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

Rome (October)

XV. To P. Lentulus Spinther (In Cilicia)

M. CICERO desires his warmest regards to P. Lentulus, imperator. Your letter was very gratifying to me, from which I gather that you fully appreciated my devotion to you: for why use the word “kindness,” when even the word “devotion” itself, with all its solemn and holy associations, seems too weak to express my obligations to you? As for your saying that my services to you are gratefully accepted, it is you who in your overflowing affection make things, which cannot be omitted without criminal negligence, appear deserving of even gratitude. However, my feelings towards you would have been much more fully known and conspicuous, if, during all this time that we have been separated, we had been together, and together at Rome. For precisely in what you declare your intention of doing—what no one is more capable of doing, and what I confidently look forward to from you—that is to say, in speaking in the senate, and in every department of public life and political activity, we should together have been in a very strong position (what my feelings and position are in regard to politics I will explain shortly, and will answer the questions you ask), and at any rate I should have found in you a supporter, at once most warmly attached and endowed with supreme wisdom, while in me you would have found an adviser, perhaps not the most unskillful in the world, and at least both faithful and devoted to your interests. However, for your own sake, of course, I rejoice, as I am bound to do, that you have been greeted with the title of imperator, and are holding your province and victorious army after a successful campaign. But certainly, if you had been here, yo, would have enjoyed to a fuller extent and more directly the benefit of the services which I am bound to render you. Moreover, in taking vengeance on those whom you know in some cases to be your enemies, because you championed the cause of my recall, in others to be jealous of the splendid position and renown which that measure brought you, I should have done you yeoman’s service as your associate. However, that perpetual enemy of his own friends, who, in spite of having been honoured with the highest compliments on your part, has selected you of all people for the object of his impotent and enfeebled violence, has saved me the trouble by punishing himself. For he has made attempts, the disclosure of which has left him without a shred, not only of political position, but even of freedom of action. And though I should have preferred that you should have gained your experience in my case alone, rather than in your own also, yet in the midst of my regret I am glad that you have learnt what the fidelity of mankind is worth, at no great cost to yourself, which I learnt at the price of excessive pain. And I think that I have now an opportunity presented me, while answering the questions you have addressed to me, of also explaining my entire position and view. You say in your letter that you have been informed that I have become reconciled to Cæsar and Appius, and you add that you have no fault to find with that. But you express a wish to know what induced me to defend and compliment Vatinius. In order to make my explanation plainer I must go a little farther back in the statement of my policy and its grounds.  1
  Well, Lentulus! At first—after the success of your efforts for my recall—I looked upon myself as having been restored not alone to my friends, but to the Republic also; and seeing that I owed you an affection almost surpassing belief, and every kind of service, however great and rare, that could be bestowed on your person, I thought that to the Republic, which had much assisted you in restoring me, I at least was bound to entertain the feeling which I had in old times shewed merely from the duty incumbent on all citizens alike, and not as an obligation incurred by some special kindness to myself. That these were my sentiments I declared to the senate when you were consul, and you had yourself a full view of them in our conversations and discussions. Yet from the very first my feelings were hurt by many circumstances, when, on your mooting the question of the full restoration of my position, I detected the covert hatred of some and the equivocal attachment of others. For you received no support from either in regard to my monuments, or the illegal violence by which, in common with my brother, I had been driven from my house; nor, by heaven, did they shew the good will which I had expected in regard to those matters which, though necessary to me owing to the shipwreck of my fortune, were yet regarded by me as least valuable—I mean as to indemnifying me for my losses by decree of the senate. And though I saw all this—for it was not difficult to see—yet their present conduct did not affect me with so much bitterness as what they had done for me did with gratitude. And therefore, though according to your own assertion and testimony I was under very great obligation to Pompey, and though I loved him not only for his kindness, but also from my own feelings, and, so to speak, from my unbroken admiration of him, nevertheless, without taking any account of his wishes, I abode by all my old opinions in politics. With Pompey sitting in court, upon his having entered the city to give evidence in favour of Sestius, and when the witness Vatinius had asserted that, moved by the good fortune and success of Cæsar, I had begun to be his friend, I said that I preferred the fortune of Bibulus, which he thought a humiliation, to the triumphs and victories of everybody else; and I said during the examination of the same witness, in another part of my speech, that the same men had prevented Bibulus from leaving his house as had forced me from mine: my whole cross-examination, indeed, was nothing but a denunciation of his tribuneship; and in it I spoke throughout with the greatest freedom and spirit about violence, neglect of omens, grants of royal titles. Nor, indeed, in the support of this view is it only of late that I have spoken: I have done so consistently on several occasions in the senate. Nay, even in the consulship of Marcellinus and Philippus, on the 5th of April the senate voted on my motion that the question of the Campanian land should be referred to a full meeting of the senate on the 15th of May. Could I more decidedly invade the stronghold of his policy, or shew more clearly that I forgot my own present interests, and remembered my former political career? On my delivery of this proposal a great impression was made on the minds not only of those who were bound to have been impressed, but also of those of whom I had never expected it. For, after this decree had passed in accordance with my motion, Pompey, without shewing the least sign of being offended with me, started for Sardinia and Africa, and in the course of that journey visited Cæsar at Luca. There Cæsar complained a great deal about my motion, for he had already seen Crassus at Ravenna also, and had been irritated by him against me. It was well known that Pompey was much vexed at this, as I was told by others, but learnt most definitely from my brother. For when Pompey met him in Sardinia, a few days after leaving Luca, he said: “You are the very man I want to see; nothing could have happened more conveniently. Unless you speak very strongly to your brother Marcus, you will have to pay up what you guaranteed on his behalf.” I need not go on. He grumbled a great deal: mentioned his own services to me: recalled what he had again and again said to my brother himself about the “acts” of Cæsar, and what my brother had undertaken in regard to me; and called my brother himself to witness that what he had done in regard to my recall he had done with the consent of Cæsar: and asked him to commend to me the latter’s policy and claims, that I should not attack, even if I would not or could not support them. My brother having conveyed these remarks to me, and Pompey having, nevertheless, sent Vibullius to me with a message, begging me not to commit myself on the question of the Campanian land till his return, I reconsidered my position and begged the state itself, as it were, to allow me, who had suffered and done so much for it, to fulfil the duty which gratitude to my benefactors and the pledge which my brother had given demanded, and to suffer one whom it had ever regarded as an honest citizen to shew himself an honest man. Moreover, in regard to all those motions and speeches of mine which appeared to be giving offence to Pompey, the remarks of a particular set of men, whose names you must surely guess, kept on being reported to me; who, while in public affairs they were really in sympathy with my policy, and had always been so, yet said that they were glad that Pompey was dissatisfied with me, and that Cæsar would be very greatly exasperated against me. This in itself was vexatious to me: but much more so was the fact that they used, before my very eyes, so to embrace fondle, make much of, and kiss my enemy—mine do I say? rather the enemy of the laws, of the law courts, of peace, of his country, of all loyal men!—that they did not indeed rouse my bile, for I have utterly lost all that, but imagined they did. In these circumstances, having, as far as is possible for human prudence, thoroughly examined my whole position, and having balanced the items of the account, I arrived at a final result of all my reflexions, which, as well as I can, I will now briefly put before you.  2
  If I had seen the Republic in the hands of bad or profligate citizens, as we know happened during the supremacy of Cinna, and on some other occasions, I should not under the pressure, I don’t say of rewards, which are the last things to influence me, but even of danger, by which, after all, the bravest men are moved, have attached myself to their party, not even if their services to me had been of the very highest kind. As it is, seeing that the leading statesman in the Republic was Pompey, a man who had gained this power and renown by the most eminent services to the state and the most glorious achievements, and one of whose position I had been a supporter from my youth up, and in my prætorship and consulship an active promoter also, and seeing that this same statesman had assisted me, in his own person by the weight of his influence and the expression of his opinion, and, in conjunction with you, by his counsels and zeal, and that he regarded my enemy as his own supreme enemy in the state—I did not think that I need fear the reproach of inconsistency, if in some of my senatorial votes I somewhat changed my standpoint, and contributed my zeal to the promotion of the dignity of a most distinguished man, and one to whom I am under the highest obligations. In this sentiment I had necessarily to include Cæsar, as you see, for their policy and position were inseparably united. Here I was greatly influenced by two things—the old friendship which you know that I and my brother Quintus have had with Cæsar, and his own kindness and liberality, of which we have recently had clear and unmistakable evidence both by his letters and his personal attentions. I was also strongly affected by the Republic itself, which appeared to me to demand, especially considering Cæsar’s brilliant successes, that there should be no quarrel maintained with these men, and indeed to forbid it in the strongest manner possible. Moreover, while entertaining these feelings, I was above all shaken by the pledge which Pompey had given for me to Cæsar, and my brother to Pompey. Besides, I was forced to take into consideration the state maxim so divinely expressed by our master Plato—“Such as are the chief men in a republic, such are ever wont to be the other citizens.” I called to mind that in my consulship, from the very 1st of January, such a foundation was laid of encouragement for the senate, that no one ought to have been surprised that on the 5th of December there was so much spirit and such commanding influence in that house. I also remember that when I became a private citizen up to the consulship of Cæsar and Bibulus, when the opinions expressed by me had great weight in the senate, the feeling among all the loyalists was invariable. Afterwards, while you were holding the province of hither Spain which imperium and the Republic had no genuine consuls, but mere hucksters of provinces, mere slaves and agents of sedition, an accident threw my head as an apple of discord into the midst of contending factions and civil broils. And in that hour of danger, though a unanimity was displayed on the part of the senate that was surprising, on the part of all Italy surpassing belief, and of all the loyalists unparalleled, in standing forth in my defence, I will not say what happened—for the blame attaches to many, and is of various shades of turpitude—I will only say briefly that it was not the rank and file, but the leaders, that played me false. And in this matter, though some blame does attach to those who failed to defend me, no less attaches to those who abandoned me: and if those who were frightened deserve reproach, if there are such, still more are those to be blamed who pretended to be frightened. At any rate, my policy is justly to be praised for refusing to allow my fellow citizens (preserved by me and ardently desiring to preserve me) to be exposed while bereft of leaders to armed slaves, and for preferring that it should be made manifest how much force there might be in the unanimity of the loyalists, if they had been permitted to champion my cause before I had fallen, when after that fall they had proved strong enough to raise me up again. And the real feelings of these men you not only had the penetration to see, when bringing forward my case, but the power to encourage and keep alive. In promoting which measure—I will not merely not deny, but shall always remember also and gladly proclaim it—you found certain men of the highest rank more courageous in securing my restoration than they had been in preserving me from my fall: and, if they had chosen to maintain that frame of mind, they would have recovered their own commanding position along with my salvation. For when the spirit of the loyalists had been renewed by your consulship, and they had been roused from their dismay by the extreme firmness and rectitude of your official conduct; when, above all, Pompey’s support had been secured; and when Cæsar, too, with all the prestige of his brilliant achievements, after being honoured with unique and unprecedented marks of distinction and compliments by the senate, was now supporting the dignity of the house, there could have been no opportunity for a disloyal citizen of outraging the Republic.  3
  But now notice, I beg, what actually ensued. First of all, that intruder upon the women’s rites, who had shewn no more respect for the Bona Dea than for his three sisters, secured immunity by the votes of those men who, when a tribune wished by a legal action to exact penalties from a seditious citizen by the agency of the loyalists, deprived the Republic of what would have been hereafter a most splendid precedent for the punishment of sedition. And these same persons, in the case of the monument, which was not mine, indeed—for it was not erected from the proceeds of spoils won by me, and I had nothing to do with it beyond giving out the contract for its construction—well, they allowed this monument of the senate’s to have branded upon it the name of a public enemy, and an inscription written in blood. That those men wished my safety rouses my liveliest gratitude, but I could have wished that they had not chosen to take my bare safety into consideration, like doctors, but, like trainers, my strength and complexion also! As it is, just as Apelles perfected the head and bust of his Venus with the most elaborate art, but left the rest of her body in the rough, so certain persons only took pains with my head, and left the rest of my body unfinished and unworked. Yet in this matter I have falsified the expectation, not only of the jealous, but also of the downright hostile, who formerly conceived a wrong opinion from the case of Quintus Metellus, son of Lucius—the most energetic and gallant man in the world, and in my opinion of surpassing courage and firmness—who, people say, was much cast down and dispirited after his return from exile. Now, in the first place, we are asked to believe that a man who accepted exile with entire willingness and remarkable cheerfulness, and never took any pains at all to get recalled, was crushed in spirit about an affair in which he had shewn more firmness and constancy than anyone else, even than the pre-eminent M. Scaurus himself! But, again, the account they had received, or rather the conjectures they were indulging in about him, they now transferred to me, imagining that I should be more than usually broken in spirit: whereas, in fact, the Republic was inspiring me with even greater courage than I had ever had before, by making it plain that I was the one citizen it could not do without; and by the fact that while a bill proposed by only one tribune had recalled Metellus, the whole state had joined as one man in recalling me—the senate leading the way, the whole of Italy following after, eight of the tribunes publishing the bill, a consul putting the question at the centuriate assembly, all orders and individuals pressing it on, in fact, with all the forces at its command. Nor is it the case that I afterwards made any pretension, or am making any at this day, which can justly offend anyone, even the most malevolent: my only effort is that I may not fail either my friends or those more remotely connected with me in either active service, or counsel, or personal exertion. This course of life perhaps offends those who fix their eyes on the glitter and show of my professional position, but are unable to appreciate its anxieties and laboriousness.  4
  Again, they make no concealment of their dissatisfaction on the ground that in the speeches which I make in the senate in praise of Cæsar I am departing from my old policy. But while giving explanations on the points which I put before you a short time ago, I will not keep till the last the following, which I have already touched upon. You will not find, my dear Lentulus, the sentiments of the loyalists the same as you left them—strengthened by my consulship, suffering relapse at intervals afterwards, crushed down before your consulship, revived by you: they have now been abandoned by those whose duty it was to have maintained them: and this fact they, who in the old state of things as it existed in our day used to be called Optimates, not only declare by look and expression of countenance, by which a false pretence is easiest supported, but have proved again and again by their actual sympathies and votes. Accordingly, the entire view and aim of wise citizens, such as I wish both to be and to be reckoned, must needs have undergone a change. For that is the maxim of that same great Plato, whom I emphatically regard as my master: “Maintain a political controversy only so far as you can convince your fellow citizens of its justice: never offer violence to parent or fatherland.” He, it is true, alleges this as his motive for having abstained from politics, because, having found the Athenian people all but in its dotage, and seeing that it could not be ruled by persuasion, or by anything short of compulsion, while he doubted the possibility of persuasion, he looked upon compulsion as criminal. My position was different in this: as the people was not in its dotage, nor the question of engaging in politics still an open one for me, I was bound hand and foot. Yet I rejoiced that I was permitted in one and the same cause to support a policy at once advantageous to myself and acceptable to every loyalist. An additional motive was Cæsar’s memorable and almost superhuman kindness to myself and my brother, who thus would have deserved my support whatever he undertook; while as it is, considering his great success and his brilliant victories, he would seem, even if he had not behaved to me as he has, to claim a panegyric from me. For I would have you believe that, putting you aside, who were the authors of my recall, there is no one by whose good offices I would not only confess, but would even rejoice, to have been so much bound.  5
  Having explained this matter to you, the questions you ask about Vatinius and Crassus are easy to answer. For, since you remark about Appius, as about Cæsar, “that you have no fault to find,” I can only say that I am glad you approve my policy. But as to Vatinius, in the first place there had been in the interval a reconciliation effected through Pompey, immediately after his election to the prætorship, though I had, it is true, impugned his candidature in some very strong speeches in the senate, and yet not so much for the sake of attacking him as of defending and complimenting Cato. Again, later on, there followed a very pressing request from Cæsar that I should undertake his defence. But my reason for testifying to his character I beg you will not ask, either in the case of this defendant or of others, lest I retaliate by asking you the same question when you come home: though I can do so even before you return: for remember for whom you sent a certificate of character from the ends of the earth. However, don’t be afraid, for those same persons are praised by myself, and will continue to be so. Yet, after all, there was also the motive spurring me on to undertake his defence, of which, during the trial, when I appeared for him, I remarked that I was doing just what the parasite in the Eunuchus advised the captain to do:
        “As oft as she names Phædria, you retort
With Pamphila. If ever she suggest,
‘Do let us have in Phædria to our revel;’
Quoth you, ‘And let us call on Pamphila
To sing a song.’ If she shall praise his looks,
Do you praise hers to match them: and, in fine,
Give tit for tat, that you may sting her soul.”
So I asked the jurors, since certain men of high rank, who, had also done me very great favours, were much enamoured of my enemy, and often under my very eyes in the senate now took him aside in grave consultation, now embraced him familiarly and cheerfully—since these men had their Publius, to grant me another Publius, in whose person I might repay a slight attack by a moderate retort. And, indeed, I am often as good as my word, with the applause of gods and men. So much for Vatinius. Now about Crassus. I thought I had done much to secure his gratitude in having, for the sake of the general harmony, wiped out by a kind of voluntary act of oblivion all his very serious injuries, when he suddenly undertook the defence of Gabinius, whom only a few days before he had attacked with the greatest bitterness. Nevertheless, I should have borne that, if he had done so without casting any offensive reflections on me. But on his attacking me, though I was only arguing and not inveighing against him, I fired up not only, I think, with the passion of the moment—for that perhaps would not have been so hot—but the smothered wrath at his many wrongs to me, of which I thought I had wholly got rid, having, unconsciously to myself, lingered in my soul, it suddenly shewed itself in full force. And it was at this precise time that certain persons (the same whom I frequently indicate by a sign or hint), while declaring that they had much enjoyed my outspoken style, and had never before fully realized that I was restored to the Republic in all my old character, and when my conduct of that controversy had gained me much credit outside the house also, began saying that they were glad both that he was now my enemy, and that those who were involved with him would never be my friends. So when their ill-natured remarks were reported to me by men of most respectable character, and when Pompey pressed me as he had never done before to be reconciled to Crassus, and Cæsar wrote to say that he was exceedingly grieved at that quarrel, I took into consideration not only my circumstances, but my natural inclination: and Crassus, that our reconciliation might, as it were, be attested to the Roman people, started for his province, it might almost be said, from my hearth. For he himself named a day and dined with me in the suburban villa of my son-in-law Crassipes. On this account, as you say that you have been told, I supported his cause in the senate, which I had undertaken on Pompey’s strong recommendation, as I was bound in honour to do.
  I have now told you with what motives I have supported each measure and cause, and what my position is in politics as far as I take any part in them: and I would wish you to make sure of this—that I should have entertained the same sentiments, if I had been still perfectly uncommitted and free to choose. For I should not have thought it right to fight against such overwhelming power, nor to destroy the supremacy of the most distinguished citizens, even if it had been possible; nor, again, should I have thought myself bound to abide by the same view, when circumstances were changed and the feelings of the loyalists altered, but rather to bow to circumstances. For the persistence in the same view has never been regarded as a merit in men eminent for their guidance of the helm of state; but as in steering a ship one secret of the art is to run before the storm, even if you cannot make the harbour; yet, when you can do so by tacking about, it is folly to keep to the course you have begun rather than by changing it to arrive all the same at the destination you desire: so while we all ought in the administration of the state to keep always in view the object I have very frequently mentioned, peace combined with dignity, we are not bound always to use the same language, but to fix our eyes on the same object. Wherefore, as I laid down a little while ago, if I had had as free a hand as possible in everything, I should yet have been no other than I now am in politics. When, moreover, I am at once induced to adopt these sentiments by the kindness of certain persons, and driven to do so by the injuries of others, I am quite content to think and speak about public affairs as I conceive best conduces to the interests both of myself and of the Republic. Moreover, I make this declaration the more openly and frequently, both because my brother Quintus is Cæsar’s legate, and because no word of mine, however trivial, to say nothing of any act, in support of Cæsar has ever transpired, which he has not received with such marked gratitude as to make me look upon myself as closely bound to him. Accordingly, I have the advantage of his popularity, which you know to be very great, and his material resources, which you know to be immense, as though they were my own. Nor do I think that I could in any other way have frustrated the plots of unprincipled persons against me, unless I had now combined with those protections, which I have always possessed, the good will also of the men in power. I should, to the best of my belief, have followed this same line of policy even if I had had you here. For I well know the reasonableness and soberness of your judgment: I know your mind, while warmly attached to me, to be without a tinge of malevolence to others, but on the contrary as open and candid as it is great and lofty. I have seen certain persons conduct themselves towards you as you might have seen the same persons conduct themselves towards me. The same things that have annoyed me would certainly have annoyed you. But whenever I shall have the enjoyment of your presence, you will be the wise critic of all my plans: you who took thought for my safety will also do so for my dignity. Me, indeed, you will have as the partner and associate in all your actions, sentiments, wishes—in fact, in everything; nor shall I ever in all my life have any purpose so steadfastly before me as that you should rejoice more and more warmly every day that you did me such eminent service.  7
  As to you request that I would send you any books I have written since your departure, there are some speeches, which I will give Menocritus, not so very many, so don’t be afraid! I have also written—for I am now rather withdrawing from oratory and returning to the gentler Muses, which now give me greater delight than any others, as they have done since my earliest youth—well, then, I have written in the Aristotelian style, at least that was my aim, three books in the form of a discussion in dialogue “On the Orator,” which, I think, will be of some service to your Lentulus. For they differ a good deal from the current maxims, and embrace a discussion on the whole oratorical theory of the ancients, both that of Aristotle and Isocrates. I have also written in verse three books “On My Own Times,” which I should have sent you some time ago, if I had thought they ought to be published—for they are witnesses, and will be eternal witnesses, of your services to me and of my affection—but I refrained because I was afraid, not of those who might think themselves attacked, for I have been very sparing and gentle in that respect, but of my benefactors, of whom it were an endless task to mention the whole list. Nevertheless, the books, such as they are, if I find anyone to whom I can safely commit them, I will take care to have conveyed to you: and as far as that part of my life and conduct is concerned, I submit it entirely to your judgment. All that I shall succeed in accomplishing in literature or in learning—my old favourite relaxations—I shall with the utmost cheerfulness place before the bar of your criticism, for you have always had a fondness for such things. As to what you say in your letter about your domestic affairs, and all you charge me to do, I am so attentive to them that I don’t like being reminded, can scarcely bear, indeed, to be asked without a very painful feeling. As to your saying, in regard to Quintus’ business, that you could not do anything last summer, because you were prevented by illness from crossing to Cilicia, but that you will now do everything in your power to settle it, I may tell you that the fact of the matter is that, if he can annex this property, my brother thinks that he will owe to you the consolidation of this ancestral estate. I should like you to write about all your affairs, and about the studies and training of your son Lentulus (whom I regard as mine also) as confidentially and as frequently as possible, and to believe that there never has been anyone either dearer or more congenial to another than you are to me, and that I will not only make you feel that to be the case, but will make all the world and posterity itself to the latest generation aware of it.  8
  Appius used some time back to repeat in conversation, and afterwards said openly, even in the senate, that if he were allowed to carry a law in the comitia curiata, he would draw lots with his colleague for their provinces; but if no curiatian law were passed, he would make an arrangement with his colleague and succeed you: that a curiatian law was a proper thing for a consul, but was not a necessity: that since he was in possession of a province by a decree of the senate, he should have imperium in virtue of the Cornelian law until such time as he entered the city. I don’t know what your several connexions write to you on the subject: I understand that opinion varies. There are some who think that you can legally refuse to quit your province, because your successor is named without a curiatian law: some also hold that, even if you do quit it, you may leave someone behind you to conduct its government. For myself, I do not feel so certain about the point of law—although there is not much doubt even about that—as I do of this, that it is for your greatest honour, dignity, and independence, which I know you always value above everything, to hand over your province to a successor without any delay, especially as you cannot thwart his greediness without rousing suspicion of your own. I regard my duty as twofold—to let you know what I think, and to defend what you have done.  9
  P.S.—I had written the above when I received your letter about the publicani, to whom I could not but admire the justice of your conduct. I could have wished that you had been able by some lucky chance to avoid running counter to the interests and wishes of that order, whose honour you have always promoted. For my part, I shall not cease to defend your decrees: but you know the ways of that class of men; you are aware how bitterly hostile they were to the famous Q. Scævola himself. However, I advise you to reconcile that order to yourself, or at least soften its feelings, if you can by any means do so. Though difficult, I think it is, nevertheless, not beyond the reach of your sagacity.  10