Letters to Atticus/2.7

Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus at RomeEdit

Antium, April 59 BCEdit

About the geography I will think again and again. But you ask for two of my speeches, one of which I did not care to write out because I had ended it abruptly, the other because I did not want to praise the man I did not like. But that, too, I will see about. At all events, something shall be forth-coming to prevent your thinking that I have been absolutely idle. I am quite delighted to hear what you tell me about Publius; pray ferret out the whole story, and bring it to me you when come, and meanwhile write anything you may make out or suspect, and especially as to what he is going to do about the legation. For my part, before reading your letter, I was anxious that the fellow should go, not, by heaven, in order to avoid his impeachment—for I am wonderfully keen to try issues with him—but it seemed to me that, if he had secured any popularity by becoming a plebeian, he would thereby lose it. "Well, why did you transfer yourself to the Plebs? Was it to make a call on Tigranes? Tell me: do the kings of Armenia refuse to receive patricians?" In a word, I had polished up my weapons to teat this embassy of his to pieces. But if he rejects it, and thus moves the anger of those proposers and augurs of the lex curiata,[1] it will be a fine sight! By Hercules, to speak the truth, our friend Publius is being treated a little contemptuously! In the first place, though he was once the only man at Caesar's house, he is not now allowed to be one in twenty:[2] in the next place, one legation had been promised him and another has been given. The former fine fat one[3] for the levying of money is reserved, I presume, for Drusus of Pisaurum or for the gourmand Vatinius: this latter miserable business, which might be very well done by a courier, is given to him, and his tribuneship deferred till it suits them. Irritate the fellow, I beg you, as much as you can. The one hope of safety is their mutual disagreement, the beginning of which I have got scent of from Curio. Moreover, Arrius is fuming at being cheated out of the consulship. Megabocchus and our blood-thirsty young men are most violently hostile. May there be added to this, I pray, may there be added, this quarrel about the augurate! I hope I shall often have some fine letters to send you on these subjects. But I want to know the meaning of your dark hint that some even of the quinqueviri[4] are speaking out. What can it be? If there is anything in it, there is more hope than I had thought. And I would not have you believe that I ask you these questions "with any view to action,"[5] because my heart is yearning to take part in practical politics. I was long ago getting tired of being at the helm, even when it was in my power. And now that I am forced to quit the ship, and have not cast aside the tiller, but have had it wrenched out of my hands; my only wish is to watch their shipwreck from the shore: I desire, in the words of your favourite Sophocles,

And safe beneath the roof
To hear with drowsy ear the plash of rain.

As to the wall, see to what is necessary. I will correct the mistake of Castricius, and yet Quintus had made it in his letter to me 15,000, while now to your sister he makes it 30,000.[6] Terentia sends you her regards: my boy Cicero commissions you to give Aristodemus the same answer for him as you gave for his cousin, your sister's son.[7] I will not neglect your reminder about your Amaltheia.[8] Take care of your health.


  1. As he was a man sui iuris, Clodius's adoption into a new gens (adrogatio) would have to take place before the comitia curiata (now represented by thirty lictors), which still retained this formal business. The ceremony required the presence of an augur and a pontifex to hold it. Cicero supposes Pompey and Caesar as intending to act in that capacity. Pompey, it seems, did eventually attend.
  2. One of the twenty commissioners under Caesar's agrarian law. Cicero was offered and declined a place among them. The "only man," of course, refers to the intrusion on the mysteries.
  3. To Egypt.
  4. This seems also to refer to the twenty agrarian commissioners, who, according to Mommsen, were divided into committees of five, and were, therefore, spoken of indifferently as quinqueviri and vigintiviri. But it is somewhat uncertain.
  5. kata to praktikon.
  6. Castricius seems to have been a negotiator or banker in Asia. We don't know what mistake is refened to; probably as to some money transmitted to Pomponius.
  7. It is suggested that Aristodemus is some teacher of the two young Ciceros, to whom the young Marcus wishes to apologize for his absence or to promise some study.
  8. Perhaps some inscription or other ornament for Atticus's gymnasiusn in his villa at Buthrotum.