Letters to his brother Quintus/2.10

Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Tullius Cicero in the countryEdit

Rome, February 54 BCEdit

I am glad you like my letter: however, I should not even now have had anything to write about, if I had not received yours. For on the 12th, when Appius had got together a thinly-attended meeting of the senate, the cold was so great that he was compelled by the general clamour[1] to dismiss us. As to the Commagenian, because I have blown that proposition to the winds, Appius makes wonderful advances to me both personally and through Pomponius; for he sees that if I adopt a similar style of discussion in the other business, February will not bring him anything in. And certainly I did chaff him pretty well, and not only wrenched from his grasp that petty township of his--situated in the territory of Zeugma on the Euphrates[2]—but also raised a loud laugh by my satire on the man's purple-edged toga, which he had been granted when Caesar was consul.[3] "His wish," said I, "for a renewal of the same honour, to save the yearly re-dying of his purple-edged toga, I do not think calls for any decree of the house; but you, my lords, who could not endure that the Bostrian[4] should wear the toga praetexta, will you allow the Commagenian to do so?" You see the style of chaff, and the line I took. I spoke at length against the petty princeling, with the result that he was utterly laughed out of court. Alarmed by this exhibition, as I said, Appius is making up to me For nothing could be easier than to explode the rest of his proposals. But I will not go so far as to trip him up, lest he appeal to the god of hospitality, and summon all his Greeks—it is they who make us friends again. I will do what Theopompus wants. I had forgotten to write to you about Caesar: for I perceive what sort of letter you have been expecting. But the fact is, he has written word to Balbus that the little packet of letters, in which mine and Balbus's were packed, had been so drenched with rain that he was not even aware that there was a letter from me. He had, however, made out a few words of Balbus's letter, to which he answered as follows: "I perceive that you have written something about Cicero, which I have not fully made out: but, as far I could guess, it was of a kind that I thought was more to be wished than hoped for." Accordingly, I afterwards sent Caesar a duplicate copy of the letter. Don't be put off by that passage about his want of means. In answer to it I wrote back saying that he must not stop payment from any reliance on my money chest, and descanted playfully on that subject, in familiar terms and yet without derogating from my dignity. His good feeling towards us, however, according to all accounts, is marked. The letter, indeed, on the point of which you expect to hear, will almost coincide with your return:[5] the other business of each day I will write on condition of your furnishing me with letter-carriers. However, such cold weather is threatening,[6] that there is very great danger that Appius may find his house frost-bitten and deserted![7]


  1. Retaining populi convicio, and explaining populi to have the general meaning of the crowd, including senators and spectators. Cicero uses populus in this vague way elsewhere.
  2. Zeugma I take to mean the "territory of Zeugma," a town on the Euphrates, part of the Roman province of Syria, and close to the frontier of Commagene. Antiochus had asked that some stronghold should be reckoned as his rather than as belonging to the province.
  3. Appius, he insinuates, hoped to make money by granting the request of Antiochus, left king of Commagene by Pompey, for some special privileges, among which was the right of wearing the toga praetexta, which symbolized some position with a shadow of Roman imperium, while at the same time conveying a compliment to the Roman suzerainty. See Polyb. xxvi; 30.26; Suet. Aug. 60.
  4. Some petty prince of Bostra (Bozra), in Arabia, of whom we know nothing.
  5. Quintus was expecting, what he got, the offer of serving under Caesar as legatus. Caesar was preparing for his second invasion of Britain.
  6. Which will prevent meetings of the senate, and so give me no news to send you.
  7. There is a double entendre. Cold weather will prevent the meetings of the senate actually, but metaphorically politics will be also cold and dull, and that dullness will probably be nowhere so evident as in the deserted state of the Consul Appius's house, which in all probability will miss its usual bevy of callers. This explanation—put forward by Prof. Tyrrell—is not wholly satisfactory, yet it is the best that has been given.