Letters to his brother Quintus/2.15

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Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Tullius Cicero in Britain[edit]

Rome, September 54 BC[edit]

When you receive a letter from me by the hand of an amanuensis, you may be sure that I have not even a little leisure; when by my own—a little. For let me tell you that in regard to causes and trials in court, I have never been closer tied, and that, too, at the most unhealthy season of the year, and in the most oppressively hot weather. But these things, since you so direct me, I must put up with, and must not seem to have come short of the ideas and expectations which you and Caesar entertain of me, especially since, even if it were somewhat difficult not to do that, I am yet likely from this labour to reap great popularity and prestige. Accordingly, as you wish me to do, I take great pains not to hurt anyone's feelings, and to secure being liked even by those very men who are vexed at my close friendship with Caesar, while by those who are impartial, or even inclined to this side, I may be warmly courted and loved. When some very violent debates took place in the senate on the subject of bribery for several days, because the candidates for the consulship had gone to such lengths as to be past all bearing, I was not in the house. I have made up my mind not to attempt any cure of the political situation without powerful protection. The day I write this Drusus has been acquitted on a charge of collusion by the tribuni aerarii, in the grand total by four votes, for the majority of senators and equites were for condemnation. On the same day I am to defend Vatinius. That is an easy matter. The comitia have been put off to September. Scaurus's trial will take place immediately, and I shall not fail to appear for him. I don't like your "Sophoclean Banqueters" at all, though I see that you played your part with a good grace.[1] I come now to a subject which, perhaps, ought to have been my first. How glad I was to get your letter from Britain! I was afraid of the ocean, afraid of the coast of the island. The other parts of the enterprise I do not underrate; but yet they inspire more hope than fear, and it is the suspense rather than any positive alarm that renders me uneasy. You, however, I can see, have a splendid subject for description, topography, natural features of things and places, manners, races, battles, your commander himself—what themes for your pen! I will gladly, as you request, assist you in the points you mention, and will send you the verses you ask for, that is, "An owl to Athens".[2] But, look you ! I think you are keeping me in the dark. Tell me, my dear brother, what Caesar thinks of my verses. For he wrote before to tell me he had read my first book. Of the first part, he said that he had never read anything better even in Greek: the rest, up to a particular passage, somewhat "careless"[3]—that is his word. Tell me the truth—is it the subject-matter or the "style" that he does not like? You needn't be afraid: I shall not admire myself one whit the less. On this subject speak like a lover of truth, and with your usual brotherly frankness.


  1. In the "Banqueters" (sundeipnoi) of Sophocles, Achilles is excluded from a banquet in Tenedos. Some social mishap seems to have occurred to Quintus in camp.
  2. Sending coals to Newcastle.
  3. rhaithumotera.