Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Tullius Cicero in SardiniaEdit

Rome, 10 December 57 BCEdit

The letter[1] which you have already read I had sent off in the morning. But Licinius was polite enough to call on me in the evening after the senate had risen, that, in case of any business having been done there, I might, if I thought good, write an account of it to you. The senate was fuller than I had thought possible in the month of December just before the holidays. Of us consulars there were P. Servilius, M. Lucullus, Lepidus, Volcatius, Glabrio: the two consuls-designate; the praetors. We were a really full house: two hundred in all.[2] Lupus had excited some interest.[3] He raised the question of the Campanian land in considerable detail. He was listened to in profound silence. You are not unaware what material that subject affords. He omitted none of the points which I had made in this business.[4] There were some sharp thrusts at Caesar, some denunciations of Gellius, some appeals to the absent Pompey. After concluding his speech at a late hour, he said that he would not ask for our votes lest he might burden us with a personal controversy; he quite understood the sentiments of the senate from the denunciations of past times and the silence on the present occasion. Milo spoke. Lupus begins the formula of dismissal,[5] when Marcellinus says: "Don't infer from our silence, Lupus, what we approve or disapprove of at this particular time. As far as I am concerned, and I think it is the same with the rest, I am only silent because I do not think it suitable that the case of the Campanian land should be debated in Pompey's absence." Then Lupus said that he would not detain the senate.[6] Racilius rose and began bringing before the house the case of the pro-posed prosecutions. He calls upon Marcellinus, of course, first; who, after complaining in serious tones of the Clodian incendiaries, massacres, and stonings, proposed a resolution that "Clodius himself should, under the superintendence of the praetor urbanus, have his jury allotted to him; that the elections should be held only when the allotment of jurors[7] had been completed; that whoever stopped the trials would be acting against the interests of the state."[8] The proposal having been received with warm approval, Gaius Cato[9]—as did also Cassius—spoke against it, with very emphatic murmurs of disapprobation on the part of the senate, when he proposed to hold the elections before the trials. Philippus supported Lentulus.[10] After that Racilius called on me first of the unofficial senators for my opinion.[11] I made a long speech upon the whole story of P. Clodius's mad proceedings and murderous violence: I impeached him at considerable length, and, by Hercules with no little as though he were on his trial, amidst frequent murmurs of approbation from the whole senate. My speech was praised oratorical skill by Antistius Vetus, who also supported the priority of the legal proceedings, and declared that he should consider it of the first importance. The senators were crossing the floor in support of this view,[12] when Clodius, being called on, began trying to talk out the sitting. He spoke in furious terms of having been attacked by Racilius in an unreasonable and discourteous manner. Then his roughs on the Graecostasis[13] and the steps of the house suddenly raised a pretty loud shout, in wrath, I suppose, against Q. Sextilius and the other friends of Milo. At this sudden alarm we broke up with loud expressions of indignation on all sides. Here are the transactions of one day for you: the rest, I think, will be put off to January. Of all the tribunes I think Racilius is by far the best: Antistius also seems likely to be friendly to me: Plancius, of course, is wholly ours. Pray, if you love me, be careful and cautious about sailing in December.


  1. Quintus Cicero was in Sardinia as Pompey's legatus as superintendent of the corn-supply, to which office he had been appointed in August. The letter is written not earlier than the 10th of December, for the new tribunes for B.C. 56 have come into office, and not later than the 16th, because on the 17th the Saturnalia began. Perhaps as the senate is summoned and presided over by Lupus, it is on the 10th, the day of his entrance upon office.
  2. Full, that is, for the time of year. A "full house" is elsewhere mentioned as between three and four hundred.
  3. P. Rutilius Lupus, one of the new tribunes.
  4. This refers to Cicero's attempts to exempt the ager publicus in Campania from being divided (see Letter XXIV); and not only to his speeches against Rullus. It was because Caesar disregarded the ancient exception of this land from such distribution that Cicero opposed his bill, and refused to serve on the commission.
  5. Nihil vos moramur were the words used by the presiding magistrate, indicating that he had no more business to bring before the senate. If no one said anything, the senate was dismissed; but any magistrate, or magistrate-designate, could speak, and so continue the sitting up to nightfall, when the house stood adjourned.
  6. Because consul-designate. L. Racilius, one of the new tribunes.
  7. The sortitio iudicum was performed by the praetor drawing out the required number of names from the urn, which contained the names of all liable to serve. The accused could, however, challenge a certain number, and the praetor had then to draw others.
  8. The formula whereby the senate declared its opinion that so and so was guilty of treason. It had no legal force, but the magistrates might, and sometimes did, act on it.
  9. C. Porcius Cato, distant relation of Cato Uticensis, one of the new tribunes.
  10. I.e., Marcellinus (Cn. Cornelius Lentulus).
  11. The senators not in office only spoke when called on (rogati). The consuls-designate (if there were any) were always called first, and then the consulars in order. To be called first was a subject of ambition, and an opportunity for the presiding magistrate to pay a compliment or the reverse.
  12. They went and sat or stood near the speaker they wished to support. It was not, however, a formal division till the speeches ended, and the presiding magistrate counted. Still, it made the division easier.
  13. A platform outside the senate-house, where representatives originally of Greek and then of other states were placed. It was apparent]y possible to hear, or partly hear, the debates from it. It was a locus substructus (Varro, L. L. 5.155). There is no evidence that it was a building to lodge ambassadors in, as Prof. Tyrrell says.