theilian (theilian) wrote,

Ides of March <2> (May-June 44 BC)



... You think I am wrong in my view that the free constitution depends on Brutus. Well, the truth is that it will either all go or be saved by him and his friends. You urge me to write a speech to the people and send it to him. My dear fellow, let me give you a general rule on matters in which I have a fair amount of experience. There was never a poet or orator yet who thought anyone better than himself. This is the case even with bad ones. How much more so to one so gifted and erudite as Brutus! I actually made the experiment the other day in connection with the edict. [3] I drafted one at your request. I liked mine, he preferred his own. Indeed, when at his own entreaty I might almost say, I addressed to him an essay on the best style of oratory, [4] he wrote not only to me but to you too that he could not agree with my preference. So pray let every man write as best suits himself ...

'Every man his own bride, mine for me.
Every man his own love, mine for me.'

Not a very elegant distich, for it is by Atilius, [5] most clumsy versifier. But I only hope Brutus may have the chance to deliver a speech at all! If he can but show himself in the city with safety, we have won the battle. For a leader in a new civil war will have no followers or only such as can be easily put down.
Now I come to your third letter. I am glad that Brutus and Cassius liked my letter. Accordingly, I have written back to them. They want Hirtius made a better republican by my influence. Well, I am doing my best, and his language is very satisfactory, but he and Balbus (who also speaks fair) live in one another's pockets. You will judege for yourself what to believe... I am anxious to hear, in case Lucius Antonius [6] has introduced Octavius to a public meeting as you think he will, what kind of speech he has made. I can add no more, for Cassius's letter-carrier is just about to start...

3 Atticus had suggested Cicero sending a draft of a contio for Brutus to deliver. Cicero replies that Brutus would prefer to compose his own, as he did in the case of an edict, of which Cicero had supplied a sketch.

4 The Orator

5 A translator of tragedies and comedies. See de Fin. 1.2, where Cicero, speaking of his translation of the Electra of Sophocles, calls him a ferreus poeta, "stiff."

6 Brother of Marcus Antonius. He was tribune this year, and had been speaking about a distribution of land.



... He [Balbus] also grumbled about the prejudice existing against himself, and his whole conversation indicated an affection for Antony. In a word, there is nothing sound about him. For my part, I have no doubt that we are moving towards war. That deed was handled with the courage of men, but with the planning of children. Anyone could see that an heir to the throne was left behind...Why even now there is a good deal that might be called incongruous. What about the mother of the tyrannicide retaining the Neapolitan villa of Pontius ? [3] I must reread my Cato Maior, which is dedicated to you. Old age is making me more cantankerous, everything irritates me.But I have had my time. The rising generation must look to it...
Tomorrow I am thinking of dining with Hirtius... That is how I am planning to bring him over to the optimates. It is all nonsense, for there is not one of that party who does not dread a period of peace. ...

3 Servilia, the mother of Brutus, had an estate at Naples given her by Caesar.



... As for my pupil, [1] who dines with me today, he is much devoted to the person in whom our friend Brutus put his knife. And if you want to know (it's plain as a pikestaff to me), they are scared of peace. Their theme and slogan is that a great man has been killed, that the whole state has been plunged into chaos by his death, that all he did will be null and void the moment we cease to be afraid, that clemency was his undoing, but for which nothing of the sort could have happened to him... I receive many warnings hereabouts not to go to the Senate on the Kalends. [June 1st] Soldiers [5] are said to have been collected secretly for the occasion, and collected against your friends...

1 Hirtius

5 For Antony's enrollment and gradual increase of 6,000 bodyguards



How sad about Alexio ! [1] You would scarcely believe how it has afflicted me, and by heaven! not on the ground that many people take when they ask me - "Where will you go for a physician now?" What do I want with a doctor now? Or if I do need one, is there so great a scarcity? It is his affection for me, his culture and charm that I miss. Then there is this too - where can we feel safe when a man of such temperate habits and such a eminent physician is suddenly struck down by a terrible disease? But for all such afflictions there is one and only consolation. The conditions under which we are born is such that we must not rebel against anything to which flesh is heir...
Now, when Hirtius left my house at Puteoli on the 16th of May for Naples, to visit Pansa, I had a clear view of his whole mind. For I took him aside and exhorted him earnestly to preserve the peace. He could not of course say that he did not wish for peace, but he indicated that he was no less afraid of our friends' side appealing to arms than of Antony doing so: not, he added, but that both sides had good reason for keeping a force to protect them, but he for his part was afraid of violence from both quarters. In fact, I don't trust him a yard...About the Queen, the rumour is dying out...

1 A physician. See p.53.



... I want to help Brutus in every way I can. About his little speech, I see that you think the same as I do. But I don't quite understand why you want me to compose one as though delivered by Brutus, when he has already published his own. How would that do, pray? Or have you in mind a denunciation of the tyrant as lawfully done to death? I shall have much to say and much to write, but in another way at another time. About Caesar's chair, well done, the tribunes ! [4] Well done, too, the fourteen rows of knights!...

4 In his games Octavian wished the gilded chair and jewelled crown which had been voted to Iulius to be brought into the circus or theatre, but was prevented by the tribunes, L. Antonius among others (Dio, 45, 4). We must suppose that the equites applauded the tribunes.

DCCXXXI (A XV, 4, §§ 1-4)


Think what you will of me (though of course I should like you to think as well as possible), if things take the course they seem to be taking (you will not be vexed at my must bear with what I am about to say), I find no pleasure in the Ides of March. Caesar would never have come back, [9] fear would not have forced us to confirm his measures; or again - here I join Saufeius' school and desert those Tusculan Disputations which you are urging Vestorius to read - I was so much in his graces (may the gods confound him, dead as he is!) that to a man of my age he was not a master to run away from, since the killing of our master has not set us free. I am blushing, I do assure you; but it's written now and I'm not disposed to cross it out...
I hope it may turn out to be true about the Queen. [11] Other matters we shall discuss when we meet, and especially as to what our heroes are to do, and even what I am to do myself if Antony means to blockade the senate with soldiers. I was afraid that if I give this letter to Funfius' courier he would open it, so I am sending it by special messenger as yours needed an answer.

9 Boot thinks that this means, "Caesar would not have come to life again in the person of Antony." But I agree with Tyrrell and Purser in understanding it to mean, "would never have come back from the Parthian war." Caesar's health and spirits were perhaps failing. See pro Marc. §§ 25, 32.

11 Some rumour to the disadvantage of Cleopatra.



IF you are well, I am glad. I arrived at Athens on the 22nd of May, and there, as I was very anxious to do, I saw your son devoting himself to the best kinds of learning, and enjoying an excellent reputation for steadiness. How much pleasure that gave me you can imagine without a word from me: for you are not ignorant of my high esteem for you, and how much our very old friendship and very sincere affection make me rejoice in everything good that happens to you, however small, to say nothing of such a great blessing as this. Do not imagine, my dear Cicero, that I send you this report merely to please you. Nothing could be more popular with everybody at Athens than your young man-indeed I should call him ours, for I can have no interest disconnected with yourself. Nor could there be greater devotion than his to the studies which you love above everything, that is, to the most excellent... For I feel certain that, if you write anything about Caesar's death, you will not allow me to sustain the least distinguished part either in actual deed [2] or in the expression of your affection. Good-bye. I commend my mother and family to your care.

Athens, 25 May. [p. 60]

2 Trebonius did not actually strike a blow in the assassination, but was employed in keeping Antony at a distance under pretence of making him some communication.



... Both Balbus and Oppius(?) write as you do as about the provinces of Brutus and Cassius to be assigned by a senatorial decree. Hirtius says he won't be present [2] (indeed he is already in his place at Tusculum) and earnestly advises me to keep away. His advice is on the score of danger, which he asserts to have threatened even him; but for my own part, even if there were no such danger, I am so far from caring to avoid arousing Antony's suspicions (it may look as though I don't find his successes agreeable) that my reason for not wanting to go to Rome is precisely that I don't want to set eyes on him. Our friend Varro, however, has sent me a letter from I don't know who (he had crossed out the name) stating that the most pernicious talk is rife among the veterans who are being put off (a certain number having got their discharge), so that Rome will be dangerous for any persons who may seem to be on the other side. Furthermore, how am I to manage my comings and goings, looks and bearing, among such fellows?...

2 That is, from the meeting of the senate on the 1st of June. At this meeting Antony was to report on the acta of Caesar, which he in conjunction with a small committee had been directed to investigate. Cicero, however, declares that the committee never met, that Antony decided as to Caesar's memoranda and acta as he chose, and when the senate met surrounded it with armed guards (2 Phil. §§ 100, 108).



Brutus and Cassius, praetors, to M. Antonius, consul. If we had not been convinced of your honour and kind feeling to ourselves, we should not have written this letter to you. And this being the state of your mind, you will, we feel sure, receive it with all possible favour. Our correspondents inform us that a crowd of veterans has already collected at Rome, and that there will be a much greater one there by the 1st of June. If we entertained any doubt or fear of you, we should be untrue to ourselves. But since we have put ourselves in your hands, and under your advice have dismissed our friends from the country towns, and done so by a circular letter as well as by an edict, we have a claim to be admitted to your confidence, especially in a matter which touches ourselves.
Wherefore we beg you to let us know what your feeling towards us is: whether you think that we shall be safe in the midst of such a crowd of veteran soldiers, who, we hear, even think of replacing the altar. [2] That is a thing which we think that hardly anyone can wish or approve, who desires our safety and honour. The result shews clearly that our aim from the first was peace, and that we have had no other object than the liberty of all. No one can beguile us except yourself, and that is a course of conduct quite alien to your virtue and honour. But no one else has the means of deceiving us: for it is you alone that we have trusted and intend to trust. Our friends are disturbed by a very great alarm on our account. For though they have every confidence in your good faith, they yet cannot help reflecting that the crowd of veteran soldiers can be more easily moved by others in any particular direction, than they can be held back by you. We ask you to write back and explain everything. For the suggestion that notice has been given to the veterans to appear, because you intended to bring in a law about their pensions in June, is wholly inadequate and meaningless. For whom do you think likely to hinder it, since in regard to ourselves we have made up our minds to do nothing whatever? We ought not to be thought by anyone too greedy of life, since nothing can happen to us without general disaster and confusion.

2 The altar and column erected by the pseudo-Marius in the forum on the spot where Caesar's body had been burnt. Dolabella had removed it. See pp.33, 35, 40.



I arrived at Antium before midday. Brutus was delighted to see me. Then before a large company, including Servilia, dear Tertulla, and Porcia, [1] he asked me what I thought he ought to do. Favonius [2] was there too. I gave the advice I had thought over on the way, to accept the Asiatic corn commission. I said his safety was all that concerned us now; on him depended the defence of the constitution itself. I was fairly launched on this theme when Cassius walked in. I repeated what I had already said, whereupon Cassius, looking most valorous I assure you, the picture of a warrior, announced that he had no intention of going to Sicily. "Should I have taken an insult as though it had been a favour?" "What do you mean to do then?" I asked. He replied that he would go to Greece. "And you, Brutus?" said I. "To Rome," he answered, "if you agree." said he. "I don't agree at all," said I, "you won't be safe there." "But if I could be there safely, would you approve?" "Of course, and what is more I should be against your leaving for a province either now or after your Praetorship. But I cannot advise you to risk your life in Rome." I went on to state reasons, which will no doubt occur to you, why he would not be safe.
Long conversation followed, in which they complained, Cassius especially, about the opportunities that had been let slip. They were especially hard upon Decimus. [3] To that I said it was no use crying over spilt milk, but I agreed with them all the same. And I began to give my views on what should have been done (nothing original, only what are in everybody's mouth all the time), however, without touching upon the question as to whether someone else ought to have been attacked, [4] only that they should have summoned the Senate, urged the popular enthusiasm to action with greater vigour, and assumed leadershipp of the whole commonwealth. At that point your lady friend Servilia exclaimed: "Well, upon my word! I never heard the like!" I held my tongue. Anyway, it looked to me as though Cassius would go, [5] for Servilia promised to see that this corn-commissionership should be removed from the senatorial decree, but Brutus also was quickly persuaded to give up that foolish talk about wanting to be in Rome. He therefore decided that the games should be given under his name in his absence. It looked to me as though he wanted to go to Asia direct from Antium...

1 Servilia, mother of Brutus; Tertulla, his half-sister and wife of Cassius; Porcia, his second wife, recently married.

2 imitator of Cato

3 Because he had used his forces in Gallia Cisalpina in wars with the natives instead of attacking Antony.

4 That is, Antony.

5 To Achaia, on his way to take possession of his province of Syria.



... Octavianus, [5] as I have perceived, does not lack intelligence or spirit, and he gave the impression that his attitude toward our heroes would be such as we should wish. But how much faith one can put in a man of his age, name, heredity, and upbringing -- that's a great question. His stepfather, whom I have seen at Astura, thinks none at all. Still he's to be encouraged and, if nothing else, kept apart from Antony. If Marcellus [6] is recommending my writings, that's fine. [7] Octavian seemed to me to be devoted to him. He was not overmuch inclined to trust Pansa and Hirtius. A good disposition, if it does but last.

5 This is the first time that Cicero gives the young Augustus the name which acknowledges his adoption by Caesar's will. Though the full formalities were not carried out for another year, he was by that adoption Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (instead of Octavius).

6 Husband of Octavia, Octavian's sister. Consul B.C. 49.

7 The text is corrupt.
Tags: cicero letters
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