Letters to his brother Quintus/2.11

Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Tullius Cicero in the countryEdit

Rome, 15 February 54 BCEdit

Your "black snow"[1] made me laugh, and I am very glad that you are in a cheerful frame of mind and ready for a joke. As to Pompey, I agree with you, or rather you agree with me. For, as you know, I have long been singing the praises of your Caesar. Believe me, he is very close to my heart, and I am not going to let him slip from his place. Now for the history of the Ides (13th). It was Caelius's tenth day.[2] Domitius had not obtained a full panel. I am afraid that foul ruffian, Servius Pola, will appear for the prosecution. For our friend Caelius has a dead set made at him by the Clodian gens. There is nothing certain as yet, but I am afraid. On the same day there was a full house for the case of the Tyrians: the publicani of Syria appeared in large numbers against them. Gabinius was abused roundly:[3] the publicani were also denounced by (the consul) Domitius for having escorted him on his start on horseback. Our friend Lucius Lamia was somewhat insolent: for on Domitius saying, "It is your fault, equites of Rome, that such things have happened: for you give verdicts laxly," he said, "Yes, we give verdicts, but you senators give evidence of character."[4] Nothing was done that day: the house stood adjourned at nightfall. On the comitial days which follow the Quirinalia (17th February), Appius holds the view that he is not prevented by the lex Pupia from holding a meeting of the senate, and that by the lex Gabinia he is even compelled to have a meeting for the legations from the 1st of February to the 1st of March.[5] And so the elections are supposed to be put off till March. Nevertheless, on these comitial days the tribunes say that they will bring forward the case of Gabinius.[6] I collect every item of intelligence, that I may have some news to tell you: but, as you see, I am short of material. Accordingly, I return to Callisthenes and Philistus, in whom I see that you have been wallowing. Callisthenes is a commonplace and hackneyed piece of business, like a good many Greeks. The Sicilian is a first-rate writer, terse, sagacious, concise, almost a minor Thucydides;[7] but which of his two books you have—for there are two works—I don't know. That about Dionysius is my favourite. For Dionysius himself is a magnificent intriguer, and was familiarly known to Philistus. But as to your postscript—are you really going in for writing history? You have my blessing on your project: and since you furnish me with letter-carriers, you shall hear today's transactions on the Lupercalia (15th February). Enjoy yourself with our dear boy to your heart's content.


  1. We cannot tell the allusion, not having the letter of Quintus. But he seems to have used the expression for something incongruous either in politics, or in regard to his contemplated services with Caesar.
  2. i.e. the day he had to appear for trial, usually fixed by the praetor on the tenth day from the notice of prosecution. Caelius had been acquitted in 56 BC, when Cicero defended him; this second trial appears to have in some way fallen through. The praetor Domitius is said to be Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus, son of Lucius, but he was much too young to have been praetor this year. The former trial of Caelius (56 BC) had been before Cn. Domitius Calvinus, hence a difficulty about this passage. For the praetor Domitius of this year is not known. Domitius Calvinus was praetor 56 BC.
  3. The publicani of Syria were enraged with Gabinius for neglecting his province while going to Egypt, thus allowing the pirates so to plunder that they could not collect enough dues to recoup them for their bargain to the state (Dio, 39.59).
  4. L. Aelius Lamia, an eques, appears to have been one of the deputation of publicani who attended the senate to accuse Gabinius.
  5. The praetorian elections were again postponed from the previous year to the early months of 54 BC. Appius Claudius found means to put them off till March by holding meetings of the senate each day--the electoral comitia not being able to meet on the same day as the senate.
  6. The tribune C. Memmius was prosecuting Gabinius (Letter Q 3.1). The judicial comitia could meet, though not the electoral.
  7. Callisthenes of Olynthus wrote (1) a history of the Trojan war ; (2) an account of Alexander the Great. Philistus of Syracuse (1) a history of Sicily ; (2) a life of Dionysius the elder ; (3) a life of Dionysius the younger. He imitated Thucydides (de Orat. 17).