Letters to his brother Quintus/2.4

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Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Tullius Cicero in Sardinia[edit]

Rome, March 56 BC[edit]

Our friend Sestius was acquitted on the 4th of March, and, what was of great importance to the Republic—that there should be no appearance of difference of opinion in a case of that sort—was acquitted unanimously. As to what I had often gathered from your letters, that you were anxious about—that I should not leave any loophole for abuse to an unfriendly critic on the score of my being ungrateful, if I did not treat with the utmost indulgence his occasional wrong-headedness—let me tell you that in this trial I established my character for being the most grateful of men. For in conducting the defence I satisfied in the fullest manner possible a man of difficult temper, and, what he above all things desired, I cut up Vatinius (by whom he was being openly attacked) just as I pleased, with the applause of gods and men. And, farther, when our friend Paullus[1] was brought forward as a witness against Sestius, he affirmed that he would lay an information against Vatinius[2] if Licinius Macer hesitated to do so, and Macer, rising from Sestius's benches, declared that he would not fail. Need I say more? That impudent swaggering fellow Vatinius was overwhelmed with confusion and thoroughly discredited. That most excellent boy, your son Quintus, is getting on splendidly with his education. I notice this the more because Tyrannio[3] gives his lessons in my house. The building of both your house and mine is being pushed on energetically. I have caused half the money to be paid to your contractor. I hope before winter we may be under the same roof. As to our Tullia, who, by Hercules, is very warmly attached to you, I hope I have settled her engagement with Crassipes.[4] There are two days after the Latin festival which are barred by religion.[5] Otherwise the festival of luppiter Latiaris has come to an end. The affluence which you often mention I feel the want of to a certain extent; but while I welcome it if it comes to me, I am not exactly beating the covert for it.[6] I am building in three places, and am patching up my other houses. I live somewhat more lavishly than I used to do. I am obliged to do so. If I had you with me I should give the builders full swing for a while.[7] But this too (as I hope) we shall shortly talk over together. The state of affairs at Rome is this: Lentulus Marcellinus is splendid as consul, and his colleague does not put any difficulty in his way: he is so good, I repeat, that I have never seen a better. He deprived them of aH the comitial days for even the Latin festival is being repeated,[8] nor were thanks-giving days wanting.[9] In this way the passing of most mischievous laws is prevented, especially that of Cato,[10] on whom, however, our friend Milo played a very pretty trick. For that defender of the employment of gladiators and beast-fighters had bought some beast-fighters from Cosconius and Pomponius, and had never appeared in public without them in their full armour. He could not afford to maintain them, and accordingly had great difficulty in keeping them together. Milo found this out. He commissioned an individual, with whom he was not intimate, to buy this troop from Cato without exciting his suspicion. As soon as it had been removed, Racilius—at this time quite the only real tribune-revealed the truth, acknowledged that the men had been purchased for himself—for this is what they had agreed—and put up a notice that he intended to sell "Cato's troop." This notice caused much laughter. Accordingly, Lentulus has prevented Cato from going on with his laws, and also those who published bills of a monstrous description about Caesar, with no tribune to veto them. Caninius's proposal, indeed, about Pompey has died a natural death. For it is not approved of in itself, and our friend Pompey is also spoken of with great severity for the breach of his friendship with Publius Lentulus. He is not the man he was. The fact is that to the lowest dregs of the populace his support of Milo gives some offence, while the aristocrats are dissatisfied with much that he omits to do, and find fault with much that he does. This is the only point, however, in which I am not pleased with Marcellinus—that he handles him too roughly. Yet in this he is not going counter to the wishes of the senate: consequently I am the more glad to withdraw from the senate-house and from politics altogether. In the courts I have the same position as I ever had: never was my house more crowded. One untoward circumstance has occurred owing to Milo's rashness—the acquittal of Sext. Clodius[11]—whose prosecution at this particular time, and by a weak set of accusers, was against my advice. In a most Corrupt panel his conviction failed by only three votes. Consequently the people clamour for a fresh trial, and he must surely be brought back into court. For people will not put up with it, and seeing that, though pleading before a panel of his own kidney, he was all but condemned, they look upon him as practically condemned. Even in this matter the unpopularity of Pompey was an obstacle in our path. For the votes of the senators were largely in his favour, those of the knights were equally divided, while the tribuni aerarii voted for his condemntion. But for this contretemps I am consoled by the daily condemnations of my enemies, among whom, to my great delight, Servius[12] got upon the rocks: the rest are utterly done for. Gaius Cato declared in public meeting that he would not allow the elections to be held, if he were deprived of the days for doing business with the people. Appius has not yet returned from his visit to Caesar. I am looking forward with extraordinary eagerness to a letter from you. Although I know the sea is still closed, yet they tell me that certain persons have, nevertheless, arrived from Olbia full of your praises, and declaring you to be very highly thought of in the province. They said also that these persons reported that you intended to cross as soon as navigation became possible. That is what I desire: but although it is yourself, of course, that I most look forward to, yet meanwhile I long for a letter. Farewell, my dear brother.


  1. L. Aemilius Paullus, praetor B.C. 53, consul B.C. 50, a strong Optimate and friend of Cicero's.
  2. P. Vatinius, the tribune of B.C. 59, who had supported Caesar and proposed the law for his five years' command in Gaul. Cicero spoke against him for perjury; but afterwards we shall find them ostensibly reconciled.
  3. A Greek grammarian and geographer, of whom we have heard before, and shall hear of again in connexion with Cicero's library.
  4. P. Furius Crassipes. Tullia's first husband, C. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, died, it seems, before Cicero returned from exile in B.C. 57. This second marriage (or, perhaps, only betrothal) was shortly ended by a divorce.
  5. I. e., on which the sponsalia could not take place.
  6. Not going the right way to work to get it.
  7. At the end of the next letter he says that, pending Quintus's arrival, he has stopped some of his building.
  8. On some alleged informality the feriae Latinae were held a second time (instaurata), really, Cicero implies, in order to bar some additional days for public business, and prevent legislation, as later on the election of Pompey and Crassus was prevented (Dio, 39.30).
  9. At the end of B.C. 57, or the beginning of 56, fifteen days of supplicatio were decreed in consequence of Caesar's success in Gaul (Caes. B. G. 2.35).
  10. Gaius Cato the tribune, who proposed to recall Lentulus.
  11. A scriba or public clerk, and a client of the patrician Clodii.
  12. Unknown. Cicero's words seem to imply that he nearly got convicted, but not quite.