theilian (theilian) wrote,

Cicero vs. Antony <4> (April - May 43 BC)


ROME, c. APRIL 1, 43 BC

AT the time of my writing, the decisive hour is thought to be upon us. Gloomy letters and messengers are coming in about our friend Decimus Brutus. They do not disturb me overmuch, for I cannot possibly lack confidence in our armies and generals, nor do I subscribe to majority opinion - I do not judge unfavourably of the loyalty of the Consuls, which is under strong suspicion; though in certain respects I could have wished for more wisdom and promptitude. Had that been forthcoming, we should have had long ago recovered the constitution. You are well aware of the importance of the right moment in political affairs, and what a vast difference it makes whether the same decree or enterprise or course of action be adopted before or after. If only all the strong measures decreed during this turmoil had been carried through the day I proposed them, and not put off from one day to the next or dragged out and procrastinated after action upon them had been taken in hand, we should now have no war.
My dear Brutus, I have done for our country all that lies with one who stands where I, by judgement of Senate and People stand today. And I am not speaking now of those duties which can be fairly demanded of a man - good faith, vigilance, patriotism; for these are what it is everybody's duty to render. But I conceive that more is required of one whose voice is heard among the leading statesmen, namely wisdom. And having presumed to take the helm of state, I should hold myself no less to blame if any counsel I gave the Senate were inexpedient than I should if it were dishonest.
I know you receive full and accurate reports of events both past and current. As coming from myself, I should like you to be well aware that my mind is in the fighting line - I am not looking over my shoulder, unless it so happen that the interests of the community make me turn my head; but the minds of the majority are looking back, to you and Cassius. So, Brutus, I would have you adjust yourself to the realization that it will be your duty either to reform the constitution, should the present conflict go well, or should we meet with a reverse, your task will be its restoration.



I am eagerly waiting for a letter which you wrote after you received the news of my movements and of the death of Trebonius. [1] ... Antonius [2] is still in my camp, but on my honour, I am moved by his entreaties and I fear that the fanaticism of certain people may pick him off. I am really troubled. If I knew your opinion, I should cease to be worried, for I should be satisfied that it was the best thing to be done... I have read two of your speeches, one delivered on the 1st of January, the other against Calenus. You won't be waiting for me to priase them. I cannot decide whether these pieces say more for your spirit or for your genius. I am now willing to let them be called by the proud name of 'Philippics,' as you jestingly suggested in one of your letters. [3]
My dear Cicero, the two things which I need now are money and more men. The latter you can provide by arranging for a contingent of troops to be sent to me from Italy either by way of a secret understanding with Pansa or throuogh action in the Senate. The former is still more necessary, and as much for other armies as for mine, which makes me regret all the more that we have lost Asia. I am told that Dolabella's oppression of the province makes his murder of Trebonius no longer appear the worst of his savageries...
Your son Cicero earns my approval by his energy, endurance, hard work, and unselfish spirit, in short, by every kind of service that he seems never to forget for a moment whose son he is. I cannot make you think more of one whom you so deeply love than you alread do, but trust my judgement in assuring yourself that he will have no need to trade upon your renown in order to attan his father's honours.

1 April, Dyrrachium.
1 Trebonius, who had gone as governor of Asia soon after the murder of Caesar, was avowedly collecting troops and money and fortifying towns with a view of supporting the tyrannicides. When Dolabella arrived at Smyrna on his way to Syria he was still consul, but Trebonius declined to admit him there or at Pergamus. Dolabella went on his way to Ephesus, followed by a body of men whom Trebonius sent to watch him. He, however, laid a trap for them, captured or killed them, and, hurrying back to Smyrna, surprised and captured Trebonius, who according to one story was at once put to death, and according to another was tortured for two days first. On news of this reaching Rome, Dolabella was on the motion of Cicero declared a hostis, and Cassius was authorized to wage war against him (Phil. 11.29, sq.; Appian, B.C. 3.26).

2 Gaius Antonius, to whom his brother had caused the senate to transfer the province of Macedonia from himself, having previously transferred it from M. Brutus, who had been nominated by Caesar. He had been defeated and taken prisoner by Brutus.

3 After Demosthenes' speeches against Philip of Macedon. The letter containing this jest of Cicero's is lost. The title Philippics was the current one by the time of Iuvenal at any rate (x. 125), and Plutarch (Cic. 24) says that Cicero himself placed that title on the copies. Against this the authority of Aulus Gellius (vii. II; xiii. I, 21), who calls them Orationes Antonianae, is not worth much.



... With regard to your question about Gaius Antonius, I think he should be kept under arrest till we know the fate of Decimus Brutus... As to more men also, I do not see what can possibly be done. So far from Pansa sparing you any of his own army or levies, he is not happy that so many are going to you as volunteers, because, as I for my part believe, he thinks no forces are too large for the issues which are being determined in Italy - but, as many suspect, because he does not wish you to be too strong either. But this is a suspicion which I do not share.
You say in your letter that you wrote to Tertia and your mother not to disclose the achievements of Cassius until I thought it proper. Evidently you were afraid, and with good reason, that Caesar's party, as it is still called, would be much upset by the news. But the matter was common knowledge before we got your letter... As to my son, if he has all the good in him which you describe, I am of course no less delighted than I ought to be. And if your affection for him makes you exaggerate, the very fact of your caring for him rejoices me more than I can say.



ROME, 19 (?) APRIL

... My general political aims, my dear Brutus, haave always been the same as your own; my policy in certain matters (not in all) has perhaps been a little more drastic. You know I have always held that the commonwealth should be delivered not only from a tyrant but from a tyranny also. You took a milder view, no doubt to your own eternal credit. But we have realized to our bitter distress, and are still realizing to our grave peril, what the better course would have been. [1] More recently your supreme object was peace - which could not be accomplished with mere words; mine was liberty, for without liberty peace is meaningless. [2] I thought peace itself could be achieved by war and arms. There was no want of men with zeal to fight, but we checked their enthusiasm and damped their ardour. And so it had come to such a pass that, had not some higher power inspired Caesar Octavianus, we should have lain at the mercy of an abandoned villain, Marcus Antonius, with whom you see at this moment in what a desperate struggle we are engaged...
Two letters he brings, one in your name, the other from Antonius... They are read out to the Senate. 'Antonius, Proconsul'! That produced a sensation, as though it had been 'Dolabella, Imperator'... Your letter was read, brief but distinctly mild in tone as regards to Antonius. The House was greatly astonished. And I could not see my way clearly as to what I ought to do. If I called this letter a forgery, it might turn out that you had approved it; whereas to acknowledge it as genuine would be bad for your prestige. So that day passed in silence. On the following, after talk had become rife and Pilius had made himself offensively conspicuous, I must admit that I opened the game, with a good deal to say about 'Antonius, Proconsul'. Sestius backed me up, pointng out what a dngerous position his son and mine would be in if they had taken up arms against a Proconsul... Our friend Labeo remarked that there was neither any seal of yours on the letter, nor any date affixed, and that you had not written to your friends, as was your custom. [9] He drew the conclusion that the letter was forged, and if you wish to know, the House agreed with him.
Now, Brutus, it is for you to judge of the whole character of the war. Clearly leniency is to your liking and you think it is the most rewarding policy. It is an admirable sentiment; but the place for clemency is usually found, and ought to be found in other matters and circumstances... For what difference is there between Dolabella and any one of the three Antonii? If we spare any of them, we have been too harsh on Dolabella. [10] That the Senate and People of Rome take this view is partly from the logic of the situation, but also in large measure from my advice and influence. If you disapprove this policy, I shall defend your view, but I shall not abandon my own. Men expect from you neither laxity nor cruelty. It is easy to strike a balance; you need only be stern with the leaders and generous to the rank and file. I hope you keep my son, my dear Brutus, as much as possible by your side. He will find no better school of virtue than the contemplation and imitation of you.

16 April.

1 i.e. Mark Antony should have been killed along with Caesar.

2 Cicero puts the converse in Phil. 2.113, when he says that "peace is liberty without war," pax est tranquilla libertas.

9 That is, that the bearer of the public despatch brought no private letters at the same time, as we have seen was the almost invariable custom. For as there was no postal services, such messengers were always used for this purpose. It was a good argument against the genuineness of the letter.

10 Dolabella had been declared a public enemy.

DCCCXL (BRUT. I, 2, §§ 3-6)

ROME, 20 (?) APRIL

... You say in your letter that I have not hurried myself [1] at all in making attacks on the Antonii, and you go on to commend me for it. I have no doubt that you think so. But I am far from approving the distinction you draw when you say that more vigour should be used in preventing civil wars than in wreaking vengeance upon the vanquished. I strongly disagree with you, Brutus. I consider myself as merciful man as you, but a salutary severity is better than hollow show of mercy. If we want to be merciful, we shall never be without a civil war. However, that is more your concern than mine. I can say of myself what Plautus' father says in Song of Sixpence [2]

My time is nearly over. You're the party most concerned.

Believe me, Brutus, you and your friends will be crushed if you do not take care. You will not always have a people and a Senate and a leader of the Senate as they are today. You may regard these words as a Delphic oracle. Nothing can be more true.
20 (?) April.

1 Me maximo otio egisse. I doubt the soundness of the text, and the meaning of it as it stands. Whatever compliments Cicero may deserve, mildness in regard to the Antonies can scarcely be one of them.

2 Plaut. Trinummus. ii. 2, 42.

DCCCXLI (BRUT. I, 3, §§ 1-3)


... As for the boy Caesar, his natural worth and manliness is extraordinary. I only pray that I may succeed in guiding and holding him in the flush of honours and popularity as easily as I have done hitherto! That will be a more difficult thing, it is true, but still I do not despair. The young man is persuaded (chiefly by my arguments) that our survival is his work, and that at least, if he had not diverted Antony from the city, all would have been lost. [2]
Three or four days indeed before this splendid victory, the whole city was struck by a sudden panic, [3] and poured out with wives and children to join you; but on 20 April they recovered and would now like you to come over here instead. On that day in very truth I reaped the richest of rewards for my days of labours and sleepless nights - if there is any reward in true, genuine glory. The whole population of Rome thronged to my house and escorted me up to the Capitol and placed me on the rostra [4] amidst the tumultuous cheers and applause. I am not a vain man, I do not need to be; but the unison of all classes in thanks and congratulations does move my heart, for to be popular in serving the people's welfare is a thing to be proud of . But I would rather you heard all this from others...

2 Cicero argues that Octavian's consciousness of having done the loyalists a good service will attach him the more to them. He will be unwilling to forfeit the good opinion he has earned. He little knew Octavian and his secret purposes.

3 This appears to have been caused by the action of the praetor Ventidius Bassus, who enrolled two legions of veterans, and was supposed to be coming to Rome to seize Cicero and the leading opponents of Antony. He, however, marched to Ariminum, and succeeded in joining Antony after the battle by a splendid march across country to Vado (Appian, B.C. 3.66).

4 The rostra of course was not on the Capitol, and this has been put forward as an argument against the genuineness of the letter. I think Cicero may be putting the story shortly. The procession first went to the Capitol to offer thanks to Iupiter, and then came down to the forum to be addressed from the rostra.

DCCCXLIII (BRUT. 1, 3, § 4)

ROME, 27 (?) APRIL

WE have lost two good consuls - but 'good' is as much as one can say. Hirtius fell in the moment of victory, [1] after winning a great battle only a few days before. Pansa had retreated, after receiving wounds which were too much for him. [2] Decimus Brutus and Caesar are in pursuit of the remnants of the enemy. [3] And all those who have followed Mark Antony's lead have been declared public enemies. Most people interpret that decree of the Senate as applying to those whom you have captured or who have surrendered to you. For my part I refrained from urging any severity in making a proposal about Gaius Antonius by name, having made up my mind that the Senate ought to be informed by you of the merits of his case.

27 (?) April.
1 In storming Antony's camp a week after the battle of Forum Gallorum (21st April).

2 Pansa appears to have retired wounded to Bononia after the battle. It is rather remarkable that Galba says nothing of his being wounded in Letter DCCCXXXVIII.

3 It turned out that Caesar had refused to join Decimus Brutus in the pursuit of Antony.

DCCCL (F XI, 10)


... The extreme danger in which that the country now stands I will explain as briefly as I can.
To begin with, you cannot fail to observe what a confusion is caused by the death of the consuls, and how much ambition this vacancy in the office inspires in men. I think I have written enough - as much as can be committed to paper. After all, I know to whom I am writing.
I now return to Antony, who, though when he fled he had only a handful of unarmed infantry, seems to have made up a very considerable number by breaking open slave-barracks and requisitioning every kind of human being. To this has been added the force of Ventidius, which after accomplishing a difficult march across the Apennines has reached Vada and has there linked up with Antony. There is a very considerable number of veterans and fully armed soldiers with Ventidius. Antony's plan of campaign must certainly be either to join Lepidus, if Lepidus will have him; or to keep behind the lines of the Apennines and Alps, and to lay waste the district which he has invaded by sending out parties of cavalry, of which he has large numbers; or to draw back into Etruria, since that part of Italy has no army in it. But if Caesar had listened to me and crossed the Apennines, I should have reduced Antony to such straits, that he would have been ruined by failure of provisions rather than by the sword. But neither can anyone control Caesar, nor can Caesar control his own army-both most disastrous facts...
I am already unable to feed and pay my men. When I undertook the task of freeing the Republic I had more than 40,000 sestertia in money. So far from any part of my private property remaining unencumbered, I have by this time loaded all my friends with debt. I am now supporting a force amounting to seven legions, you can imagine with what difficulty...

5 May, in camp, Dertona.


DCCCLIII (BRUT. I, 4, §§ 1-3)


HOW delighted I am to learn of the successes of our friend Brutus and the Consuls it is easier for you to imagine than for me to write. [1] ... You remark that all the three Antonii are in one and the same boat, and that it rests with me to decide what view I take. My only conclusion is that the decision in regard to those citizens who have fought and not been killed rests with the Senate or the People of Rome. "Ah, but," you will say, "you are wrong to begin with in calling men citizens whose feelings to the state are those of enemies." On the contrary, I am acting with the strictest justice. What the Senate has not yet decreed, nor the Roman people ordained, I do not take upon myself to prejudge, nor do I claim to decide it on my own authority. From this position I do not This much I maintain: in dealing with a person whose life circumstances did not compel me to take, I have not wrested anything in a spirit of cruelty, nor have I given him any indulgence from mere weakness; but I have retained him in my power for the duration of the war. In my judgement it is much more honourable course and from a public standpoint allowable to refrain from bearing hard on the unfortunate than to make endless concessions to the powerful which may whet their appetite and arrogance. [3] In this matter, my excellent and gallant friend, whom I love so well and so deservedly both on my own account and on that of the commonwealth, you seem to me to be trusting your hopes too fondly. The moment somebody behaves well you seem to set no bounds to your favours and concessions, as though a mind corrupted by largesse could not possibly be swayed to bad courses. Your heart is too good to take offence at a warning, especially where the common welfare is at stake...

1 Brutus could not have known of the death of the consuls, which indeed was not known at first even at Rome. Galba's letter (pp.211-213) says nothing even of Pansa's wound, and as Brutus refers below to the last words of Letter DCCCXLI (p.219), he could not have as yet received DCCCXLIII.

3 Brutus seems to be referring to those members of the party who were in favour of severities to the opposition, partly from desire for vengeance, and partly with an eye to confiscations and other personal advantages. We heard much of this in the early times of the civil war. See vol. ii., pp.294, 310, etc.
Tags: cicero letters
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