Letters to friends/7.11

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To C. Trebatius Testa in Gaul, from Rome, January or February 53 BC

If you had not left Rome before, you certainly would have left it now. For who wants a lawyer when there are so many interregna? I shall advise all defendants in civil suits to ask each interrex for two adjournments for obtaining legal assistance.[1] Do you think that I have taken a pretty good hint from you as to civil procedure? But come! How are you? What is happening? For I notice in your letter a tendency to be even jocose. These are better signs than the signa in my Tusculan villa.[2] But I want to know what it means. You say, indeed, that you are consulted by Caesar, but I should have preferred his consulting by you. If that is taking place, or you think it likely to take place, by all means persevere in your military service and stay on: I shall console myself for my loss of you by the hope that it will be your gain: but if, on the other hand, things are not paying with you, come back to us. For either something will turn up sooner or later here, or, if not, one conversation between you and me, by heaven, will be worth more than all the Samobrivae[3] in the world. Finally, if you return speedily, there will be no talk about it; but if you stay away much longer without getting anything, I am in terror not only of Laberius, but of our comrade Valerius also. For it would make a capital character for a farce—a British lawyer![4] I am not laughing though you may laugh, but, as usual, when writing to you, I jest on the most serious subject. Joking apart, I advise you in the most friendly spirit, that if you hold a position for yourself worthy of my introduction, you should put up with the loss of my society and farther your own career and wealth: but if things are stagnant with you there, come back to us. In spite of everything you will get all you want, by your own good qualities certainly, but also by my extreme affection for you.


  1. The interregna lasting this year till July. No legal business could be done, as the law courts were closed during an interregnum. But Cicero jestingly says that he advises clients to apply to each interrex (who only held office for five days) for two adjournments, whereby he would get his case postponed indefinitely: for if each adjournment was to the third day, the two would cover each interregnum. Of course he is only jesting, for in any case the cause would not come on.
  2. There is a play on the double meaning of signa, "signs" and "statues." Cicero did not like the statues in his Tusculanum. See Letter F 7.23.
  3. Samobriva (Amiens), where Trebatius was, or had been, in Caesar's camp. Caesar spells it Samarobriva.
  4. Laberius is a rival jurisconsult, Valerius a writer of mimes. Though Cicero jests at the supposed comic character, "a lawyer in Britain" (as we might say, "a lawyer among the Zulus"), it does not appear that Trebatius went to Britain with Caesar.