Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus in EpirusEdit

Rome, 20 January 60 BCEdit

Believe me there is nothing at this moment of which I stand so much in need as a man with whom to share all that causes me anxiety: a man to love me; a man of sense to whom I can speak without affectation, reserve, or concealment. For my brother is away—that most open-hearted and affectionate of men. Metellus is not a human being, but

"Mere sound and air, a howling wilderness."

While you, who have so often lightened my anxiety and my anguish of soul by your conversation and advice, who are ever my ally in public affairs, my confidant in all private business, the sharer in all my conversations and projects—where are you? So entirely am I abandoned by all, that the only moments of repose left me are those which are spent with my wife, pet daughter, and sweet little Cicero. For as to those friendships with the great, and their artificial attractions, they have indeed a certain glitter in the outside world, but they bring no private satisfaction. And so, after a crowded morning levée, as I go down to the forum surrounded by troops of friends, I can find no one out of all that crowd with whom to jest freely, or into whose ear I can breathe a familiar sigh. Therefore I wait for you, I long for you, I even urge on you to come for I have many anxieties, many pressing cares, of which I think, if I once had your ears to listen to me, I could unburden myself in the conversation of a single walk. And of my private anxieties, indeed, I shall conceal all the stings and vexations, and not trust them to this letter and an unknown letter-carrier. These, however—for I don't want you to be made too anxious—are not very painful: yet they are persistent and worrying, and are not put to rest by the advice or conversation of any friend. But in regard to the Republic I have still the same courage and purpose, though it has again and again of its own act eluded treatment.[1] For should I put briefly what has occurred since you left, you would certainly exclaim that the Roman empire cannot be maintained much longer. Well, after your departure our first scene, I think, was the appearance of the Clodian scandal, in which having, as I thought, got an opportunity of pruning licentiousness and keeping our young men within bounds, I exerted myself to the utmost, and lavished all the resources of my intellect and genius, not from dislike to an individual, but from the hope of not merely correcting, but of completely curing the state. The Republic received a crushing blow when this jury was won over by money and the opportunity of debauchery. See what has followed we have had a consul inflicted upon us, whom none except us philosophers can look at without a sigh. What a blow that is! Though a decree of the senate has been passed about bribery and the corruption of juries, no law has been carried; the senate has been harassed to death, the Roman knights alienated. So that one year has undermined two buttresses of the Republic, which owed their existence to me, and me alone; for it has at once destroyed the prestige of the senate and broken up the harmony of the orders. And now enter this precious year! It was inaugurated by the suspension of the annual rites of Iuventas;[2] for Memmius initiated M. Lucullus's wife in some rites of his own! Our Menelaus, being annoyed at that, divorced his wife. Yet the old Idaean shepherd had only injured Menelaus; our Roman Paris thought Agamemnon as proper an object of injury as Menelaus.[3] Next there is a certain tribune named C. Herennius, whom you, perhaps, do not even know—and yet you may know him, for he is of your tribe, and his father Sextus used to distribute money to your tribesmen—this person is trying to transfer P. Clodius to the plebs, and is actually proposing a law to authorize the whole people to vote in Clodius's affair in the campus.[4] I have given him a characteristic reception in the senate, but he is the thickest-skinned fellow in the world. Metellus is an excellent consul, and much attached to me, but he has lowered his influence by promulgating (though only for form's sake) an identical bill about Clodius. But the son of Aulus,[5] God in heaven! What a cowardly and spiritless fellow for a soldier! How well he deserves to be exposed, as he is, day after day to the abuse of Palicanus![6] Farther, an agrarian law has been promulgated by Flavius, a poor production enough, almost identical with that of Plotius. But meanwhile a genuine statesman is not to be found, even "in a dream." The man who could be one, my friend Pompey—for such he is, as I would have you know—defends his two penny embroidered toga[7] by saying nothing. Crassus never risks his popularity by a word. The others you know without my telling you. They are such fools that they seem to expect that, though the Republic is lost, their fish-ponds will be safe. There is one man who does take some trouble, but rather, as it seems to me, with consistency and honesty, than with either prudence or ability—Cato. He has been for the last three months worrying those unhappy publicani, who were formerly devoted to him, and refuses to allow of an answer being given them by the senate. And so we are forced to suspend all decrees on other subjects until the publicani have got their answer. For the same reason I suppose even the business of the foreign embassies will be postponed. You now understand in what stormy water we are and as from what I have written to you in such strong terms you have a view also of what I have not written, come back to me, for it is time you did. And though the state of affairs to which I invite you is one to be avoided, yet let your value for me so far prevail, as to induce you to come there even in these vexatious circumstances. For the rest I will take care that due warning is given, and a notice put up in all places, to prevent you being entered on the census as absent; and to get put on the census just before the lustration is the mark of your true man of business.[8] So let me see you at the earliest possible moment. Farewell.

20 January in the Consulship of Q. Metellus and L. Afranius.


  1. Reading (mainly with Schutz) animus praesens et voluntas, tamen etiam atque etiam ipsa medicinam refugit. The verb refugit is very doubtful, but it gives nearly the sense required. Cicero is ready to be as brave and active as before, but the state will not do its part. It has, for instance, blundered in the matter of the law against judicial corruption. The senate offended the equites by proposing it, and yet did not carry the law. I think animus and voluntas must refer to Cicero, not the state, to which in his present humour he would not attribute them.
  2. The temple of Iuventas was vowed by M. Livius after the battle of the Metaurus (B.C. 207,) and dedicated in B.C. 191, by C. Licinius Lucullus, games being established on the anniversary of its dedication (Livy, 21.62; 36.36). It is suggested, therefore, that some of the Luculli usually presided at these games, but on this occasion refused, because of the injury done by C. Memmius, who was curule aedile.
  3. By Agamemnon and Menelaus Cicero means Lucius and Marcus Lucullus; the former Memmius had, as tribune in B.C. 66-65, opposed in his demand for a triumph, the latter he has now injured in the person of his wife.
  4. A man who was sui juris was properly adopted before the comitia curiatia, now represented by thirty lictors. What Herennius proposed was that it should take place by a regular lex, passed by the comitia tributa. The object apparently was to avoid the necessity of the presence of a pontifex and augur, which was required at the comitia curiata. The concurrent law by the consul would come before the comitia centuriata. The adopter was P. Fonteius, a very young man.
  5. L. Afranius, the other consul.
  6. M. Lollius Palicanus, "a mere mob orator" (Brutus, § 223).
  7. The toga picta of a triumphator, which Pompey, by special law, was authorized to wear at the games. Cicero uses the contemptuous diminutive, togula.
  8. To be absent from the census without excuse rendered a man liable to penalties. Cicero will therefore put up notices in Atticus's various places of business or residence of his intention to appear in due course. To appear just at the end of the period was, it seems, in the case of a man of business, advisable, that he might be rated at the actual amount of his property, no more or less.