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

Rome (September)

XXVI. To Aulus Cæcina (In Exile)

I AM afraid you may think me remiss in my attentions to you, which, in view of our close union resulting from many mutual services and kindred tastes, ought never to be lacking. In spite of that I fear you do find me wanting in the matter of writing. The fact is, I would have sent you a letter long ago and on frequent occasions, had I not, from expecting day after day to have some better news for you, wished to fill my letter with congratulation rather than with exhortations to courage. As it is, I shall shortly, I hope, have to congratulate you: and so I put off that subject for a letter to another time. But in this letter I think that your courage—which I am told and hope is not at all shaken—ought to be repeatedly braced by the authority of a man, who, if not the wisest in the world, is yet the most devoted to you: and that not with such words as I should use to console one utterly crushed and bereft of all hope of restoration, but as to one of whose rehabilitation I have no more doubt than I remember that you had of mine. For when those men had driven me from the Republic, who thought that it could not fall while I was on my feet, I remember hearing from many visitors from Asia, in which country you then were, that you were emphatic as to my glorious and rapid restoration. If that system, so to speak, of Tuscan augury which you had inherited from your noble and excellent father did not deceive you, neither will our power of divination deceive me; which I have acquired from the writings and maxims of the greatest savants, and, as you know, by a very diligent study of their teaching, as well as by an extensive experience in managing public business, and from the great vicissitudes of fortune which I have encountered. And this divination I am the more inclined to trust, from the fact that it never once deceived me in the late troubles, in spite of their obscurity and confusion. I would have told you what events I foretold, were I not afraid to be thought to be making up a story after the event. Yet, after all, I have numberless witnesses to the fact that I warned Pompey not to form a union with Cæsar, and afterwards not to sever it. By this union I saw that the power of the senate would be broken, by its severance a civil war be provoked. And yet I was very intimate with Cæsar, and had a very great regard for Pompey, but my advice was at once loyal to Pompey and in the best interests of both alike. My other predictions I pass over; for I would not have Cæsar think that I gave Pompey advice, by which, if he had followed it, Cæsar himself would have now been a man of illustrious character in the state indeed, and the first man in it, but yet not in possession of the great power he now wields. I gave it as my opinion that he should go to Spain; and if he had done so, there would have been no civil war at all. That Cæsar should be allowed to stand for the consulship in his absence I did not so much contend to be constitutional, as that, since the law had been passed by the people at the instance of Pompey himself when consul, it should be done. The pretext for hostilities was given. What advice or remonstrance did I omit, when urging that any peace, even the most inequitable, should be preferred to the most righteous war? My advice was overruled, not so much by Pompey—for he was affected by it—as by those who, relying on him as a military leader, thought that a victory in that war would be highly conducive to their private interests and personal ambitions. The war was begun without my taking any active part in it; it was forcibly removed from Italy, while I remained there as long as I could. But honour had greater weight with me than fear: I had scruples about failing to support Pompey’s safety, when on a certain occasion he had not failed to support mine. Accordingly, overpowered by a feeling of duty, or by what the loyalists would say, or by a regard for my honour—whichever you please—like Amphiaraus in the play, I went deliberately, and fully aware of what I was doing, “to ruin full displayed before my eyes.” In this war there was not a single disaster that I did not foretell. Therefore, since, after the manner of augurs and astrologers, I too, as a state augur, have by my previous predictions established the credit of my prophetic power and knowledge of divination in your eyes, my prediction will justly claim to be believed. Well, then, the prophecy I now give you does not rest on the flight of a bird nor the note of a bird of good omen on the left—according to the system of our augural college—nor on the normal and audible pattering of the corn of the sacred chickens. I have other signs to note; and if they are not more infallible than those, yet after all they are less obscure or misleading. Now omens as to the future are observed by me in what I may call a twofold method: the one I deduce from Cæsar himself, the other from the nature and complexion of the political situation. Cæsar’s characteristics are these: a disposition naturally placable and clement—as delineated in your brilliant book of “Grievances”—and a great liking also for superior talent, such as your own. Besides this, he is relenting at the expressed wishes of a large number of your friends, which are well-grounded and inspired by affection, not hollow and self-seeking. Under this head the unanimous feeling of Etruria will have great influence on him.  1
  Why, then—you may ask—have these things as yet had no effect? Why, because he thinks if he grants you yours, he cannot resist the applications of numerous petitioners with whom to all appearance he has juster grounds for anger. “What hope, then,” you will say, “from an angry man?” Why, he knows very well that he will draw deep draughts of praise from the same fountain, from which he has been already—though sparingly—bespattered. Lastly, he is a man very acute and farseeing: he knows very well that a man like you—far and away the greatest noble in an important district of Italy, and in the state at large the equal of anyone of your generation, however eminent, whether in ability or popularity or reputation among the Roman people—cannot much longer be debarred from taking part in public affairs. He will be unwilling that you should, as you would sooner or later, have time to thank for this rather than his favour.  2
  So much for Cæsar. Now I will speak of the nature of the actual situation. There is no one so bitterly opposed to the cause, which Pompey undertook with better intentions than provisions, as to venture to call us bad citizens or dishonest men. On this head I am always struck with astonishment at Cæsar’s sobriety, fairness, and wisdom. He never speaks of Pompey except in the most respectful terms. “But,” you will say, “in regard to him as a public man his actions have often been bitter enough.” Those were acts of war and victory, not of Cæsar. But see with what open arms he has received us! Cassius he has made his legate; Brutus governor of Gaul; Sulpicius of Greece; Marcellus, with whom he was more angry than with anyone, he has restored with the utmost consideration for his rank. To what, then, does all this tend? The nature of things and of the political situation will not suffer, nor will any constitutional theory—whether it remain as it is or is changed—permit first, that the civil and personal position of all should not be alike when the merits of their cases are the same; and, secondly, that good men and good citizens of unblemished character should not return to a state, into which so many have returned after having been condemned of atrocious crimes.  3
  That is my prediction. If I had felt any doubt about it I would not have employed it in preference to a consolation which would have easily enabled me to support a man of spirit. It is this: If you had taken up arms for the Republic—for so you then thought—with the full assurance of victory, you would not deserve special commendation. But if, in view of the uncertainty attaching to all wars, you had taken into consideration the possibility of our being beaten, you ought not, while fully prepared to face success, to be yet utterly unable to endure failure. I would have urged also what a consolation the consciousness of your action, what a delightful distraction in adversity, literature ought to be. I would have recalled to your mind the signal disasters not only of men of old times, but of those of our own day also, whether they were your leaders or your comrades. I would even have named many cases of illustrious foreigners: for the recollection of what I may call a common law and of the conditions of human existence softens grief. I would also have explained the nature of our life here in Rome, how bewildering the disorder, how universal the chaos: for it must needs cause less regret to be absent from a state in disruption, than from one well-ordered. But there is no occasion for anything of this sort. I shall soon see you, as I hope, or rather as I clearly perceive, in enjoyment of your civil rights. Meanwhile, to you in your absence, as also to your son who is here—the express image of your soul and person, and a man of unsurpassable firmness and excellence—I have long ere this both promised and tendered practically my zeal, duty, exertions, and labours: all the more so now that Cæsar daily receives me with more open arms, while his intimate friends distinguish me above everyone. Any influence or favour I may gain with him I will employ in your service. Be sure, for your part, to support yourself not only with courage, but also with the brightest hopes.  4