Letters to his brother Quintus/3.4

Translated by Evelyn Shuckburgh

To Q. Tullius Cicero in GaulEdit

Rome, 24 October 54 BCEdit

Gabinius has been acquitted. Nothing could be more absolutely futile than his accuser, Lentulus, and the backers of the indictment, or more corrupt than the jury. Yet, after all, had it not been for incredible exertions and entreaties on Pompey's part, and even an alarming rumour of a dictatorship, he would not have been able to answer even Lentulus; for even as it was, with such an accuser and such a jury, he had thirty-two votes out of seventy recorded against him. This trial is altogether so scandalous, that he seems certain to be convicted in the other suits, especially in that for extortion. But you must see that the Republic, the senate, the law courts are mere ciphers, and that not one of us has any constitutional position at all. What else should I tell you about the jurors? Two men of praetorian rank were on the panel—Domitius Calvinus, who voted for acquittal so openly that everybody could see; and Cato, who, as soon as the voting tablets had been counted, withdrew from the ring of people, and was the first to tell Pompey the news. Some people—for instance, Sallust—say that I ought to have been the prosecuting counsel. Was I to have exposed myself to such a jury as this? What would have been my position, if he had escaped when I conducted the case? But there were other considerations which influenced me. Pompey would have looked upon it as a contest with me, not for that man's safety, but for his own position: he would have entered the city;[1] it would have become a downright quarrel; I should have seemed like a Pacideianus matched with the Samnite Aeserninus</ref>Two gladiators, one incomparably superior to the other.</ref>—he would, perhaps, have bitten off my ear,[2] and at least he would have become reconciled to Clodius. For my part, especially if you do not disapprove of it, I strongly approve my own policy. That great man, though his advancement had been promoted by unparalleled exertions on my part, and though I owed him nothing, while he owed me all, yet could not endure that I should differ from him in politics&mdashto put it mildly—and, when in a less powerful position, showed me what he could do against me when in my zenith. At this time of day, when I don't even care to be influential, and the Republic certainly has no power to do anything, while he is supreme in everything, was I to enter upon a contest with him? For that is what I should have had to have done. I do not think that you hold me bound to have undertaken it. "Then, as an alternative," says the grave Sallust, "you should have defended him, and have made that concession to Pompey's earnest wish, for he begged you very hard to do so." An ingenious friend is Sallust, to give me the alternative of a dangerous quarrel or undying infamy! I, however, am quite pleased with the middle course which I have steered; and another gratifying circumstance is that, when I had given my evidence with the utmost solemnity, in accordance with my honour and oath, the defendant said that, if he retained his right to remain in the city, he would repay me, and did not attempt to cross-question me.

As to the verses which you wish me to compose, it is true that I am deficient in industry in regard to them, which requires not only time, but also a mind free from all anxiety, but I am also wanting in inspiration. For I am not altogether without anxiety as to the coming year, though without fear. At the same time, and, upon my word, I speak without irony, I consider you a greater master of that style of writing than myself. As to filling up your Greek library, effecting interchanges of books, and purchasing Latin books, I should be very glad that your wishes should be carried out, especially as they would be very useful to me. But I have no one to employ for myself in such a business: for such books as are really worth getting are not for sale, and purchases cannot be effected except by an agent who is both well-informed and active. However, I will give orders to Chrysippus and speak to Tyrannio. I will inquire what Scipio has done about the treasury. I will see that what seems to be the right thing is done. As to Ascanio, do what you like: I shall not interfere. As to a suburban property, I commend your not being in a hurry, but I advise your having one. I write this on the 24th of October, the day of the opening of the games, on the point of starting for my Tusculan villa, and taking my dear young Cicero with me as though to school (a school not for sport, but for learning), since I did not wish to be at any greater distance from town, because I purposed supporting Pomptinus's[3] claim of a triumph on the 3rd of November. For there will be, in fact, some little difficulty; as the praetors, Cato and Servilius,[4] threaten to forbid it, though I don't know what they can do. For he will have on his side Appius the consul, some praetors and tribunes. Still, they do threaten—and among the foremost Q. Scaevola, "breathing war."[5] Most delightful and dearest of brothers, take good care of your health.


  1. Pompey was outside the pomerium (ad Romam) as having imperium.
  2. A proverbial expression, cp. "snapped my nose off."
  3. C. Pomptinus, praetor in 63 BC (when he had supported Cicero), was afterwards employed against the Allobroges as propraetor of Narbonensis (61 BC). He had been, ever since leaving his province (? 58 BC), urging his claim to a triumph. He obtained it now by the contrivance of the praetor Serv. Sulpicius Galba, who got a vote passed by the comitia before daybreak, which was unconstitutional (Dio, 39, 65).
  4. P. Servilius Vatia Isauricus (consul B.C. 48) was an admirer of Cato..
  5. Arê pneôn.