theilian (theilian) wrote,

Ides of March <3> (June - Aug. 44 BC)



... I dislike Her Majesty. [1] Ammonius, who guaranteed her promises, knows that I have the right to do so. These were of a literary kind, not unbecoming to my position - I should not mind telling them to a public meeting. [2] As for Sara, over and above his general rascality, I found him personally insolent as well. I only saw him once at my house. When I asked him in a friendly way what I could do for him, he said that he was looking for Atticus! [3] The arrogance of Queen herself, too, when she was living in Caesar's estate across Tiber, makes my blood boil to recall. So I want nothing to do that lot. They must think that I have no spirit, or rather that I hardly have a spleen...

1 Cleopatra

2 Probably Cleopatra reneged on promise of books. Cicero once before jestingly said that he could take a present of books without breaking the law.

3 The implied discourtesy seems to consist in Sara's professing to be at Cicero's levée for the sake of seeing some one else, not Cicero himself.



... Servilius [3] I leave to you, since you think old age worth having. To be sure our dear Atticus, having found me susceptible to scares in the old days, still thinks it is so and doesn't see with what a panoply of philosophy I am now armed. And, truth to say, being a nervous fellow himself he creates alarm by being frightened himself. However, I really do want to keep up my old-established friendship with Antony, [4] -- we have never had a quarrel -- and I will write to him, but not till I have seen you. Yet I don't want to call you off from looking after your bond - every man for himself! [5] I am expecting Lepta [6] ...tomorrow. I shall need the sweet of your conversation to counteract the bitter of his company. Goodbye.

3 P. Servilius Vatia Isauricus had just died at a very advanced age. "You must make up your own mind," says Cicero, "whether it is a blessing to have lived so long. I am not myself afraid of death, as Atticus thinks I am." Tiro seems to have relayed a talk with Atticus, who was afraid that Cicero might take fright at some current 'scare.' Servilius was consul B.C. 79-when he conquered the Isaurae, and was over eighty when he died. For a curious anecdote illustrating the respect in which he was held, see Dio, 45, 16.

4 Tiro had apparently written urging Cicero to make some advances to Antony. In truth there had been very early bitterness between them with intervals of friendship (Phil. 2.49).

5 gonu knêmês, sc. engion, "the knee is nearer than the shin," "charity begins at home" (Theocr. 15.18). The proverb appears in various forms in Latin as: tunica proprior pallio (Plaut. Trin. v. 2, 30) ; proximus sum egomet mihi (Terence, Andr. 636); omnes sibi malle melius esse quam alteri (id. Andr. 427).

6 Some other name seems to have been lost from the text.



YOU made game of me yesterday over our cups, for saying that it was a moot point whether an heir could lawfully prosecute on an embezzlement which had been committed before he became the owner. So when I got home, though late and full of win, I marked the relevant section in which that question is treated [1] and send you a transcript. You will find that the view which, according to you, has never been held by anybody was in fact maintained by Sextus Aelius, Manius Manilius, Marcus Brutus. [2] However, for my part, I concur with Scaevola and Testa.[3]

1 No doubt in Scaevola the Pontifex's great treatise on civil law.

2 All famous second-century jurists.

3 That is, yourself and Q. Mucius Scaevola, the great jurisconsult.



I started on the 6th of August from Leucopetra, meaning to cross from there. When I had progressed thirty miles or so, [1] I was driven back upon that same Leucopetra by a violent south wind. While waiting there for a change of wind (I was staying in the villa of our friend Valerius, where I am quite at home and comfortable), certain men of high rank from Rhegium arrived quite fresh from Rome, including a friend of our Brutus who (as he told me) had left him at Naples. They brought news as follows: an edict of Brutus and Cassius, a full meeting of the senate to take place on the Kalends, letters dispatched by Brutus and Cassius to all ex-Consuls and ex-Praetors asking them to be present. They announced also that there was a great hope of Antony yielding, that a compromise will be reached, and our friends returning to Rome. They added also that I was wanted, and that my absence was being somewhat unfavourably criticised.
On hearing these news I unhesitatingly threw aside my design of leaving the country, which, by heaven! I had never really liked. But when I read your letter, I was greatly surprised to find that you had so entirely changed your opinion. However, I thought that you must have some good reason for it.
All the same, if you did not recommend or urge my trip, you certainly did approve of it, provided that I returned to Rome by the 1st of January. The result of that would have been that I should have been abroad during what looked like being a period of comparatively little danger and come back right into furnace.
However, even if there was some failure of sagacity, no blame attaches because in the first place I acted on my own responsibility, and in the second, even though I was following your advice, a counsellor ought not be held answerable for anything except his good faith.
What really did amaze me in your letter was the following: "All right then! You talk of an easy end - all right, forsake your country!" So: I was forsaking my country, or you thought I was doing so, and you not merely made no effort to stop me but actually approved? Still worse is what you say afterwards: "I should like you to polish up a little tract to show that such was your duty, and address it to me." Is it really so, my dear Atticus? Does my action require defence, to you of all people, who expressed such strong approval of it? Yes indeed, I shall compose such an apologia, but I shall address it to one of those who were against my leaving and dissuaded me. Not that there is any need for such a tract now.If I had stuck to my plans, then there would have been. "But," say you, "this very fact is an instance of vacillation." No philosopher has yet--and there has been a great deal written upon the subject--ever equated a mere change of plan with lack of firmness. So you continue: "If you were of our friend Phaedrus' school, [2] it would be easy to find an excuse. As it is, what answer are we to make?" As though my conduct was not such as I could justify to Cato himself! Shocking, disgraceful conduct to be sure! A pity you did not think so to begin with! You would have been my Cato, as you usually are!
But the most hurtful thing comes at the end: "As to our friend Brutus, he holds his tongue." That is to say, he does not venture to remonstrate with a man of my age. I can't imagine what else you can mean by those words, and upon my soul, you are right! For when I arrived at Velia on the 17th of August Brutus heard of it. He was with his ships in the river Hales, three miles north of Velia. He immediately came overland to see me. Good heavens! with what transports of delight at my return, or rather at my abandonment of the journey, did he pour out all that he had repressed before! It made me recall those words of yours, "As for our friend Brutus, he holds his tongue." But what he most regretted was that I had not been in the senate on the 1st of August. He praised Piso to the skies, [3] and said he was glad that I avoided two grounds of reproach: first, what I had been coming to realize I incurred by undertaking this journey, that of despair and desertion of the Republic (many people who were not convinced of my intention to return in the near future expostulated with me with tears in their eyes). The second reproach which Brutus and his companions, of whom there were a good number, were pleased about my escaping was that I was supposed to be going to the Olympic games. There could be nothing more unbecoming to do than this at any period of the Republic, but at this particular crisis it would have been quite inexcusable! For my part I am marvellously obliged to the South wind for saving me from such infamy!...
I got hold of Antony's edict from Brutus and read it, as well as our friends' splendid answer to it. But what practical effect these edicts have or what they aim to achieve I frankly fail to see. Nor am I now returning to Rome in order to take part in politics, as Brutus recommends. What after all can be done? Did anybody support Piso? [4] Did he come to the house again next day himself? However, they say that men of my age should not be far from their graves.
But, I beseech you, what is this that I hear from Brutus? He said that you had written to say that Pilia had a stroke. I was much alarmed, although he added that you also said that you trust she is recovering. I devoutly hope so! Give her my very kindest remembrances, as also to my dearest Attica.
I write this at sea on my way to my villa at Pompeii. 19 August.

1 In Phil. 1.7 he says that he got as far as Syracuse, and then returned to Leucopetra as the winds were not favourable, preferring to wait at the latter place, and then was driven back on a second attempt to start.

2 An Epicurean of Athens, of whom we have heard before (vol. ii., p. 28). The Epicureans advised abstention from politics, but the Stoics did not.

3 Piso had made a speech against Antony.

4 The speech of Piso delivered on the 1st of August was not supported by any member of the senate (see Phil. 1.10). He was Caesar's father-in-law, and though on this occasion he seems to have pleased the opponents of Antony, he afterwards opposed his being declared a hostis



I have not yet been able to make up my mind whether Trebatius--kind man and devoted friend of us both-brought me more pain or pleasure. He made an early morning visit at my house at Tusculum, where I had arrived the previous evening, although his health was still not fully restored. I scolded him for not being sufficiently considerate of his weak health, but he said that nothing had been more wearisome to him than waiting to see me. "Nothing fresh happened, has there?" said I. Then he told me of your grievance.
But before I answer it I will put before you a few observations. As far back as I can remember I have no older friend than yourself. But after all the length of a friendship is something in which many others share. Not so warmth of affection. I became attached to you the first day I knew you, and believed that you were attached to me. After that your absence--which was a very prolonged one--my own official career, and the different line we took in life did not allow our inclinations to be cemented by a constant intercourse. Nevertheless, I had proof of your affection for me many years before the civil war, when Caesar was in Gaul. Through your efforts Caesar came to look upon me as one of his circle, the object of his regard and friendly attentions; a result which you considered highly advantageous to me and not disadvantageous to Caesar himself. I pass over our many interchanges in those days by word of mouth and correspondence, for a more dangerous crisis followed.
At the outset of the civil war, when you were on your way to Brundisium to join Caesar, you came to call on me at Formiae. How much that implies in itself, to begin with, especially at such a crisis! And in the next place, do you suppose that I have forgotten your advice, conversation, and kindly interest? And in these I remember that Trebatius took part. [1] Nor, again, have I for gotten the letter you sent me after you had met Caesar in the district, if I remember rightly, of Trebula. [2] Then followed the period in which whether you call it shame or duty or fortune compelled me to go abroad to join Pompey. What service or zeal was wanting on your part, either towards myself when away from town, or my family, who were still there? Whom did all my family regard as more warmly attached either to me or to themselves?
I came to Brundisium : [3] do you suppose that I have forgotten with what speed you flew to me from Tarentum, as soon as you heard of it? Or, of how patiently you sat by my side, talked to me, and strengthened my courage, which had been broken by the dread of the universal ruin? At length our residence at Rome began: could anything be more intimate than we were? In questions of the first importance I consulted you as to my attitude towards Caesar, and in other matters availed myself of your good offices.
Was there any man but me, Caesar excepted, whose house you chose to frequent, and often spend many hours in the most delightful conversation? It was at that time, if you remember, that you prompted me to write these philosophical works of mine. After Caesar's return, I doubt if you had any object so much at heart as that I should be on the best possible footing with him. And this you had accomplished.
You may wonder where all this discourse (which has run to greater length than I anticipated) is tending. The truth is, I am astonished that you, who ought to know all this, should have believed me guilty of any action against the spirit of our friendship. For besides these well-attested and manifest facts which I have mentioned above, I could mention many others of a less conspicuous nature in mind, such as I cannot easily express in words. Everything about you delights me, but your most notable characteristics attract me most: loyalty to friendship, the prudence, responsibility, steadfastness on the one hand, charm, humanity, literary culture on the other.
And so, to return to your grievance, in the first place I did not believe you voted for that law [4], and in the second place, if I had believed it, I should never have supposed you to have acted without some letigimate reason. Your standing makes it inevitable that whatever you do should be noticed, and the malice of the world sometimes presents your actions in a harsher light than really warranted. If such things don't come to your hearing, I don't know what to say. For my part, if ever I hear anything, I defend you as I know you are in the habit of defending me against my ill-wishers. This I do this in two ways: there are some things I deny outright, as about this very matter of the vote, others I defend on the ground you are acting out of loyalty and good nature, as in regard to the superintendence of the games. [5]
But a scholar like yourself will not be unaware that if Caesar was a despot, which seems to me to be the case, your ethical position can be argued in two ways. On the one side it can be maintained (and this is the line I take) that in caring for your friend even after he is dead you show loyalty and kindness that are to be commended. According to the other view, which is adopted in some quarters, the freedom of one's country should come before a friend's life. I only wish that my argumentations arising from such talk had been conveyed to you. At any rate no one recalls more readily and more often than I the two facts which above all others redound to your honour, namely, that yours was the weightiest influence both against embarking on a civil war and in favour of a moderate use of victory. In this I have never found anyone who did not agree with me.
So I am grateful to our friend Trebatius for giving me occasion to write this letter. And if you do not believe in its sincerity, you will thereby condemn me as a stranger to all sense of obligation and good feeling. Nothing can be more grievous to me than such a verdict, or more foreign to your own character.

1 For a joint letter from Matius and Trebatius acquainting Cicero with Caesar's movements in B.C. 49, see vol. ii., p.350.

3 That is, after Pharsalia, at the beginning of November, B.C. 48.

4 We have no certain indication of what law is meant. It may mean the law which gave Antony Gallia Cisalpina and the Macedonian legions

5 Games given by Octavian in memory of Caesar and in honor of his victory from 20 to 30 July .



Your letter gave me great pleasure by convincing me that your opinion of me was what I had hoped and wished that it should be. And although I had no doubt about that, yet, as I valued it very highly, I was anxious that it should remain intact. I was, moreover, conscious in my own mind of having done nothing calculated to wound the feelings of any good man. Therefore I was all the less inclined to believe that a man of your many splendid qualities could be induced to adopt any opinion inconsiderately, especially as my good feeling towards you had always been, and still was, heartfelt and uninterrupted. As then I know this to be as I wished it to be, I will now answer the charges, which--as was natural from your unparalleled kindness and our friendship-you have often rebutted in my behalf.
Now I am well acquainted with the allegations made against me since Caesar's death. People blame me for showing grief at the death of a dear friend, and expressing my indignation that the man whom I loved had been killed. For they say that country should be preferred to friendship, as though they had actually proved that his death has been beneficial to the Republic. Well, I will speak frankly. I confess that I have not attained to that height of philosophy. For in the political controversy it was not Caesar that I followed, but it was a friend whom--though disapproving of what was being done--I yet refused to desert. Nor did I ever approve of a civil war, nor of the motive of the quarrel, which in fact I strove my utmost to have nipped in the bud. Accordingly, when my friend was victorious I was not fascinated by the charm either of promotion or of money-rewards upon which others, though less influential with him than I was, seized with such intemperate avidity. In fact, even my own personal property was curtailed by the law of Caesar, [1] thanks to which most of those who now exult in Caesar's death maintained their position in the state. I was as anxious that our defeated fellow-countrymen should be spared as though for my own life.
Wishing therefore the preservation of all, could I fail to be indignant that the man by whose means that preservation had been secured had perished? Especially when the very persons [2] who brought him unpopularity were responsible for his destruction?
"Very well," say they, "you are assailed for venturing to show your disapprobation of our deed." What unheard--of arrogance! One party are to boast of a crime, others are not to be allowed even to grieve at it with impunity! Why, even slaves have always been free to fear, to rejoice, and to grieve at their own will rather than at the behest of another-emotions of which, to judge from the frequent remarks of 'authors of our liberty', they are now endeavouring to deprive us by intimidation. But they are throwing away their labour. I shall never be deterred from duty and humanity by the threats of any danger. For I have convinced myself that an honourable death is never to be shunned, indeed I should often have welcomed it.
But why are they angry with me for wishing them to repent of what they have done? I want every man's heart to be sore for Caesar's death. 'But," say they, "I ought as a citizen to desire the safety of the Republic." If my past life and future hopes do not prove me--without my saying a word--to desire that, I do not expect to convince them by anything I can say. Therefore I ask you with more than usual earnestness to consider facts rather than words, and, if you perceive that it is to my advantage that things go as they should, to believe that I cannot have any part or lot with rascals. [3] Is it likely that in my declining years I should reverse the record of my youth (then I might have been pardoned for going astray) and undo the fabric of my life? Nor shall I give any offence, except that I grieve at the hard fate of one so deeply loved, and a man of such extraordinary distinction. But if I were differently disposed, I should never deny what I was doing, lest I should get the reputation of being at once unscrupulous in committing crime, and timid and false in disavowing it.
"But," say they, "I superintended the games given by the young Caesar in honour of Caesar's victory." That is a matter of private obligation with no constitutional significance. Yet, after all, a service which I was bound to render to the memory of a dear friend even after his death, I could not refuse to the request of a young man of very great promise and in the highest degree worthy of Caesar.
I have also frequently been to the house of the consul Antonius to pay my respects. Yes, and those who now regard me as unpatriotic you will find going there in crowds to prefer some petition or to pocket some bounty. But what insolence is this that, whereas Caesar never interfered with my being intimate with whom I chose, even with those whom he personally disliked, these men who have torn my friend from me should now endeavour by their carping tongues to prevent my liking whom I choose?
However, I don't doubt that moderation of my career will be a strong enough defence against false reports in time to come; and I am equally confident that even those who do not love me because of my loyalty to Caesar would rather have friends like me than like themselves. If my prayers are granted, I shall spend the remainder of my days quietly in Rhodes; but if some chance interferes with my plan, I shall live in Rome as one whose desire will ever be that things go as they should.
I am most grateful to our friend Trebatius for revealing the straightforward and amicable nature of your sentiments towards me, thus adding to the reasons why I dought to pay respect and attention to one whom I have always been glad to regard as a friend.
I bid you goodbye and hope to have your affection.

1 There were two financial laws of Caesar's, one in B.C. 49, which provided for the payment of loans-minus interest--by transferring property at a valuation, and regulated the proportion of money to be invested in Italian land (App. B.C. 3.48; Caes. B.C. iii. I; Dio, 41, 38); and a second of B.C. 47, remitting certain proportions of house and land rent in Rome and Italy (Dio, 42, 51; Suet. Iul. 38). Matius may be referring to either or both. He lost by them, being an investor rather than a borrower of money. See vol. iii., pp.93, 98.

2 Such as Decimus Brutus, who had 'taken immoderate advantage' of their position as leading Caesarians.

3 i.e. subversive elements. Matius is here asserting his loyalty to established order.
Tags: cicero letters
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