Letters to friends/1.1

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To P. Lentulus Spinther in Cilicia[edit]

Rome, 13 January 56 BC[edit]

Whatever attention or affection I may shew you,[1] though it may seem sufficient in the eyes of others, can never seem sufficient in my own. For such has been the magnitude of your services to me that, inasmuch as you never rested till my affair was brought to a conclusion, while I cannot effect the same in your cause,[2] I regard my life as a burden. The difficulties are these. The king's agent, Hammonius, is openly attacking us by bribery. The business is being carried out by means of the same money-lenders as it was when you were in town. Such people as wish it done for the king's sake—and they are few—are all for intrusting the business to Pompey. The senate supports the trumped-up religious scruple, not from any respect to religion, but from ill-feeling towards him, and disgust at the king's outrageous bribery. I never cease advising and instigating Pompey—even frankly finding fault with and admonishing him—to avoid what would be a most discreditable imputation.[3] But he really leaves no room for either entreaties or admonitions from me. For, whether in everyday conversation or in the senate, no one could support your cause with greater eloquence, seriousness, zeal, and energy than he has done, testifying in the highest terms to your services to himself and his affection for you. Marcellinus, you know, is incensed with his flute-playing majesty.[4] In everything, saving and excepting this case of the king, he professes the intention of being your champion. We take what he gives: nothing can move him from his motion as to the religious difficulty, which he made up his mind to bring, and has, in fact, brought several times before the senate. The debate up to the Ides (for I am writing early in the morning of the Ides)[5] has been as follows: Hortensius and I and Lucullus voted for yielding to the religious scruple as far as concerned the army,[6] for otherwise there was no possibility of get ting the matter through, but, in accordance with the decree already passed on your own motion, were for directing you to restore the king, "so far as you may do so without detriment to the state": so that while the religious difficulty prohibits the employment of an army, the senate might still retain you as the person authorized. Crassus votes for sending three legates, not excluding Pompey: for he would allow them to be selected even from such as are at present in possession of imperium. Bibulus is for three legates selected from men without imperium.[7] The other consulars agree with the latter, except Servilius, who says that he ought not to be restored at all: and Volcatius, who on the motion of Lupus votes for giving the business to Pompey: and Afranius, who agrees with Volcatius. This last fact increases the suspicion as to Pompey's wishes: for it was noticed that Pompey's intimates agreed with Volcatius. We are in a very great difficulty: the day seems going against us. The notorious colloguing and eagerness of Libo and Hypsaeus, and the earnestness displayed by Pompey's intimates, have produced an impression that Pompey desires it; and those who don't want him to have it are at the same time annoyed with your having put power into his hands.[8] I have the less influence in the case because I am under an obligation to you. Moreover, whatever influence I might have had is extinguished by the idea people entertain as to Pompey's wishes, for they think they are gratifying him. We are in much the same position as we were long before your departure: now, as then, the sore has been fomented secretly by the king himself and by the friends and intimates of Pompey, and then openly irritated by the consulars, till the popular prejudice has been excited to the highest pitch. All the world shall recognize my loyalty, and your friends on the spot shall see my affection for you though you are absent. If there were any good faith in those most bound to shew it, we should be in no difficulty at all.


  1. Consul of B.C. 57, who had gone at the end of his consulship to be governor of Cilicia.
  2. When Ptolemy Auletes first appealed to the senate (B.C. 57) to restore him to the throne of Egypt, it appears that a resolution was passed authorizing the proconsul of Cilicia to do so; but as Pompey wished to have the business, the senate found itself in a difficulty, not wishing to put him in military command, or daring to offend him by an open refusal (Dio, 39.12). The tribune C. Cato found up a Sibylline oracle forbidding the employment of an army for the purpose, which served the senate as a decent excuse. The commission to Lentulus was eventually withdrawn by an auctoritas senatus, and Lentulus did not venture to do it. Ptolemy, finding that he could not succeed in getting Pompey commissioned, retired to Ephesus, and afterwards succeeded by an enormous bribe in inducing Gabinius, the proconsul of Syria, to do it (B.C. 55).
  3. Of having been induced by greed or ambition to undertake the restoration of Ptolemy.
  4. Reading tibicini for the unmeaning tibi. It is not certain, but it makes good sense. Ptolemy was called Auletes (flute-player), of which the Latin tibicen is a translation, meant, no doubt, somewhat jocosely.
  5. I.e., before going to the senate on the Ides of January (13th). See next letter.
  6. The Sibyiline oracle forbade restoring the king "with a multitude."
  7. Pompey had at this time imperium as curator annonae.
  8. Because it was on Lentulus's motion that Pompey had been made curator annonae, and so in possession of imperium with naval and military forces.