Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Cicero's Life and letters : The life of Cicero, by Dr. Middleton, Cicero's letters to his friends, translated by Wm. Melmoth [and] Cicero's letters to Atticus, translated by Dr. Heberden online

. (page 140 of 230)
Online LibraryMarcus Tullius CiceroCicero's Life and letters : The life of Cicero, by Dr. Middleton, Cicero's letters to his friends, translated by Wm. Melmoth [and] Cicero's letters to Atticus, translated by Dr. Heberden → online text (page 140 of 230)
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compose your countenance, therefore, and return
to your mouldy cheese in full security ; for my
being your guest will occasion you, as usual, no
other expense than that of heating your baths. As

' Cicero had lately instituted a kind of academy for
eloquence in his own house, at which several of the lead-
ing young men in Rome used to meet in order to exercise
themselves in the art of oratory. Cicero himself will
acquaint the re;idcr with his motives fur instituting this
society, in the 2:2d letter of the present book.

' This alludes (as Slanutius observes) to a law which
Cajsar passed in favour of those who had contracted debts
before the commencement of the civil war. By this law,
as appears from the passages wliich that commentator has
cited, commissioners were appointed to take an account of
the estate and effects of these debtors, which were to ho
assigned to their respective creditors according to their
valuation before the civil war broke out : and whatever
sums had been paid for interest, was to be considered as in
discharge of the principal. By this ordinance. Partus, it
seems, had been a particular sufferer. — Cks. De Bell. Civ.
iii. 1 ; Suet, in Vit. Jul. C'jes. 42.

" Pliny, tho naturalist, mentions a statue of Jupiter,
erected in the Capitol, which, on certain festival days, it
was customary to paint with vermilion. — Manutius.
1 I i




for all the rest, you !.re to look upon it as mere

The trouble you have given yourself about
Selicius's villa" is extremely obliging, as your
ikscription of it was excessively droll. I believe,
therelore, from the accounts you give me, I shall
renoiiii'-e all thoughts of making that purchase :
lor though the country, it seems, abounds in salt,
the neigliboui hood, I find, is but insipid. Farewell.


To Volumnius''.

You have little reason, believe me, to regret the

not being ]irfsent at my declamations"' ; and if you

^ . - should really envy Ilirtius, as you assure

■ ' ' ' me you should, if you did not love him,

it must be much more for his own eloquence tlian

as he is an auditor of mine. In truth, my dear

Volumnius, eitlier I am utterly void of all genius,

or incapable of exercising it to my satisfaction, now

that 1 have lost those illustrious fellow-labourers

at the bar that fired me with emulation when 1

used to gain your judicious applause. If ever,

indi-ed, I displayed the jiowers of eloquence with

advantage to my re])utation, let me send a sigh

when LretUct with the fallen Philoctetes'' in the

play, that

These potent shafts, the heroes' wonted dread,
Now spend on meaner war their idle force ;
Aim'd at the wing'd inhabitants of air !
However, if you will give me your company here,
my spirits will bo more enlivened, though I need
not add that you will find me engaged in a multitude
of very important occupations. But if I can once
get to the end of them (as I most earnestly wish),
I shall bid a long farewell both to the forum and
the senate, and chiefly devote my time to you and
some few others of our common friends. In this
number are Cassius and Dolabella, who are united
with us in the same favourite studies, and to whose
performances I with great jjleasure attend. But
we want the assistance of your refined judgment,
and of thiit unccimmon erudition which has often
struck me with awe when I have been delivering
my sentiments before you. I have determined,
then, if I sliould obtain the consent, or at least the
permission of Coesar, to retire from that stage on
which I have frequently performed a part that he

" In Naples. ^ See rem. '", on letter 18, bookiv.

■"■ See rem. s, on the preceding letter.

X Philoctetes was the friend and companion of Hercules,
who, when he was dying, presented him with his quiver of
arrows which had been dipped in the hj-dra's gall. "When
the Grecian princes assembled in order to revenge the cause
of Menelaus, they were assured by an oracle that Troy
could never be taken without the assistance of these arrows.
An embassy therefore was sent to Philoctetes to engage
him on their side, who accordingly consented to attend
their expedition. Bsst being disabled from proceeding with
these heroes in their voyage, by an accidental wound
which he received in the foot from one of his own arrows,
they ungenerously left him on a desolate island, and it was
here that he was reduced to the mortifj'ing necessity of
employing these formidable shafts in the humble purposes
of supplying himself with food. The lines here quoted are
taken from A coins, a dramatic poet who flourished about
the year of Ttome 623, and who probably had formed a
tragedy upon, the subject of this adventure. — Serv. in JEn.
iii. 402,

himself has applauded. It is my resolution, indeed,
totally to conceal myself in the secret shades of
philosophy, where 1 liope to enjoy, with you, and
some others of the same contemplative disposition,
the honourable fruits of a studious leisure.

I am sorry you shortened your last letter in the
apprehension that I should not have patience to
read a longer. But assure yourself for the future,
that the longer yours are, the more acceptable they
will always prove to me. Farewell.


To Papirius Pcelus.

Your very agreeable letter found me wholly

disengaged at my Tusculan villa. I retired hither

»„- during the absence of my pui)ils'', whom

'I have sent to meet their victorious

friend*, in order to conciliate his good graces in

my favour.

As Dionysius the tyrant, after he was expelled
from Syracuse, opened a school, it is said, at
Corinth*; in the same manner, being driven from
my dom.inions in the forum, I have erected a sort
of academy in my own house ; and I perceive, by
your letter, that you approve the scheme. I have
many reasons for approving it too, and principally
as it affords me what is highly expedient in the
present conjuncture, a mean of establishing an
interest with those'' in whose friendship I may
find a protection. How far my intentions in this
respect may be answered, I know not : I can only
say, that I have hitherto had no reason to prefer
the different measures which others of the same
party with myself have pursued ; unless, perhaps,
it would have been more eligible not to have sur-
vived the ruin of our cause. It would so, I confess,
had I died either in the camp"^ or in the field : but
the former did not happen to be ray fate ; and as to
the latter, I never was engaged in any action. But
the inglorious manner in which Pompey'', together
with Scipio", Afranius ', and your friend Lentulusf,

y Ilirtius and Dol.abella.

^ Ca;sar, in his return from the African war.

» He was expelled from Sicily about 340 years before the
birth of our Saviour, on accoimt of his oppressive govern-
ment ; when, retiring to Corinth, he employed himself in
exercising the humbler tyranny of a pedagogue. It is
supposed that he engaged in this office the more effectually
to conceal the schemes he was still meditating of recovering
his dominions, — Justin, xxi. 5.

b Particularly Ilirtius and Dolabella.

c The expression in the original is extremely concise.—
"Inlectulo? Fateor : sed non accidit." This seems to
allude to the sickness with which Cicero was attacked in
the camp of Dj'rrachium, and that prevented him from
being present at the battle of Pharsalia, or at least fur
nishcd him with a plausible excuse for his absence. — Plut.
in Vit. Cicer.

^ An account of the manner and circumstance of Poni-
pey's death has .already been given in rem. 1. p. 470.

e Scipio, after the unfortunate battle of Thapsus [sea
rem. *, p. 480.] endeavouring to make his escape into
Spain, was driven back upon the coast of Africa, where ha
fell in with a squadron of Caesar's fleet, commanded by
Hirtius. Scipio was soon overpowered by the strength
and number of the enemy's ships, and himself, together
with the few vessels that attended him, were all sunk.—
Hirt. De Bell. Afric. 96.

f Afranius had been one of Pompey's lieutenants in
Spain, and had a command in Scipio's army in Africa. He



severally lost their lives, will scarcely, I suppose,
be tliought a more desirable lot. As to Cato's
ileatli'', it must be acknowledged to have been
truly noble ; and I can still follow his example,
whenever I shall be so disposed. Let me only
endeavour, as in fact 1 do, not to be compelled to
it by the same necessity': and this is my first
reason for engaging in my present scheme. My
next is, that I find it an advantage, not only to my
healthJ, which began to be impaired by the inter-
was taken prisoner in attempting to make his escape after
the defejit of that general, and murdered by the soldiers.
— Ilirt. Do Bell. Afric. 95.

e Tliis is not the same person to whom the letters in the
first and second hook of this collection are addressed ; but
Lucius Lentulus, who was consul with Marcellus .V. U.
704, the year in which the civil war broke out. Aftt'r the
defeat at Pliarsalia, he fled to the island of Cyprus, where
receiving intelligence that Pompey was gone into Egypt, he
immediately set sail in order to join him. He arrived on
the next day after that unfortunate general had been
cruelly assassinated, and being seized tlie moment he
landed, he underwent the same fate with that of his illus-
trious friend, in pursuance of an order for that purpose
from rtolemy.— Plut. in Vit. Pomp. ; Css. De Bell. Civ.
iii 102, 104.

•> The manner and circumstances of Cato's having
destroyed himself, are too well known to be particularised
in this place. A late noble writer is of opinion that Cato
abandoned the cause of liberty too soon, and that he would
have died with a better grace at Mu ml a than at Utica.
-This censure, it must be owned, has the appearance of
being just, if we consider it only in respect to tlie event ;
but if there had been a real foundation for the reproach, it
can scarce be supposed that it should have escaped every
one of the ancient writers who speak of this illustrious
Roman's exit ; and that Cicoro, in particular, who most
certainly did not love Cato, should have made an honour-
able exception of his death, out of that list which he here
condemns. It is true the republican part}', after the defeat
of Seipio in Africa, made a very powerful struggle against
Caesar imder the command of young Pompey in Spain.
But it is highly probable that there was not the least
rational expectation of this eircumstance, when Cato
thought it became him to put an end to his life. For it
appears from Plutarch that he would have defended Utica
to the last, if he could have persuaded the principal
Romans in that garrison to have supported him ; and it
was not till after all his remonstrances for that purpose
preved utterly ineffectual, and that he had secured the
retreat of tliose who did not choose to surrender them-
selves to CjEsar, that this exemplary patriot fell upon his
o^vn sword. Thus died this truly great and virtuous
Roman ! He had long stood forth the sole uncorruptcd
opposer of those vices that proved the ruin of this degene-
rate commonwealth, and supported, as far as a single arm
could support, the declining constitution. But when his
services could no farther avail, he scorned to survive what
had been the labour of his whole life to preserve, and
bravely perished with the liberties of his country. Thisis
the purport of that noble eulogy which Seneca, in much
stronger language, has justly bestowed upon Cato : — " Ad-
vorsusvitia dcgenerantis, civitatis(says he), sictit, solus, et
cadentem rempublicam, quantum, modo %tna retrain mami
poterat, retinuit ; donee comitem se diu sustentata; i uina;
dedit : simulque extineta sunt quae nefas erat dividi. Neque
enimCato postlibcrtatem vixit, nee libertas postCatonem."
— Lord Bolingbroke's Letter on Patriotism, p. 36 ; Plut. in
Vit. Caton ; Senee. De Constant. Sapient. 2.

• The only necessity which Cato was under of putting
an end to his life, arose from that uniform opposition he
had given to the dangerous designs of the conqueror ; and
it must be allowed that Cicero took sufficient care not to
fall under the same.

J A mere English reader will be surprised to hear Cicero
talk of eloquence as an exaciee. There is nothing indeed

mission of exercises of this kind, but also to my
oratorical talents, if any I ever posses.sed, which
would have totally lost their vigour if I had not
had recourse to tliis method of keeping them in
play. The last benefit I shall mention (and the
principal one, 1 dare say, in your estimation) is,
that it has introduceil me to the demolishing of a
greater number of delicious peacocks'' than you
iiave had the devouring of i)altry pigeons in all
your life. The truth of it is. whilst you are humbly
sipping the meagre broths of the sneaking Aterius,
I am luxuriously regaling myself with the savoury
soups of the magnificent Hirtius. If you have any
spirit, then, fly hither, and learn, from our elegant
bills of fare, how to refine your own : though, to
do your talents justice, this is a sort of knowledge
in which you are much superior to our instructions.
However, since you can get no purchasers for your
mortgages, and are not likely to fill those pitchers
you mention with denarii', it will be your wisest
scheme to return hither ; for it is a better thing,
let me tell you, to be sick with good eating at
Rome, than for want of victuals at Naples™. In
short, I jilainly perceive that your finances are
in no flourishing situation ; and I expect to hear
the same account of all your neighbours : so
that famiue, my friend, most formidable famine,
must be your fate, if you do not provide against it
in due time. And since you have been reduced
to sell your horse, e'en mount your mule (the only
animal, it seems, belonging to you which you have
not yet sacrificed to your table), and convey your-
self immediately to Rome. To encourage you to
do so, you shall be honoured with a chair and
cushion next to mine, and sit the second great
pedagogue in my celebrated school. Farewell.

more indolent and immovable than a British orator : for if
he ventures into action, his gestures are generally such as
would render the finest speech that Demosthenes or Cicero
ever delivered absolutely powerless or ridiculous. " You
may see many a smart rhetorician (says tlie inimitable
Mr. Addison) turning his hat in his hands, moulding it
into several different cocks, examining sometimes the
lining and somethnes the button, during the whole course
of his harangue. A deaf man would think he was cheap-
ening a beaver ; when, perhai)S, he is talking of the fate of
the British nation." But among the orators of Greece and
Rome it was far otherwise : they studied the eloquence of
action as much as that of diction, and their rhetoricians
have laid down rules for tlie graceful management of the
shoulders, the arms, the hands, and the feet, which were
cnch of them engaged by turns in the emphatical exercise
of ancient elocution. — Si>ectator, vi. p. 50 ; Quint, xi. 3.

l* This bird was esteemed by the Romans amongst the
most refined delicacies of the table, and no entertainment
was thought completely elegant where a peacock did not
make one of the dishes. Thy bore a most incredible price :
Varro assures us tliat a hundred peacocks produced to
the owner the annual profit of about three hundred pounds
sterling. — Vur. De Re Rustic, iii. C.

' The denarius was a silver coin, equivalent to aboufc
eight-ponce of our money. Cicero's raillery alludes to the
loss which I'oetus had suffered by the late edict of Cassar
concerning debtors ; of which an account has been given
in rem. ', ;). 483.

■" Paetus had a house in Naples, where he appears tt*
have been when this letter was written.




To the same.

YotR. satirical liuniour, I find, has not yet
forsaken you ; and I j)erfectly well understand
,„„ your raillery, when you gravely tell n)e
'' that Biilbus contented himself with your
humble fare. You insinuate, I suppose, that since
these our sovt-reinn' rulers are tluis wonderfully
temperate, much more does it become a discarded
consular'" to j)ractise the same abstemiousness.
But do you know, my friend, that I have artfully
drawn from IJalbus himself the whole history of
the reception you gave him ? He came diri'ctly to
my house the monient he arrived in Home : a
circumstance, by the way, somewhat extraordinary.
Not that 1 am surprised at his wanting the jiolite-
ness to call first at yours ; but my wonder is, that
he should not go directly to his own". However,
after the two or three first salutations had j)assed,
I immediately in(|uired what account he had to
give of my friend I'lotus. " Never (lie j)rotested)
was he better entertained in his whole life." Now,
if you merited this cDinplimeiit by your wit, 1
desire you to remember that I shall bring as
elegant a taste witli me as Halbus himself Hut if
he alluded to the honours of your tabic, let it never
be said that the family of the stammerers" were
more splendidly regaled by Paetus than the sons of

Business has prevented me, from time to time,
in my design of imying you a visit : but if I can
despatch my affairs, so as to be able to come into
your jiart of the world, I shall take care that you
shall have no reason to complain of my not having
given you timely notice. Farewell.


To the same.

Are you not a pleasant mortal to question me

concerning the fate of those estates p you mention,

707 ^^'''^'^ Balbus had just before been paying

you a visit ? It is from him, indeed, that

I derive my whole fund of intelligence ; and you

may be assured, that where he is ignorant, I have

no chance of being better informed. I might with

much more propriety desire you would tell me what

is likely to be the fate of my own possessions, since

1 Balbus was a sort of prime minister and chief confidant
of Cfesar.

"1 Tlie consulais were those who had passed tlirough the
office of consul.

n There is undoubtedly nome raillery in this passage,
either upon Pastusor Balbus; but, it is impossible to discover
of what nature, as it alludes to circumstances utterly

o In the original it is, " no pluris esse Balhos, quam
disertos putes : " a witticism which could not possibly be
preserved in the translation. For it turns upon the equi-
vocal sense of the word Balbus, which was not only the
name of the person of whom Cicero is speaking, hut signi-
fies likewise a man who labours under that defect of speech
called stuttering.

p Probably the estates of the Pompeians that lay about
Naples, where Paetus seems to have been when this letter
■was written. It appears that Psetus had been alarmed
with a rumour that C'a?sar intended to seize these estates,
and therefore had applied to Cicero to learn the truth of
this report.

you have so lately had a person i under your roof,
from whom, either in or out of his cups, you might
certainly have discovered that secret. But this, my
dear Pa;tus, is an article that makes no part of my
inijuiry ; for, in the first place, I have reason to be
well satisfied, having now almost these four years'
been indulged with my life, if life or indulgence it
maybe called, to be the sad survivorof our country's
ruin. In the next place, I believe it is a question I
may easily answer myself. For I know it will be just
as it shall seem meet to the men in power ; and the
men in j)Ower, my friend, will ever be those whose
swords are the most prevailing. I must rest con-
tented, therefore, with whatever grace it shall be
their pleasure to show me ; for he who could not
tamely submit to such wretched terms ought to
have taken refuge in the arms of death. Notwith-
standing, tiierefore, that the estates about Veil and
Capena' are actually dividing out, (and these, you
know, are not far distant from Tusculum',) yet it
gives me no sort of disquietude. I enjoy my pro-
j)erty whilst I may, and please myself with the hope
that I shall never be deprived of that privilege.
But should it happen otherwise, still, however,
since it was my noble maxim (hero and philosopher
as I was) that life is the fairest of all possessions,
I cannot, undoubtedly, but love the man" by whose
bounty I have obtained the continuance of that
enjoyment. It is certain, at the same time, that
how much soever he may be disposed, perhaps, to
restore the republic (as we ought all of us most
certainly to wish), yet he has entangled himself ia
such a variety of different connexions, that he is
utterly embarrassed in what manner to act. But
this is going farther into these points than is neces-
sary, considering the person to whom I am writing.
Nevertheless, I will add, that our chief himself is
as absolutely ignorant what measures will finally be
resolved upon, as I am, who have no share in his
councils. For Caesar is no less under the control
of circumstances than we are under the control of
Caesar ; and it is as much impossible for him to
foresee what these may require, as it is for us to
penetrate into what he may intend.

You must not impute it to neglect (a fault, you
are sensible, of which I am seldom guilty in the
article of writing) that I have not said thus much
to you before. The single reason for my not sooner
answering your inquiry was, that as I could only
speak from conjecture, I was unwilling, without a
just foundation, either to increase your fears, or to
encourage your hopes. But this I can with truth
assure you, that 1 have not heard the least hint of

q Balbus.

■■ One of the commentators, who conceals his true name
under that of Ragazonius, collects from this passage, that
the present letter was ^vritten A. U. 707; whereas it seems
to prove, on the contrary, that its date cannot be placed
earlier than the year 709. For Cicero appears, evidently,
to allude to the pardon he had received from Ca?sar. Now
this could not have been till after the battle of Pharsalia,
A, U. 7(15 ; and the fourth year from that period brings us
down to 70f». In the beginning, therefore, of that year,
this letter ought to have been placed ; but the error of its
present situation was not discovered till it was too late to
be rectified.

« Veii and Capena were cities in that part of Italy called
Etruria, which is now comprehendea under the name ot

t Where Cicero had a villa.

« Cssar.



the danger you apprehend. A man of your philo-
sophy, however, ought to hope for the best, to be
prepared for the worst, and to bear with equanimity
■whatever may happen. Farewell.


To the same.

Your letter gave me a double pleasure : for it
not only diverted me extremely, but was a proof,

, ^P- likewise, that you are so well recovered
as to be able to indulge your usual gaiety.
I was well contented, at the same time, to find
myself the subject of your raillery ; and, in truth,
the re])eatcd provocations I had given you were
sufficient to call forth all the severity of your satire.
My only regret is, that I am prevented from taking
my intended journey into your part of the world,
■where I purposed to have made myself, I do not
say your guest, but one of your family. You would
have found me wonderfully changed from the man
I formerly was, when you used to cram me with
your cloying antepasts^. For I now more prudently
sit down to table with an appetite altogether unim-
paired, and most heroically make my way through
every dish that comes before me, from the egg"
that leads the van, to the roast veal that brings up
the rear^. The temperate and unexpensive guest
whom you were wont to applaud is now no more :
I have bidden a total farewell to all the cares of the
patriot, and have joined the professed enemies of
my former principles ; in short, I am become an
absolute Epicurean. You are by no means, how-
ever, to consider me as a friend to that injudicious
profusion which is now the prevailing taste of our
modern entertainments : on the contrary, it is that
more elegant luxury I admire which you formerly
used to display whea your finances were most
flourishing^, though your farms were not more
numerous than at present. Be prepared, therefore,
for my reception accordingly ; and remember you
are to entertain a man who has not only a most
enormous appetite, but who has some little know-
ledge, let me tell you, in the science of elegant
eating. You know there is a peculiar air of self-

Online LibraryMarcus Tullius CiceroCicero's Life and letters : The life of Cicero, by Dr. Middleton, Cicero's letters to his friends, translated by Wm. Melmoth [and] Cicero's letters to Atticus, translated by Dr. Heberden → online text (page 140 of 230)