Letters to Atticus/1.13

Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus in EpirusEdit

Rome, 27 January 61 BCEdit

I have now received three letters from you—one by the hands of M. Cornelius, which you gave him, I think, at Three Taverns; a second which your host at Canusium delivered to me; a third dated, according to you, from on board your pinnace, when the cable was already slipped.[1] They were all three, to use a phrase from the schools of rhetoric flavoured with the salt of learning, and illumined with the marks of affection. In these letters, indeed, I am urgently pressed by you to send answers, but what renders me rather dilatory in this respect is the difficulty of finding a trustworthy carrier. How few of these gentry are able to convey a letter rather weightier than usual without lightening it by skimming its contents! Besides, I do not always care to send[2] whenever anyone is starting for Epirus: for I suppose that, having offered victims before your Amaltheia,[3] you at once started for the siege of Sicyon. And yet I am not even certain when you start to visit Antonius or how much time you are devoting to Epirus. Accordingly, I don't venture to trust either Achaeans or Epirotes with a letter somewhat more outspoken than usual. Now some events have occurred since you left me worth my writing to you, but they must not be trusted to the risk of a letter being lost, opened, or intercepted.

Well, then, to begin with: I was not called upon to speak first, and the pacifier of the Allobroges[4] was preferred to me, and though this met with some murmurs of disapprobation from the senate, I was not sorry it was done. For I am thereby freed from any obligation to show respect to an ill-conditioned man, and am at liberty to support my position in the Republic in spite of him. Besides, the second place has a dignity almost equal to that of princeps senatus, and does not put one under too much of an obligation to the consul. The third called on was Catulus; the fourth, if you want to go still farther, Hortensius. The consul himself[5] is a man of a small and ill-regulated mind, a mere buffoon of that splenetic kind which raises a laugh even in the absence of wit: it is his face rather than his facetiousness[6] that causes merriment : he takes practically no part in public business, and is quite alienated from the Optimates. You need expect no service to the state from him, for he has not the will to do any, nor fear any damage, for he hasn't the courage to inflict it. His colleague, however, treats me with great distinction, and is also a zealous supporter of the loyalist party. For the present their disagreement has not come to much; but I fear that this taint may spread farther. For I suppose you have heard that when the state function was being performed in Caesar's house a man in woman's dress got in,[7] and that the Vestals having performed the rite again, mention was made of the matter in the senate by Q. Cornificius—he was the first, so don't think that it was one of us consulars—and that on the matter being referred by a decree of the senate to the [Virgins and] pontifices, they decided that a sacrilege had been committed: that then, on a farther decree of the senate, the consuls published a bill: and that Caesar divorced his wife. On this question Piso, from friendship for P. Clodius, is doing his best to get the bill promulgated by himself (though in accordance with a decree of the senate and on a point of religion) rejected. Messalla as yet is strongly for severe measures. The loyalists hold aloof owing to the entreaties of Clodius : bands of ruffians are being got together: I myself, at first a stern Lycurgus, am becoming daily less and less keen about it: Cato is hot and eager. In short, I fear that between the indifference of the loyalists and the support of the disloyal it may be the cause of great evils to the Republic. However, your great friend[8]—do you know whom I mean?—of whom you said in your letter that, "not venturing to blame me, he was beginning to be complimentary," is now to all appearance exceedingly fond of me, embraces me, loves and praises me in public, while in secret (though unable to disguise it) he is jealous of me. No good-breeding, no straightforwardness, no political morality, no distinction, no courage, no liberality! But on these points I will write to you more minutely at another time; for in the first place I am not yet quite sure about them, and in the next place I dare not entrust a letter on such weighty matters to such a casual nobody's son as this messenger.

The praetors have not yet drawn their lots for the provinces. The matter remains just where you left it. The description of the scenery of Misenum and Puteoli which you ask for I will include in my speech.[9] I had already noticed the mistake in the date, 3rd of December. The points in my speeches which you praise, believe me, I liked very much myself, but did not venture to say so before. Now, however, as they have received your approval, I think them much more "Attic" than ever. To the speech in answer to Metellus.[10] I have made some additions. The book shall be sent you, since affection for me gives you a taste for rhetoric. What news have I for you? Let me see. Oh, yes! The consul Messalla has bought Antonius's house for 3,400 sestertia. What is that to me? you will say. Why, thus much. The price has convinced people that I made no bad bargain, and they begin to understand that in making a purchase a man may properly use his friends' means to get what suits his position. The Teucris affair drags on, yet I have hopes. Pray settle the business you have in hand. You shall have a more outspoken letter soon.

27 January, in the consulship of M. Messalla and M. Piso.


  1. Ora soluta. Or, if ancara sublata be read, "when the anchor was already weighed." In either case it means "just as you were starting." Atticus wrote on board, and gave the letter to a carrier to take on shore.
  2. A word lost in the text.
  3. See end of Letter XXI. Cicero playfully supposes that Atticus only stayed in his villa in Epirus to offer sacrifices to the nymph in his gymnasium, and then hurried off to Sicyon, where people owed him money which he wanted to get. He goes to Antonius first to get his authority for putting pressure on Sicyon, and perhaps even some military force.
  4. C. Calpurnius Piso (consul B.C. 67), brother of the consul of the year, had been governor of Gallia Narbonensis (B.C. 66-65), and had suppressed a rising of the Allobroges, the most troublesome tribe in the province, who were, in fact, again in rebellion.
  5. M. Pupius Piso.
  6. "By the expression of his face rather than the force of his expressions " (Tyrrell).
  7. See Letter XVI, note 6.
  8. Pompey.
  9. Or, "enclose with my speech"; in both cases the dative orationi meae is peculiar. No speech exists containing such a description, but we have only two of the previous year extant (pro Flacco and pro Archia Poeta). Cicero was probably sending it, whichever it was, to Atticus to be copied by his librarii, and published. Atticus had apparently some other works of Cicero's in hand, for which he had sent him some "queries."
  10. Apparently the speech in the senate referred to in Letter XIV, spoken on 1st January, B.C. 62. Metellus had prevented his contio the day before.