Letters to his brother Quintus/3.8

Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Tullius Cicero in GaulEdit

Rome, November 54 BCEdit

The earlier of your two letters is full of irritability and complainings, and you say you gave another of the same sort the day before to Labienus, who has not yet arrived—but I have nothing to say in answer to it, for your more recent letter has obliterated all trace of vexation from my mind. I will only give you this hint and make this request, that in the midst of your vexations and labours you should recall what our notion was as to your going to Caesar. For our object was not the acquisition of certain small and unimportant gains. For what was there of that kind which we should have thought worth the price of our separation? What we sought was the strongest possible security for the maintenance of our entire political position by the countenance of a man of the highest character and most commanding influence. Our interest is not so much in the acquisition of sums of money, as in the realization of this hope: all else that you get is to be regarded only as a security against actual loss.[1] Wherefore, if you will frequently turn your thoughts back upon what we originally proposed to ourselves and hoped to do, you will bear with less impatience the labours of military service of which you speak and the other things which annoy you, and, nevertheless, will resign them whenever you choose. But the right moment for that step is not yet come, though it is now not far off. Furthermore, I give you this hint—don't commit anything at all to writing, the publication of which would be annoying to us. There are many things that I would rather not know than learn at some risk. I shall write at greater length to you with a mind less preoccupied, when my boy Cicero is, as I hope he will be, in a good state of health. Pray be careful to let me know to whom I should give the letter which I shall then send you—to Caesar's letter-carriers, for him to forward them direct to you, or to those of Labienus? For where your Nervii dwell, and how far off, I have no idea.[2] I derived great pleasure from your letter describing the courage and dignity displayed (as you say) by Caesar in his extreme sorrow. You bid me finish the poem in his honour which I had begun; and although I have been diverted from it by business, and still more by my feelings, yet, since Caesar knows that I did begin something, I will return to my design, and will complete in these leisure days of the "supplications,"[3] during which I greatly rejoice that our friend Messalla and the rest are at last relieved from worry. In reckoning on him as certain to be consul with Domitius, you are quite in agreement with my own opinion. I will guarantee Messalla to Caesar: but Memmius Cherishes a hope, founded on Caesar's return to Italy, in which I think he is under a mistake. He is, indeed, quite out of it here. Scaurus, again, has been long ago thrown over by Pompey. The business has been put off: the comitia postponed and postponed, till we may expect an interregnum. The rumour of a dictator is not pleasing to the aristocrats; for myself, I like still less what they say. But the proposal, as a whole, is looked upon with alarm, and grows unpopular. Pompey says outright that he doesn't wish it: to me previously he used not personally to deny the wish. Hirrus seems likely to be the proposer. Ye gods! what folly! How in love with himself and without—a rival! He has commissioned me to choke off Caelius Vinicianus, a man much attached to me. Whether Pompey wishes it or not, it is difficult to be sure. However, if it is Hirrus who makes the proposal, he will not convince people that he does not wish it. There is nothing else being talked about in politics just now; at any rate, nothing else is being done. The funeral of the son of Serranus Domesticus took place in very melancholy circumstances on the 23rd of November. His father delivered the funeral Oration which I composed for him. Now about Milo. Pompey gives him no support, and is all for Gutta, saying also that he will secure Caesar on his side. Milo is alarmed at this, and no wonder, and almost gives up hope if Pompey is created dictator. If he assists anyone who vetoes the dictatorship by his troop and bodyguard,[4] he fears he may excite Pompey's enmity: if he doesn't do so, he fears the proposal may be carried by force. He is preparing games on a most magnificent scale, at a cost, I assure you, that no one has ever exceeded. It is foolish, on two or even three accounts, to give games that were not demanded—he has already given a magnificent show of gladiators: he cannot afford it: he is only an executor, and might have reflected that he is now an executor, not an aedile. That is about all I had to write. Take care of yourself, dearest brother.


  1. Cicero means, "the substantial gain to be got from your serving under Caesar in Gaul is the securing of his protection in the future: all other gains, such as money etc., are merely to be regarded as securing you from immediate loss in thus going to Gaul: they don't add anything fresh to our position and prospects."
  2. Quintus had his winter quarters among the Nervii, in a town near the modern Charleroi. In this winter he was in great danger from a sudden rising of the Nervii and other tribes (Caes. B. G. 5.24-49).
  3. Twenty days of supplicatio had been decreed in honour of Caesar's campaigns of 55 BC (Caes. B.G. 4.38).
  4. His gladiators, which he kept in training for the games he was going to give in honour of a deceased friend.