Letters to friends/1.8

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To P. Lentulus Spinther in Cilicia[edit]

Rome, January 55 BC[edit]

What debates have taken place in the senate, what determination has been come to in your business, and what Pompey has undertaken to do, all this you will best learn from Marcus Plaetorius, who has not only been engaged in these matters, but has even taken the lead in them, and left nothing undone which the greatest affection for you, the greatest good sense, and the greatest care could do. From the same man you will ascertain the general position of public affairs, which are of such a nature as is not easy to put in writing. They are, it is true, all in the power of our friends, and to such an extent that it does not seem probable that the present generation will witness a change. For my part, as in duty bound, as you advised, and as personal affection and expediency compel, I am attaching myself to the fortunes of the man whose alliance you thought you must court when my fortunes were in question. But you must feel how difficult it is to put away a political conviction, especially when it happens to be right and proved up to the hilt. However, I conform myself to the wishes of him from whom I cannot dissent with any dignity: and this I do not do, as perhaps some may think, from insincerity; for deliberate purpose and, by heaven! affection for Pompey are so powerful with me, that whatever is to his interest, and whatever he wishes, appears to me at once to be altogether right and reasonable. Nor, as I think, would even his opponents be wrong if, seeing that they cannot possibly be his equals, they were to cease to struggle against him. For myself I have another consolation—my character is such that all the world thinks me justified beyond all others, whether I support Pompey's views, or hold my tongue, or even, what is above everything else to my taste, return to my literary pursuits. And this last I certainly shall do, if my friendship for this same man permits it. For those objects which I had at one time in view, after having held the highest offices and endured the greatest fatigues--the power of intervening with dignity in the debates of the senate, and a free hand in dealing with public affairs—these have been entirely abolished, and not more for me than for all. For we all have either to assent to a small clique, to the utter loss of our dignity, or to dissent to no purpose. My chief object in writing to you thus is that you may consider carefully what line you will also take yourself. The whole position of senate, law courts, and indeed of the entire constitution has undergone a complete change. The most we can hope for is tranquillity: and this the men now in supreme power seem likely to give us, if certain persons[1] shew somewhat more tolerance of their despotism. The old consular prestige, indeed, of a courageous and consistent senator we must no longer think of: that has been lost by the fault of those who have alienated from the senate both an order once very closely allied to it, and an individual of the most illustrious character. But to return to what more immediately affects your interests--I have ascertained that Pompey is warmly your friend, and with him as consul, to the best of my knowledge and belief, you will get whatever you wish. In this he will have me always at his elbow, and nothing which affects you shall be passed over by me. Nor, in fact, shall I be afraid of boring him, for he will be very glad for his own sake to find me grateful to him. I would have you fully persuaded that there is nothing, however small, affecting your welfare that is not dearer to me than every interest of my own. And entertaining these sentiments, I can satisfy myself indeed, as far as assiduity is concerned, but in actual achievement I cannot do so, just because I cannot reach any proportion of your services to me, I do not say by actual return in kind, but by any return even of feeling. There is is a report that you have won a great victory.[2] Your despatch is anxiously awaited, and I have already talked to Pompey about it. When it arrives, I will shew my zeal by calling on the magistrates and members of the senate: and in everything else which may concern you, though I shall strive for more than I can achieve, I shall yet do less than I ought.


  1. The extreme Optimates, such as Cato.
  2. Against the predatory and piratic inhabitants of Cilicia.