Home  »  Letters  »  XIX. To Atticus (In Epirus)

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

Laodicea, 22 February

XIX. To Atticus (In Epirus)

I RECEIVED your letter on the fifth day before the Terminalia (19th of February) at Laodicea. I was delighted to read it, for it teemed with affection, kindness, and an active and obliging temper. I will, therefore, answer it sentence by sentence—for such is your request—and I will not introduce an arrangement of my own, but will follow your order.  1
  You say that the last letter you had of mine was from Cybistra, dated 21st September, and you want to know which of yours I have received. Nearly all you mention, except the one that you say that you delivered to Lentulus’ messengers at Equotuticus and Brundisium. Wherefore your industry has not been thrown away, as you fear, but has been exceedingly well laid out, if, that is to say, your object was to give me pleasure. For I have never been more delighted with anything. I am exceedingly glad that you approve of my self restraint in the case of Appius, and of my independence even in the case of Brutus: and I had thought that it might be somewhat otherwise. For Appius, in the course of his journey, had sent me two or three rather querulous letters, because I rescinded some of his decisions. It is exactly as if a doctor, upon a patient having been placed under another doctor, should choose to be angry with the latter if he changed some of his prescriptions. Thus Appius, having treated the province on the system of depletion, bleeding, and removing everything he could, and having handed it over to me in the last state of exhaustion, he cannot bear seeing it treated by me on the nutritive system. Yet he is sometimes angry with me, at other times thanks me; for nothing I ever do is accompanied with any reflexion upon him. It is only the dissimilarity of my system that annoys him. For what could be a more striking difference—under his rule a province drained by charges for maintenance and by losses, under mine, not a penny exacted either from private persons or public bodies? Why speak of his præfecti, staff, and legates? Or even of acts of plunder, licentiousness, and insult? While as things actually are, no private house, by Hercules, is governed with so much system, or on such strict principles, nor is so well disciplined, as is my whole province. Some of Appius’ friends put a ridiculous construction on this, holding that I wish for a good reputation to set off his bad one, and act rightly, not for the sake of my own credit, but in order to cast a reflexion upon him. But if Appius, as Brutus’ letter forwarded by you indicated, expresses gratitude to me, I am satisfied. Nevertheless, this very day on which I write this, before dawn, I am thinking of rescinding many of his inequitable appointments and decisions.  2
  I now come to Brutus, whose friendship I embraced with all possible earnestness on your advice. I had even begun to feel genuine affection for him—but here I pull myself up short, lest I should offend you: for don’t imagine that there is anything I wish more than to fulfil his commissions, or that there is anything about which I have taken more trouble. Now he gave me a volume of commissions, and you had already spoken with me about the same matters. I have pushed them on with the greatest energy. To begin with, I put such pressure on Ariobarzanes, that he paid him the talents which he promised me. As long as the king was with me, the business was in excellent train: later on he began to be pressed by countless agents of Pompey. Now Pompey has by himself more influence than all the rest put together for many reasons, and especially because there is an idea that he is coming to undertake the Parthian war. However, even he has to put up with the following scale of payment: on every thirtieth day thirty-three Attic talents (£7,920), and that raised by special taxes: nor is it sufficient for the monthly interest. But our friend Gnæus is an easy creditor: he stands out of his capital, is content with the interest, and even that not in full. The king neither pays anyone else, nor is capable of doing so: for he has no treasury, no regular income. He levies taxes after the method of Appius. They scarcely produce enough to satisfy Pompey’s interest. The king has two or three very rich friends, but they stick to their own as energetically as you or I. For my part, nevertheless, I do not cease sending letters asking, urging, chiding the king. Deiotarus also has informed me that he has sent emissaries to him on Brutus’ business: that they have brought him back word that he has not got the money. And, by Hercules, I believe it is the case; nothing can be stripped cleaner than his kingdom, or be more needy than the king. Accordingly, I am thinking either of renouncing my guardianship, or, as Scævola did on behalf of Glabrio, of stopping payment altogether—principal and interest alike. However, I have conferred the prefectures which I promised Brutus through you on M. Scaptius and L. Gavius, who were acting as Brutus’ agents in the kingdom: for they were not carrying on business in my own province. You will remember that I made that condition, that he might have as many prefectures as he pleased, so long as it was not for a man in business. Accordingly, I have given him two others besides: but the men for whom he asked them had left the province. Now for the case of the Salaminians, which I see came upon you also as a novelty, as it did upon me. For Brutus never told me that the money was his own. Nay, I have his own document containing the words, “The Salaminians owe my friends M. Scaptius and P. Matinius a sum of money.” He recommends them to me: he even adds, as though by way of a spur to me, that he has gone surety for them to a large amount. I had succeeded in arranging that they should pay with interest for six years at the rate of twelve per cent., and added yearly to the capital sum. But Scaptius demanded forty-eight per cent. I was afraid, if he got that, you yourself would cease to have any affection for me. For I should have receded from my own edict, and should have utterly ruined a state which was under the protection not only of Cato, but also of Brutus himself, and had been the recipient of favours from myself. When lo and behold! at this very juncture Scaptius comes down upon me with a letter from Brutus, stating that his own property is being imperilled—a fact that Brutus had never told either me or you. He also begged that I would confer a prefecture on Scaptius. That was the very reservation that I had made to you—“not to a man in business”: and if to anyone, to such a man as that—no! For he has been a præfectus to Appius, and had, in fact, had some squadrons of cavalry, with which he had kept the senate under so close a siege in their own council chamber at Salamis, that five senators died of starvation. Accordingly, the first day of my entering my province, Cyprian legates having already visited me at Ephesus, I sent orders for the cavalry to quit the island at once. For these reasons I believe Scaptius has written some unfavourable remarks about me to Brutus. However, my feeling is this: if Brutus holds that I ought to have decided in favour of forty-eight per cent., though throughout my province I have only recognized twelve per cent., and had laid down that rule in my edict with the assent even of the most grasping money-lenders; if he complains of my refusal of a prefecture to a man in business, which I refused to our friend Torquatus in the case of your protege Lænius, and to Pompey himself in the case of Sext. Statius, without offending either of them; if, finally, he is annoyed at my recall of the cavalry, I shall indeed feel some distress at his being angry with me, but much greater distress at finding him not to be the man that I had thought him. Thus much Scaptius will own—that he had the opportunity in my court of taking away with him the whole sum allowed by my edict. I will add a fact which I fear you may not approve. The interest ought to have ceased to run (I mean the interest allowed by my edict) but I induced the Salaminians to say nothing about that. They gave in to me, it is true, but what will become of them if Paullus comes here? However, I have granted all this in favour of Brutus, who writes very kind letters to you about me, but to me myself, even when he has a favour to ask, writes usually in a tone of hauteur, arrogance, and offensive superiority. You, however, I hope will write to him on this business in order that I may know how he takes what I have done. For you will tell me. I have, it is true, written you a full and careful account in a former letter, but I wished you clearly to understand that I had not forgotten what you had said to me in one of your letters: that if I brought home from this province nothing else except his good will, I should have done enough. By all means, since you will have it so: but I assume my dealings with him to be without breach of duty on my part. Well, then, by my decree the payment of the money to Statius is good at law: whether that is just you must judge for yourself—I will not appeal even to Cato. But don’t think that I have cast your exhortations to the winds: they have sunk deeply into my mind. With tears in your eyes you urged me to be careful of my reputation. Have I ever got a letter from you without the same subject being mentioned? So, then, let who will be angry, I will endure it: “for the right is on my side,” especially as I have given six books as bail, so to speak, for my good conduct. I am very glad you like them, though in one point—about Cn. Flavius, son of Annius—you question my history. He, it is true, did not live before the decemvirs, for he was curule ædile, an office created many years after the decemvirs. What good did he do, then, by publishing the Fasti? It is supposed that the tablet containing them had been kept concealed up to a certain date, in order that information as to days for doing business might have to be sought from a small coterie. And indeed several of our authorities relate that a scribe named Cn. Flavius published the Fasti and composed forms of pleading—so don’t imagine that I, or rather Africanus (for he is the spokesman), invented the fact. So you noticed the remark about the “action of an actor,” did you? You suspect a malicious meaning: I wrote in all simplicity.  3
  You say that Philotimus told you about my having been saluted imperator. But I feel sure that, as you are now in Epirus, you have received my own letters on the whole subject, one from Pindenissus after its capture, another from Laodicea, both delivered to your own messengers. On these events, for fear of accidents at sea, I sent a public despatch to Rome in duplicate by two different letter-carriers.  4
  As to my Tullia, I agree with you, and I have written to her and to Terentia giving my consent. For you have already said in a previous letter to me, “and I could wish that you had returned to your old set.” There was no occasion to alter the letter you sent by Memmius: for I much prefer to accept this man from Pontidia, than the other from Servilia. Wherefore take our friend Saufeius into council. He was always fond of me, and now I suppose all the more so as he is bound to have accepted Appius’ affection for me with the rest of the property he has inherited. Appius often showed how much he valued me, and especially in the trial of Bursa. Indeed you will have relieved me of a serious anxiety.  5
  I don’t like Furnius’ proviso. For, in fact, there is no state of things that alarms me except just that of which he makes the only exception. But I should have written at great length to you on this subject if you had been at Rome. I don’t wonder that you rest all your hope of peace on Pompey: I believe that is the truth, and in my opinion you must strike out your word “insincerity.” If my arrangement of topics is somewhat random, blame yourself: for I am following your own haphazard order.  6
  My son and nephew are very fond of each other. They take their lessons and their exercise together; but as Isocrates said of Ephorus and Theopompus, the one wants the rein, the other the spur. I intend giving Quintus the toga virilis on the Liberalia. For his father commissioned me to do so. And I shall observe the day without taking intercalation into account. I am very fond of Dionysius: the boys, however, say that he gets into mad passions. But after all there could not be a man of greater learning, purer character, or more attached to you and me. The praises you hear of Thermus and Silius are thoroughly deserved: they conduct themselves in the most honourable manner. You may say the same of M. Nonius, Bibulus, and myself, if you like. I only wish Scrofa had had an opportunity to do the same: for he is an excellent fellow. The rest don’t do much honour to Cato’s policy. Many thanks for commending my case to Hortensius. As for Amianus, Dionysius thinks there is no hope. I haven’t found a trace of Terentius. Moeragenes has certainly been killed. I made a progress through his district, in which there was not a single living thing left. I didn’t know about this, when I spoke to your man Democritus. I have ordered the service of Rhosian ware. But, hallo! what are you thinking of? You generally serve us up a dinner of herbs on fern-pattern plates, and the most sparkling of baskets: what am I to expect you to give on porcelain? I have ordered a horn for Phemius: one will be sure to turn up; I only hope he may play something worthy of it.  7
  There is a threat of a Parthian war. Cassius’ despatch was empty brag: that of Bibulus had not arrived: when that is read I think the senate will at length be roused. I am myself in serious anxiety. If, as I hope, my government is not prolonged, I have only June and July to fear. May it be so! Bibulus will keep them in check for two months. What will happen to the man I leave in charge, especially if it is my brother? Or, again, what will happen to me, if I don’t leave my province so soon? It is a great nuisance. However, I have agreed with Deiotarus that he should join my camp in full force. He has thirty cohorts of four hundred men apiece, armed in the Roman fashion, and two thousand cavalry. That will be sufficient to hold out till the arrival of Pompey, who in a letter he writes to me indicates that the business will be put in his hands. The Parthians are wintering in a Roman province. Orodes is expected in person. In short, it is a serious matter. As to Bibulus’ edict, there is nothing new, except the proviso of which you said in your letter, “that it reflected with excessive severity on our order.” I, however, have a proviso in my own edict of equivalent force, but less openly expressed (derived from the Asiatic edict of Q. Mucius, son of Publius)—“provided that the agreement made is not such as cannot hold good in equity.” I have followed Scævola in many points, among others in this—which the Greeks regard as a charta of liberty—that Greeks are to decide controversies between each other according to their own laws. But my edict was shortened by my method of making a division, as I thought it well to publish it under two heads: the first, exclusively applicable to a province, concerned borough accounts, debt, rate of interest, contracts, all regulations also referring to the publicani: the second, including what cannot conveniently be transacted without an edict, related to inheritances, ownership and sale, appointment of receivers, all which are by custom brought into court and settled in accordance with the edict: a third division, embracing the remaining departments of judicial business, I left unwritten. I gave out that in regard to that class of business I should accommodate my decisions to those made at Rome: I accordingly do so, and give general satisfaction. The Greeks, indeed, are jubilant because they have non-Roman jurors. “Yes,” you will say, “a very poor kind.” What does that matter? They, at any rate, imagine themselves to have obtained “autonomy.” You at Rome, I suppose, have men of high character in that capacity—Turpio the shoemaker and Vettius the broker! You seem to wish to know how I treat the publicani. I pet, indulge, compliment, and honour them: I contrive, however, that they oppress no one. The most surprising thing is that even Servilius maintained the rates of usury entered on their contracts. My line is this: I name a day fairly distant, before which, if they have paid, I give out that I shall recognize only twelve per cent: if they have not paid, the rate shall be according to the contract. The result is that the Greeks pay at a reasonable rate of interest, and the publicani are thoroughly satisfied by receiving in full measure what I mentioned—complimentary speeches and frequent invitations. Need I say more? They are all on such terms with me that each thinks himself my most intimate friend. However, [Greek]—you know the rest.  8
  As to the statue of Africanus—what a mass of confusion! But that was just what interested me in your letter. Do you really mean it? Does the present Metellus Scipio not know that his great-grandfather was never censor? Why, the statue placed at a high elevation in the temple of Ops had no inscription except CENS, while on the statue near the Hercules of Polycles there is also the inscription CENS, and that this is the statue of the same man is proved by attitude, dress, ring, and the likeness itself. But, by Hercules, when I observed in the group of gilded equestrian statues, placed by the present Metellus on the Capitol, a statue of Africanus with the name of Serapio inscribed under it, I thought it a mistake of the workman. I now see that it is an error of Metellus’. What a shocking historical blunder! For that about Flavius and the Fasti, if it is a blunder, is one shared in by all, and you were quite right to raise the question. I followed the opinion which runs through nearly all historians, as is often the case with Greek writers. For example, do they not all say that Eupolis, the poet of the old comedy, was thrown into the sea by Alcibiades on his voyage to Sicily? Eratosthenes disproves it: for he produces some plays exhibited by him after that date. Is that careful historian, Duris of Samos, laughed out of court because he, in common with many others, made this mistake? Has not, again, every writer affirmed that Zaleucus drew up a constitution for the Locrians? Are we on that account to regard Theophrastus as utterly discredited, because your favourite Timæus attacked his statement? But not to know that one’s own great-grandfather was never censor is discreditable, especially as since his consulship no Cornelius was censor in his lifetime.  9
  As to what you say about Philotimus and the payment of the 20,600 sestertia, I hear that Philotimus arrived in the Chersonese about the 1st of January: but as yet I have not had a word from him. The balance due to me Camillus writes me word that he has received; I don’t know how much it is, and I am anxious to know. However, we will talk of this later on, and with greater advantage, perhaps, when we meet?  10
  But, my dear Atticus, that sentence almost at the end of your letter gave me great uneasiness. For you say, “What else is there to say?” and then you go on to entreat me in most affectionate terms not to forget my vigilance, and to keep my eyes on what is going on. Have you heard anything about anyone? I am sure nothing of the sort has taken place. No, no, it can’t be! It would never have eluded my notice, nor will it. Yet that reminder of yours, so carefully worded, seems to suggest something.  11
  As to M. Octavius, I hereby again repeat that your answer was excellent: I could have wished it a little more positive still. For Cælius has sent me a freedman and a carefully written letter about some panthers and also a grant from the states. I have written back to say that, as to the latter, I am much vexed if my course of conduct is still obscure, and if it is not known at Rome that not a penny has been exacted from my province except for the payment of debt; and I have explained to him that it is improper both for me to solicit the money and for him to receive it; and I have advised him (for I am really attached to him) that, after prosecuting others, he should be extra-careful as to his own conduct. As to the former request, I have said that it is inconsistent with my character that the people of Cibyra should hunt at the public expense while I am governor.  12
  Lepta jumps for joy at your letter. It is indeed prettily written, and has placed me in a very agreeable light in his eyes. I am much obliged to your little daughter for so earnestly bidding you send me her love. It is very kind of Pilia also; but your daughter’s kindness is the greater, because she sends the message to one she has never seen. Therefore pray give my love to both in return. The day on which your letter was dated, the last day of December, reminded me pleasantly of that glorious oath of mine, which I have not forgotten. I was a civilian Magnus on that day.  13
  There’s your letter completely answered! Not as you were good enough to ask, with “gold for bronze,” but tit for tat. Oh, but here is another little note, which I will not leave unanswered. Lucceius, on my word, could get a good price for his Tusculan property, unless, perchance, his flute-player is a fixture (for that’s his way), and I should like to know in what condition it is. Our friend Lentulus, I hear, has advertised everything for sale except his Tusculan property. I should like to see these men cleared of their embarrassments, Cestius also, and you may add Cælius, to all of whom the line applies,
        “Ashamed to shrink and yet afraid to take.”
I suppose you have heard of Curio’s plan for recalling Memmius. Of the debt due from Egnatius of Sidicinum I am not without some hope, though it is a feeble one. Pinarius, whom you recommended to me, is seriously ill, and is being very carefully looked after by Deiotarus. So there’s the answer to your note also.
  Pray talk to me on paper as frequently as possible while I am at Laodicea, where I shall be up to the 15th of May: and when you reach Athens at any rate send me letter-carriers, for by that time we shall know about the business in the city and the arrangements as to the provinces, the settlement of all which has been fixed for March.  15
  But look here! Have you yet wrung out of Cæsar by the agency of Herodes the fifty Attic talents? In that matter you have, I hear, roused great wrath on the part of Pompey. For he thinks that you have snapped up money rightly his, and that Cæsar will be no less lavish in his building at the Nemus Dianæ.  16
  I was told all this by P. Vedius, a hare-brained fellow enough, but yet an intimate friend of Pompey’s. This Vedius came to meet me with two chariots, and a carriage and horses, and a sedan, and a large suite of servants, for which last, if Curio has carried his law, he will have to pay a toll of a hundred sestertii apiece. There was also in a chariot a dog-headed baboon, as well as some wild asses. I never saw a more extravagant fool. But the cream of the whole is this: He stayed at Laodicea with Pompeius Vindullus. There he deposited his properties when coming to see me. Meanwhile Vindullus dies, and his property is supposed to revert to Pompeius Magnus. Gaius Vennonius comes to Vindullus’ house: when, while putting a seal on all goods, he comes across the baggage of Vedius. In this are found five small portrait busts of married ladies, among which is one of the wife of your friend—“brute,” indeed, to be intimate with such a fellow! and of the wife of Lepidus—as easy-going as his name to take this so calmly! I wanted you to know these historiettes by the way; for we have both a pretty taste in gossip. There is one other thing I should like you to turn over in your mind. I am told that Appius is building a propylæum at Eleusis. Should I be foolishly vain if I also built one at the Academy? “I think so,” you will say. Well, then, write and tell me that that is your opinion. For myself, I am deeply attached to Athens itself. I would like some memorial of myself to exist. I loathe sham inscriptions on statues really representing other people. But settle it as you please, and be kind enough to inform me on what day the Roman mysteries fall, and how you have passed the winter. Take care of your health. Dated the 765th day since the battle of Leuctra!  17