Letters to friends/7.26

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Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To M. Fadius Gallus at Rome[edit]

Tusculum, December? 57 BC[edit]

[1]Having been suffering for nine days past from a severe disorder of the bowels, and being unable to convince those who desired my services that I was ill because I had no fever, I fled to my Tusculan villa, after having, in fact, observed for two days so strict a fast as not even to drink a drop of water. Accordingly, being thoroughly reduced by weakness and hunger, I was more in want of your services than I thought mine could be required by you. For myself, while skrinking from all illnesses, I especially shrink from that in regard to which the Stoics attack your friend Epicurus for saying that "he suffered from strangury and pains in the bowels"—the latter of which complaints they attribute to gluttony, the former to a still graver indulgence. I had been really much afraid of dysentery. But either the change of residence, or the mere relaxation of anxiety, or perhaps the natural abatement of the complaint from lapse of time, seems to me to have done me good. However, to prevent your wondering how this came about, or in what manner I let myself in for it, I must tell you that the sumptuary law, supposed to have introduced plain living, was the origin of my misfortune. For whilst your epicures wish to bring into fashion the products of the earth, which are not forbidden by the law, they flavour mushrooms, petits choux, and every kind of pot-herb so as to make them the most tempting dishes possible.[2] Having fallen a victim to these in the augural banquet at the house of Lentulus, I was seized with a violent diarrhoea, which, I think, has been checked today for the first time. And so I, who abstain from oysters and lampreys without any difficulty, have been beguiled by beet and mallows. Henceforth, therefore, I shall be more cautious. Yet, having heard of it from Anicius[3]—for he saw me turning sick—you had every reason not only for sending to inquire, but even for coming to see me. I am thinking of remaining here till I am thoroughly restored, for I have lost both strength and flesh. However, if I can once get completely rid of my complaint, I shall, I hope, easily recover these.


  1. The year of this letter has been inferred from the mention of Lentulus's augural banquet. For P. Cornelius Lentulus Spinther, son of the consul of B.C. 57, was in this year elected into the college of augurs. Yet as we know that Cicero's Tusculan villa was dismantled by Clodius, and was advertised for sale (though not sold), it seems rather extraordinary that Cicero should have gone there for his health. The Fadii Galli were a family of Cicero's native place, Arpinum.
  2. There were several sumptuary laws. Those which may possibly be referred to here are (1) the lex Licinia (? B.C. 103), which defined certain foods as illegal at banquets, but excepted quod ex terra vite arbore ve sit natum (Macrobius, Sat. 211.17, 9; Gell. 2.24, 7); (2) the lex Aemilia (B.C. 68), which also defined both the quantity and quality of food allowable at banquets (Gell. 2.24,12).
  3. C. Anicius, a senator and intimate friend of Cicero's.