Letters to Atticus/2.9

Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Atticus at RomeEdit

Antium, May 59 BCEdit

Caecilius[1] the quaestor having suddenly informed me that he was sending a slave to Rome, I write these hurried lines in order to get out of you the wonderful conversations with Publius, both those of which you write, and that one which you keep dark, and assert that it would be too long to write your answer to him; and, still farther, the one that has not yet been held, which that Iuno of a woman[2] is to report to you when she gets back from Solonium. I wish you to believe that there can be nothing I should like more. If, however, the compact made about me is not kept, I am in a seventh heaven to think that our friend the Jerusalemitish plebeian-maker[3] will learn what a fine return he has made to my brilliant speeches, of which you may expect a splendid recantation. For, as well as I can guess, if that profligate is in favour with our tyrants, he will be able to crow not only over the "cynic consular,"[4] but over your Tritons of the fish-ponds also.[5] For I shall not possibly be an object of anybody's jealousy when robbed of power and of my influence in the senate. If, on the other hand, he should quarrel with them, it will not suit his purpose to attack me. However, let him attack. Charmingly, believe me, and with less noise than I had thought, has the wheel of the Republic revolved more rapidly, anyhow, than it should have done owing to Cato's error, but still more owing to the unconstitutional conduct of those who have neglected the auspices, the Aelian law, the Iunian, the Licinian, the Caecilian and Didian,[6] who have squandered all the safeguards of the constitution, who have handed over kingdoms as though they were private estates to tetrarchs,[7] and immense sums of money to a small coterie. I see plainly now the direction popular jealousy is taking, and where it will finally settle. Believe that I have learnt nothing from experience, nothing from Theophrastus,[8] if you don't shortly see the time of our government an object of regret. For if the power of the senate was disliked, what do you think will be the case when it has passed, not to the people, but to three unscrupulous men? So let them then make whom they choose consuls, tribunes, and even finally clothe Vatinius's men with the double-dyed purple[9] of the priesthood, you will see before long that the great men will be not only those who have made no false step,[10] but even he who did make a mistake, Cato. For, as to myself, if your comrade Publius will let me, I think of playing the sophist: if he forces me, I shall at least defend myself, and, as is the trick of my trade, I publicly promise to

Strike back at him who first is wroth with me.[11]

May the country only be on my side: it has had from me, if not more than its due, at least more than it ever demanded. I would rather have a bad passage with another pilot than be a successful pilot to such ungrateful passengers. But this will do better when we meet. For the present take an answer to your questions. I think of returning to Antium from Formiae on the 3rd of May. From Antium I intend to start for Tuscuium on the 7th of May. But as soon as I have returned from Formiae (I intend to be there till the 29th of April) I will at once inform you. Terentia sends compliments, and "Cicero the little greets Titus the Athenian."[12]


  1. Q Caecilius Bassus, probably quaestor at Ostia. Antium would be in his district.
  2. Boôpis, sc. Clodia. She is to talk to her brother about Cicero. She is "Iuno" perhaps as an enemy—as Bacon called the Duchess of Burgundy Henry VII.'s a Iuno—or perhaps for a less decent reason, as coniux sororque of Publius.
  3. Pompey, who was proud of having taken Jerusalem. Traductor ad plebem, said of the magistrate presiding at the comitia for adoption.
  4. Cicero himself. Clodius may have called him this from his biting repartees. Prof. Tyrrell, "Tear 'em."
  5. The nobility, whom Cicero has before attacked as idle and caring for nothing but their fish-ponds (piscinarii, cp. XXV).
  6. The lex Aelia (about B.C. 150) was a law regulating the powers of magistrates to dissolve comitia on religious grounds, such as bad omens, servata de caelo, etc. Cicero (who could have had very little belief in the augural science) regards them as safeguards of the state, because as the Optimates generally secured the places in the augural college, it gave them a hold on elections and legislation. Bibulus tried in vain to use these powers to thwart Caesar this year. The lex Caeclia Didia (B.C. 98) enforced the trinundinatio, or three weeks' notice of elections and laws, and forbade the proposal of a lex sacra, i.e., a law containing a number of miscellaneous enactments. Perhaps its violation refers to the acta of Pompey in the East, which he wanted to have confirmed en bloc. The senate had made difficulties: but one of the fruits of the triumvirate was a measure for doing it. The lex Iunia et Licinia (B.C. 62) confirmed the Caecilia Didia, and secured that the people knew what the proposed laws were.
  7. As Pompey did in Asia, e.g., to Deiotarus of Galatia, and about ten others. It is curious that Cicero speaks of the pauci just as his opponent Caesar and Augustus after him. Each side looks on the other as a coterie (Caesar, B.C. 1.22; Monum. Ancyr. 1.1).
  8. Theophrastus, successor of Aristotle at the Lyceum, Athens (Letter XXVIII).
  9. The purple-bordered toga of the augur. Vatinius did not get the augurship. He had some disfiguring swelling or wen.
  10. Himself.
  11. andr' apamunasthai, hote tis proteros chalepênêi. (Hom. 51.24.369).
  12. Written in Greek, perhaps by the boy himself.