended in their own disgrace; their violence was crushed, their madness made ridiculous. However, Metellus demands that the obstructive notice should be served on him next day in the forum: "there was no need to come to the campus before daybreak: he would be in the comitium at the first hour of the day."[15] Accordingly, on the 20th Milo came to the forum before sunrise. Metellus at the first sign of dawn was stealthily hurrying to the campus, I had almost said by by-lanes: Milo catches our friend up "between the groves"[16] and serves his notice. The latter returned greeted with loud and insulting remarks by Q. Flaccus. The 21st was a market day.[17] For two days no public meeting. I am writing this letter on the 23rd at three o'clock in the morning. Milo is already in possession of the campus. The candidate Marcellus[18] is snoring so loud that I can hear him next door. I am told that Clodius's vestibule is completely deserted: there are a few ragged fellows there and a canvas lantern.[19] His party complains that I am the adviser of the whole business: they little know the courage and wisdom of that hero! His gallantry is astonishing. Some recent instances of his superhuman excellence I pass over; but the upshot is this: I don't think the election will take place. I think Publius will be brought to trial by Milo—unless he is killed first. If he once puts himself in his way in a riot, I can see that he will be killed by Milo himself. The latter has no scruple about doing it; he avows his intention; he isn't at all afraid of what happened to me, for he will never listen to the advice of a jealous and faithless friend, nor trust a feeble aristocrat. In spirit, at any rate, I am as vigorous as in my zenith, or even more so; in regard to money I am crippled. However, the liberality of my brother I have, in spite of his protests, repaid (as the state of my finances compelled) by the aid of my friends, that I might not be drained quite dry myself. What line of policy to adopt in regard to my position as a whole, I cannot decide in your absence: wherefore make haste to town.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. See last letter. The porticus Catuli had been, at any rate, partly demolished by Clodius to make way for his larger scheme of building, which was to take in part of Cicero's "site." See pro Cael. § 79.
  2. Next door to Cicero's own house.
  3. He would avoid prosecution de vi by getting elected to the aedileship for B.C. 56, for actual magistrates were rarely prosecuted; but he, in this case, actually avoided it by getting a consul and tribune to forbid it by edict (pro Sest. § 89).
  4. Designatorem. This may mean (1) an official who shewed people to their places in the theatre (2) an undertaker, a man who marshalled funerals. To the latter office a certain infamia was attached We know nothing more of Decimus (see pro Domo § 50) Gellius was an eques and a stepson of L. Marcius Philippus. He afterwards gave evidence against Sestius for vis (see pro Sest. § 110). Cicero calls him the mover of all seditions (in Vatin. § 4) and one of Clodius's gang (de Har. Rep. § 59). See next letter.
  5. Perhaps by M. Antonius. See 2 Phil § 21, pro Mil § 40.
  6. Lit. "made all Catilines Acidini." Acidinus was the cognomen of several distinguished men. In Leg. Agr. 2.64, Cicero classes the Acidini among men "respectable not only for the public offices they had held, and for their services to the state, but also for the noble way in which they had endured poverty." There does not, however, seem any very good reason known for their becoming proverbial as the antithesis to revolutionaries.
  7. A slope of the Palatine. Milo's other house (p. 196).
  8. P. Cornelius Sulla, nephew of the dictator. Cicero defended him in B.C. 62, but he had taken the part of Clodius in the time of Cicero's exile.
  9. Cn. Cornelius Lentulus Marcellinus, the consul-designate for the next year. In that capacity he would be called on for his sententia first.
  10. Q Caecilius Metellus Nepos, the consul. Though he had not opposed Cicero's recall, he stood by his cousin, P. Clodius, in regard to the threatened prosecution. Appius is Appius Claudius, brother of P. Clodius.
  11. P. Sestius, the tribune favourable to Cicero, afterwards defended by him.
  12. Mr. Purser's reading of nisi anteferret before proscripsit seems to me to darken the passage. What happened was this. Marcellinus's sententia was never put to the vote, because Metellus, Appius, and Hortensius (Cicero seems to mean him) talked out the sitting. Accordingly, Marcellinus published it, i.e., put it up outside the Curia to be read: and under it he (or some other magistrate whose name has dropped out of the text) put a notice that he was going to "watch the sky" all the dies comitiales, so as to prevent the election being held. But this had been rendered inoperative by Clodius's amendment of the lex Aelia Fufia (see Phil. 2.81)—or at any rate of doubtful validity—and, accordingly, the only thing left was the obnuntiatio by a magistrate, which Milo proceeded to make. The rule, however was that such obnuntiatio must be made before the comitia were begun (2 Phil. 81), which again could not begin till sunrise. Hence Milo's early visit to the campus. For the meaning of proposita see Letter XLVII.
  13. After which the comitia could not be begun.
  14. P. Clodius, his brother Appius, and his cousin Metellus Nepos.
  15. Metellus means that he shall take the necessary auspices for the comitia in the comitium, before going to the campus to take the votes.
  16. Generally called inter duos lucos, the road down the Capitolium towards the Campus Martius, originally so called as being between the two heads of the mountain. It was the spot traditionally assigned to the "asylum" of Romulus.
  17. On the nundinae and the next day no comitia and no meeting of the senate could be held.
  18. Candidate for the aedileship, of whom we know nothing.
  19. Apparently a poor lantern, whose sides were made of canvas instead of horn.