Home  »  Letters  »  VI. To His Brother Quintus (On His Way to Rome)

Cicero. (106 B.C.–43 B.C.). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Thessalonica, 15 June

VI. To His Brother Quintus (On His Way to Rome)

BROTHER! Brother! Brother! did you really fear that I had been induced by some angry feeling to send slaves to you without a letter? Or even that I did not wish to see you? I to be angry with you! Is it possible for me to be angry with you? Why, one would think that it was you that brought me low! Your enemies, your unpopularity, that miserably ruined me, and not I that unhappily ruined you! The fact is, the much-praised consulate of mine has deprived me of you, of children, country, fortune; from you I should hope it will have taken nothing but myself. Certainly on your side I have experienced nothing but what was honourable and gratifying: on mine you have grief for my fall and fear for your own, regret, mourning, desertion. I not wish to see you? The truth is rather that I was unwilling to be seen by you. For you would not have seen your brother—not the brother you had left, not the brother you knew, not him to whom you had with mutual tears bidden farewell as he followed you on your departure for your province: not a trace even or faint image of him but rather what I may call the likeness of a living corpse. And oh, that you had sooner seen me or heard of me as a corpse! Oh, that I could have left you to survive, not my life merely, but my undiminished rank! But I call all the gods to witness that the one argument which recalled me from death was, that all declared that to some extent your life depended upon mine. In which matter I made an error and acted culpably. For if I had died, that death itself would have given clear evidence of my fidelity and love to you. As it is, I have allowed you to be deprived of my aid, though I am alive, and with me still living to need the help of others; and my voice, of all others, to fail when dangers threatened my family, which had so often been successfully used in the defence of the merest strangers. For as to the slaves coming to you without a letter, the real reason (for you see that it was not anger) was a deadness of my faculties, and a seemingly endless deluge of tears and sorrows. How many tears do you suppose these very words have cost me? As many as I know they will cost you to read them! Can I ever refrain from thinking of you or ever think of you without tears? For when I miss you, is it only a brother that I miss? Rather, it is a brother of almost my own age in the charm of his companionship, a son in his consideration for my wishes, a father in the wisdom of his advice! What pleasure did I ever have without you, or you without me? And what must my case be when at the same time I miss a daughter: How affectionate! how modest! how clever! The express image of my face, of my speech, of my very soul! Or again a son, the prettiest boy, the very joy of my heart? Cruel, inhuman monster that I am, I dismissed him from my arms better schooled in the world than I could have wished: for the poor child began to understand what was going on. So, to, your own son, your own image, whom my little Cicero loved as a brother, and was now beginning to respect as an elder brother! Need I mention also how I refused to allow my unhappy wife—the truest of helpmates—to accompany me, that there might be someone to protect the wrecks of the calamity which had fallen on us both, and guard our common children? Nevertheless, to the best of my ability, I did write a letter to you, and gave it to your freedman Philogonus, which, I believe, was delivered to you later on; and in this I repeat the advice and entreaty, which had been already transmitted to you as a message from me by my slaves, that you should go on with your journey and hasten to Rome. For, in the first place, I desired your protection, in case there were any of my enemies whose cruelty was not yet satisfied by my fall. In the next place, I dreaded the renewed lamentation which our meeting would cause: while I could not have borne your departure, and was afraid of the very thing you mention in your letter—that you would be unable to tear yourself away. For these reasons the supreme pain of not seeing you—and nothing more painful or more wretched could, I think, have happened to the most affectionate and united of brothers—was a less misery than would have been such a meeting followed by such a parting. Now, if you can, though I, whom you always regarded as a brave man, cannot do so, rouse yourself and collect your energies in view of any contest you may have to confront. I hope, if my hope has anything to go upon, that your own spotless character and the love of your fellow citizens, and even remorse for my treatment, may prove a certain protection to you. But if it turns out that you are free from personal danger, you will doubtless do whatever you think can be done for me. In that matter, indeed, many write to me at great length and declare they have hopes; but I personally cannot see what hope there is, since my enemies have the greatest influence, while my friends have in some cases deserted, in others even betrayed me, fearing perhaps in my restoration a censure on their own treacherous conduct. But how matters stand with you I would have you ascertain and report to me. In any case I shall continue to live as long as you shall need me, in view of any danger you may have to undergo: longer than that I cannot go in this kind of life. For there is neither wisdom nor philosophy with sufficient strength to sustain such a weight of grief. I know that there has been a time for dying, more honourable and more advantageous; and this is not the only one of my many omissions; which if I should choose to bewail, I should merely be increasing your sorrow and emphasizing my own stupidity. But one thing I am not bound to do, and it is in fact impossible—remain in a life so wretched and so dishonoured any longer than your necessities, or some well-grounded hope, shall demand. For I, who was lately supremely blessed in brother, children, wife, wealth, and in the very nature of that wealth, while in position, influence, reputation, and popularity, I was inferior to none, however distinguished—I cannot, I repeat, go on longer lamenting over myself and those dear to me in a life of such humiliation as this, and in a state of such utter ruin. Wherefore, what do you mean by writing to me about negotiating a bill of exchange? As though I were not now wholly dependent on your means! And that is just the very thing in which I see and feel, to my misery, of what a culpable act I have been guilty in squandering to no purpose the money which I received from the treasury in your name, while you have to satisfy your creditors out of the very vitals of yourself and your son. However, the sum mentioned in your letter has been paid to M. Antonius, and the same amount to Cæpio. For me the sum at present in my hands is sufficient for what I contemplate doing. For in either case—whether I am restored or given up in despair—I shall not want any more money. For yourself, if you are molested, I think you should apply to Crassus and Calidius. I don’t know how far Hortensius is to be trusted. Myself, with the most elaborate presence of affection and the closest daily intimacy, he treated with the most utter want of principle and the most consummate treachery, and Q. Arrius helped him in it: acting under whose advice, promises, and injunctions, I was left helpless to fall into this disaster. But this you will keep dark for fear they might injure you. Take care also—and it is on this account that I think you should cultivate Hortensius himself by means of Pomponius—that the epigram on the lex Aurelia attributed to you when candidate for the ædileship is not proved by false testimony to be yours. For there is nothing that I am so afraid of as that, when people understand how much pity for me your prayers and your acquittal will rouse, they may attack you with all the greater violence. Messalla I reckon as really attached to you: Pompey I regard as still pretending only. But may you never have to put these things to the test! And that prayer I would have offered to the gods had they not ceased to listen to prayers of mine. However, I do pray that they may be content with these endless miseries of ours; among which, after all, there is no discredit for any wrong thing done—sorrow is the beginning and end, sorrow that punishment is most severe when our conduct has been most unexceptionable. As to my daughter and yours and my young Cicero, why should I recommend them to you, my dear brother? Rather I grieve that their orphan state will cause you no less sorrow than it does me. Yet as long as you are uncondemned they will not be fatherless. The rest, by my hopes of restoration and the privilege of dying in my fatherland, my tears will not allow me to write! Terentia also I would ask you to protect, and to write me word on every subject. Be as brave as the nature of the case admits.  1
  Thessalonica, 13 June.  2