Letters to Atticus/8.3


[1] A PREY to the gravest and most depressing anxieties, though I am precluded from discussing the question with you personally, I have, nevertheless, resolved to seek your advice. The whole question in debate is this: if Pompey quits Italy, which I suspect that he is about to do, what do you think I ought to do? To assist you in giving me advice, I will state briefly what occurs to my mind on either side.

[2] Pompey's very great services in securing my restoration and the intimacy existing between us, as well as the interests of the Republic themselves, lead me to the conclusion that my policy or, if you choose, my fortune must be united with his. Then there is this: if I stay here and desert that company of most loyal and illustrious citizens, I must come under the power of one man: and although he shews by many instances that he is well disposed to me—and you yourself know what precautions I took in that direction, because I suspected the storm that was hanging over our heads-yet I must look at the matter in two lights: first, how far I can trust him; and, secondly, however certain I may be that he will be my friend, whether it is the action of a brave man and a good citizen to remain in a city, in which, after having enjoyed the highest offices and commands, after having performed the most important services, and been invested with the most august priesthood, he is to become a mere name, 1 and to incur danger, not perchance unaccompanied by some disgrace, if Pompey ever restores the constitution.

[3] So much for that side. Now for the other. Our friend Pompey has shewn neither wisdom nor courage in anything that he has done: I may add that he has acted in every case against my counsel and advice. I put out of the question the old scores: how he fostered Caesar against the Republic, promoted, armed him; assisted him in the passing of laws by violence and against the auspices; supported the addition of farther Gaul to his provinces; married his daughter; acted as augur at the adoption of Publius Clodius; shewed greater zeal in effecting my recall than in preventing my exile; supported the extension of Caesar's provincial government; championed his cause at every point in his absence; actually in his third consulship, when he started being a defender of the constitution, yet urged the ten tribunes to propose the bill allowing Caesar's candidature in his absence; confirmed the same privilege in a certain law of his own, and resisted the consul Marcus Marcellus when he proposed to fix the end of Caesar's government on the 1st of March. 2 Well, to pass over all this, what could be more discreditable, more ill-considered, than this departure from the city, or I should rather call it this most shameful, most unprincipled flight? What terms could there be that were not preferable to the abandonment of one's country?

[4] The terms offered were bad. I confess it: but could anything be worse than this? But (you say) he will recover the Republic. When? What preparation has been made for realizing that hope? Is not Picenum lost? Is not the road to the city laid open? Is not all money public and private, handed over to his opponent? In fact, there is no cause to support, no forces to support it, no rallying point for those who wish the constitution maintained. Apulia has been selected, the most sparsely peopled district of Italy, and the most widely removed from the point of attack in this war: it is evident that, from sheer desperation, the object in view is flight and the facilities of a sea-coast. I undertook Capua with reluctance, not because I desired to shirk that duty, but because it was in a cause in which there was no openly expressed grievance on the part of the orders in the state or of private individuals, though there was some-far from keen, as usual—on the part of the Optimates; and because, as I saw for myself, the multitude and the lowest of the people were inclined to the other side, while many were eager simply for change. I told Pompey himself that I would undertake no duty without a guard and money. Accordingly, I had practically nothing to do at all, because, from the first, I saw that his sole object was flight. If I am to follow that flight now, whither am I to go? Not with him; for when I started to join him, I learnt that Caesar was in such a position that I could not reach Luceria safely. 3 I should have to sail by the Mare Inferum, without definite direction and in the worst possible weather. Again, am I to take my brother, or only my son without him, or how? Either alternative involves very great difficulty, and the keenest distress of mind. Again, what kind of attack will he employ against us and our property in our absence? Something more violent than in the case of others, for he will perhaps think that he has a chance of winning popularity by damaging us. Consider, again, these fetters—I mean my laurelled fasces—what a nuisance to carry them out of Italy! Moreover, what place, even suppose I enjoy a calm passage, will be safe for me till I reach Pompey? By what route, again, or whither to go, I have no idea.

[6] If, on the other hand, I keep my ground and find some footing on this side, I shall have done what L. Philippus did during the tyranny of Cinna, as well as L. Flaccus and Q. Mucius. Though it turned out unhappily in the case of the latter, 4 he used, nevertheless, to say that he foresaw the result (a result which did actually happen), but preferred it to approaching the walls of his native city in arms. Thrasybulus 5 acted differently and perhaps better. But yet there are good grounds for Mucius's line of policy and opinion, as well as for that of the other, namely, to temporize, when necessary, and not to let slip an opportunity when it is given. But even if I adopt this course, those same fasces involve a difficulty. For suppose he is my friend, which is uncertain, but suppose he is, he will offer me the triumph. Not to accept I fear will get me into trouble with him, to accept I fear will appear scandalous to the loyalists. "What a difficult and insoluble problem !" you say. And yet I must solve it. For what can possibly be done else? Don't think me more inclined to remain, because I have used more words on that side. It may very well be, as happens in many investigations, that one side has the superiority in words, the other in truth. Wherefore please give me your advice, on the understanding that I am considering a most important matter with impartiality. There is a vessel at Caieta ready for me, and another at Brundisium.

[7] But here come couriers, as I am in the act of writing these words at Cales before daybreak: here comes a letter stating that Caesar has reached Corfinium, that Domitius is inside Corfinium with a strong force eager to fight. I can't believe that our friend Gnaeus will go so far as to abandon Domitius, though he has sent Scipio in advance to Brundisium with two cohorts, and has written to the consuls saying that he wishes the legion enrolled by Faustus to be taken to Sicily by a consul. But it will be shameful if Domitius is abandoned when imploring to be relieved. There is a certain hope, no great one in my mind, but warmly entertained in these parts, that Afranius has fought a battle with Trebonius in the Pyrenees; that Trebonius has been repulsed; that your friend Fadius 6 also has come over with his cohorts. The chief hope, however, is that Afranius is on his way hither with large forces. If that is the case, we shall perhaps stay in Italy. However, since Caesar's line of march was uncertain, as he was thought to be intending to go either in the direction of Capua or Luceria, I am sending Lepta with a letter to Pompey, and am returning myself to Formiae to avoid falling in with anyone.

I wished you to know this, and I am writing in a somewhat quieter frame of mind than I mentioned just Now: my object being not to put forward a judgment of my own, but to ask yours.