Letters to friends/7.6

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To C. Trebatius Testa in Gaul, from Cumae, April 54 BC

In all my letters to Caesar or Balbus there is a sort of statutory appendix containing a recommendation of you, and not one of the ordinary kind, but accompanied by some signal mark of my warm feeling towards you. See only that you get rid of that feeble regret of yours for the city and city ways, and carry out with persistence and courage what you had in your mind when you set out. We, your friends, shall pardon your going away for that purpose as much as

The wealthy noble dames who held the Corinthian peak

pardoned Medea, whom, with hands whitened to the utmost with chalk, she persuaded not to think ill of her for being absent from her fatherland: for

Many have served themselves abroad and served the state as well;
Many have spent their lives at home to be but counted fools.

In which latter category you would have certainly been, had I not forced you abroad. But I will write more another time. You who learnt to look out for others, look out, while in Britain, that you are not yourself taken in by the charioteers; and, since I have begun quoting the Medea, remember this line:

The sage who cannot serve himself is vainly wise I ween.

Take care of your health.[1]

Latin original:

In omnibus meis epistulis, quas ad Caesarem aut ad Balbum mitto, legitima quaedam est accessio commendationis tuae, nec ea vulgaris, sed cum aliquo insigni indicio meae erga te benevolentiae. Tu modo ineptias istas et desideria urbis et urbanitatis depone et, quo consilio profectus es, id assiduitate et virtute consequere: hoc tibi tam ignoscemus nos amici, quam ignoverunt Medeae, "quae Corinthum arcem altam habebant matronae opulentae, optimates," quibus illa manibus gypsatissimis persuasit, ne sibi vitio illae verterent, quod abesset a patria; nam "multi suam rem bene gessere et publicam patria procul:multi, qui domi aetatem agerent, propterea sunt improbati" quo in numero tu certe fuisses, nisi te extrusissemus. Sed plura scribemus alias. Tu, qui ceteris cavere didicisti, in Britannia ne ab essedariis decipiaris caveto et, quoniam Medeam coepi agere, illud semper memento: "qui ipse sibi sapiens prodesse non quit, nequidquam sapit." Cura, ut valeas.


  1. Trebatius is going to join Caesar, who is about to sail to Britain; hence the jest about the essedarii, drivers of Gallic and British war-chariots. Letter F 7.5 recommended him to Caesar. The lines quoted are from the Medea of Ennius, adapted or translated from Euripides. I date these two letters from Cumae, because he speaks of writing to Balbus, who was at Rome.