Select Letters to Several Friends

Author: Marcus Tullius Cicero  | Date: 43 BC


(Ad Fam. I. ix)

IT IS with singular pleasure I perceive by your letter that you are sensible, I will not say of my affection only, but of my devotion towards you. Even that sacred term indeed can but ill express the sentiments you merit from me: and if you esteem yourself (as you would persuade me) obliged by my endeavours to serve you, it is your friendship alone which can make you think so. I am sure at least I could not refuse you my best good offices, without being guilty of the most unpardonable ingratitude. You would have experienced, however, much stronger and more powerful instances of my friendship, if, instead of being thus long separated from each other, we had passed this interval together at Rome. It is not only in the particular article you mention, and in which no man is more qualified to shine, that I impatiently wish to receive you as my coadjutor: it is not, I say, in the senate alone that our amicable concurrence would have been distinguished; it would have appeared conspicuous, my friend, in every act of public concernment. Suffer me then to add, previously to the information you request me to give you of my political sentiments and situation, that if fortune had not thus divided us, I should have enjoyed in you a wise and faithful guide; as you would have found in me, a kind, a friendly, and, perhaps, no unexperienced associate. However, I rejoice (as undoubtedly I ought) at the honourable occasion of your absence, and in which your military conduct and success has procured you the illustrious title of Imperator. Nevertheless, I must repeat it again, it is owing to this circumstance, that you have not received far more abundant and efficacious fruits of that friendship, to which you have so undisputed a claim. In particular, I should most strenuously have united with you in taking just vengeance on those whose ill offices you have experienced, partly in resentment of your having supported and protected me in my adversity, and partly as they envy you the glory of so generous an action. One of them, however, has sufficiently anticipated our revenge, and drawn down by his own hands the chastisement he merits from ours. The person I mean is that man who has ever distinguished himself by opposing his benefactors, and who, after having received from you the highest services, singled you out as the object of his impotent malice. This man, in consequence of being detected in his late infamous attempts, has entirely and irretrievably lost at once both his honour and his liberty. As to yourself, though I had much rather you should gain experience by my misfortunes than your own; yet it affords me some consolation under your present disappointment, that you have not paid so severe a fine as I did, for being taught the little dependence there is upon the professions of the world. A reflection this, which may very properly serve as an introduction to the account you require of the motives of my late transactions.

You are informed then, it seems, that I am reconciled with Caesar and Appius: a step, you assure me, which you do not disapprove. But you are at a loss to guess what reasons could induce me to appear at the trial of Vatinius, not only as an advocate, but as a witness in his favour. To set this matter in the clearest light, it will be necessary to trace back the motives of my conduct to their original source. Let me observe then, my Lentulus, that when I was recalled from exile by your generous offices, I considered myself as restored, not only to my friends and to my family, but to the commonwealth in general. And as you had a right to the best returns of my affection and gratitude for the distinguished part you acted in that affair; so I thought there was something more than ordinary due from me to my country, which had so singularly co-operated with you upon this occasion. I often took an opportunity, during your consulate, of publicly declaring these my sentiments in the senate: as I always, you well know, expressed myself to the same purpose in our private conversations. Nevertheless, I had many reasons at that time to be highly disgusted. I could not, in truth, but observe the disguised malice of some and the coolness of others, when you were endeavouring to procure a decree for restoring the inscription of that honourable monument of my public services, which had been erected by the senate. But it was not only in this instance that those who had many obligations to concur in your good offices towards me, acted a part I had little reason to expect. They looked indeed with much ungenerous indifference on the cruel outrage which was offered to my brother and myself under our own roof: and the estimate they made in pursuance of the senate’s order of the damages I had sustained by these acts of violence, was far unequal to my real loss. This last article of their injustice, though least indeed in my concern, I could not but very sensibly feel amidst the general wreck of my fortunes. But though these mortifying marks of their disposition towards me were much too notorious to escape my observation; they could not efface the more agreeable impressions of their former friendship. For this reason, notwithstanding those high obligations I had to Pompey, of which you yourself were witness, and have often mentioned; notwithstanding also the affection and esteem which I always entertained for him, yet I still firmly adhered to my political principles: nor suffered these considerations of private amity to influence me in favour of his public measures. Accordingly, when Vatinius (who at the trial of P. Sextius was examined as a witness against him) intimated that Caesar’s successes had reconciled me to his party; I told him, in the presence of Pompey, that I preferred the fate of Bibulus, unhappy as he might esteem it, to all the splendid triumphs of the most victorious general. I asserted likewise upon another occasion (and asserted too in the hearing of Pompey) that the same persons who confined Bibulus to his house, had driven me from mine. Indeed, the whole series of those interrogatories which I put to Vatinius at this trial, was entirely designed as an invective against his tribunate: and I particularly exposed, with much freedom and indignation, his contempt of the Auspices, his corrupt disposal of foreign kingdoms, together with the rest of his violent and illegal proceedings. But it was not only upon this occasion that I spoke thus unreservedly: I frequently avowed my sentiments with the same resolute spirit in the senate. Thus when Marcellinus and Philippus were consuls, I carried a motion on 5th April that the affair of the Campanian lands should be referred to the re-consideration of a full house, on the 15th of May following. Now tell me, my friend, could I possibly have made a bolder or more formidable attack upon this party? Could I possibly have given a more convincing evidence, that I had not departed from my old principles, notwithstanding all I had formerly suffered for their sake? The truth of it is, this motion greatly exasperated, not only those whom it was reasonable to expect it would offend, but others upon whom I did not imagine it would have had any such effect. Pompey, soon after this decree had passed, set forward upon his expedition into Sardinia and Africa, without giving me the least intimation of his being disgusted. In his way thither he had a conference with Caesar at Lucca, who made great complaints of this motion. He had before, it seems, been informed of it by Crassus at Ravenna; who took that opportunity of incensing him against me. And it appeared afterwards that Pompey was likewise much dissatisfied upon the same account. This I learnt from several hands, but particularly from my brother, who met him in Sardinia, a few days after he had left Lucca. Pompey told him he was extremely glad of that accidental interview, as he wanted much to talk with him. He begun with saying, that as my brother stood engaged for my conduct, he should expect him to exert all his endeavours to influence me accordingly. Pompey then proceeded very warmly to remonstrate against my late motion in the senate; reminding my brother of his services to us both, and particularly of what had passed between them concerning Caesar’s edicts, and of those assurances, he said, my brother had given him of the measures I would pursue with respect to that article. He added, that my brother himself was a witness that the steps he had formerly taken for procuring my recall, were with the full consent and approbation of Caesar. Upon the whole, therefore, he entreated him, if it were either not in my power or my inclination to support the interest and dignity of the latter, that he would at least prevail with me not to oppose them. The account which my brother gave me of this conversation, together with a message I had before received from Pompey by Vibullius, to request that I would not proceed any farther in the affair of the Campanian lands till his return, threw me into a very serious train of reflections. I could not but think, after having performed and suffered so much for my country, that I might now at least be permitted to consider what was due to gratitude and to the honour of my brother: and as I had ever conducted myself with integrity towards the public, I might be allowed, I hoped, to act the same honest part in my more private connections.

During the time I was engaged in these votes and other proceedings with which Pompey appeared thus dissatisfied, I was informed of what passed in the conversations of a set of men, whom you will now guess without my naming. This party, though they approved of my public measures, as being agreeable to what had ever been their professed sentiments; were yet so ungenerous as to express great satisfaction in believing, that my conduct would by no means oblige Pompey, at the same time that it would highly exasperate Caesar. Well might I resent, indeed, so injurious a treatment; but much more when I saw them, even before my face, maliciously encouraging and caressing my avowed enemy;- mine do I call him? Rather let me say an enemy to the laws and tranquillity of his country, and to every character of worth and virtue amongst us.

Their malevolence, however, had not the effect they intended, and it could not warm me into those transports of indignation, of which my heart is now, indeed, no longer susceptible. On the contrary, it only induced me to examine my situation in all its various circumstances and relations, with the greatest coolness and impartiality: the process and result of which I will lay before you, in as few words as I am able.

There have been times, as experience no less than history has taught me, when the power of the commonwealth was in worthless and wicked hands. In such a conjuncture, no hope of interest (which I have at all times most heartily contemned) nor fear of danger (which, upon some occasions, however, has influenced the greatest minds) should prevail with me to co-operate in their measures: no not though I were attached to them by the strongest ties of friendship and gratitude. But when a man of Pompey’s distinguished character presides over the republic; a man who has acquired that eminence of power and honour by the most heroic actions, and the most signal services; I could not imagine it would be imputed to me as a levity of disposition, if in some few instances I declined a little from my general maxims, and complied with his inclinations. But my justification, I thought, would still rise in strength, when it should be remembered that I favoured his credit and dignity even from the earliest part of my life; as I particularly promoted them in my praetorship and consulate: when it should be remembered, that he not only assisted me with his vote and his influence in the senate during my adversity, but joined his counsels and his efforts with yours, for the same generous purpose: in a word, when it should be remembered, that he has no other enemy in the whole commonwealth, except the man who is my professed adversary. In consequence of these sentiments, it was absolutely necessary for me, you see, to unite with Caesar, as one who was joined in the same views and the same interest. His friendship likewise, which, you are sensible, my brother and I have long shared, together with his humane and generous disposition which I have abundantly experienced both by his late letters and his good offices towards me, contributed greatly to confirm me in these resolutions. To which I must add, that the commonwealth in general seemed to be most strongly averse from giving any opposition to these extraordinary men: more especially after Caesar had performed such great and glorious exploits for the honour of his country. But what had still a farther and very powerful weight in my deliberations, was Pompey’s having engaged his word for me to Caesar, as my brother had given the same assurances to Pompey.

Plato, I remembered, lays it down as a maxim in his divine writings, that "the people generally model their manners and their sentiments by those of the great:" a maxim which at this juncture, I thought, merited my particular attention. I was convinced indeed of its truth, when I reflected on the vigorous resolutions which were taken in the senate, on the memorable Nones of December: and it seemed no wonder so noble a spirit should appear in that assembly, after the animating example I had given them upon my first entering on the consular office. I reflected also, that during the whole time which intervened between the expiration of my consulship, and that of Caesar and Bibulus, when I still retained a very considerable authority in the senate, all the better part of the republic were united in their sentiments. On the other hand, about the time you took possession of your government in Spain, the commonwealth could not so properly be said to be under the administration of consuls, as of infamous barterers of provinces, and the mean vassals and ministers of sedition. It was then that discord and faction spread through all ranks amongst us: and I was marked out as the victim of party rage. In this critical season, however, not only every man of worth, but the greater part of the senators, and indeed all Italy in general, rose up with remarkable unanimity in my cause. What the event proved, I forebear to mention: as in truth it is to be imputed to a complication of errors and artifices. But this I will say, it was not forces, so much as leaders to conduct them, that were wanting to me at this crisis. I must add, that whatever censure may justly fall on those who refused me their assistance; most certainly they who first promised it and then deserted me, are not less to be blamed. In a word, if some of my friends may well be reproached for the timid, though sincere, counsels they gave me; how much more severe must their condemnation prove, who artfully alarmed me with their pretended fears? Let it be noted at the same time to my honour, that zealous as my fellow-citizens showed themselves to rise up in the defence of a man who had formerly stood forth in theirs; yet I would not suffer them to be exposed (unsupported as they were by those who ought to have been their protectors) to the barbarous insults of a lawless banditti. On the contrary, I rather chose the world should judge by the power of my friends in recalling me from my exile, what their honest unanimity could have effected, had I permitted them to have drawn their swords to prevent it.

You were sensible of this general zeal in my favour, when you undertook my cause: and you not only encouraged, but confirmed it, by your influence and authority. I shall always most willingly acknowledge, that you were assisted upon this occasion by some of the most considerable persons in Rome; who, it must be owned, exerted themselves with much greater vigour in procuring my return, than in preventing my banishment. And had they persisted in the same resolute disposition, they might have recovered their own authority at the same time that they obtained my restoration. The spirits, in truth, of the aristocratical part of the republic were at this juncture greatly raised and animated, by the inflexible patriotism of your conduct during your consulship, together with Pompey’s concurrence in the same measures. Caesar likewise, when he saw the senate distinguishing his glorious actions by the most singular and unprecedented honours, joined in adding weight to the authority of that assembly. Had these happy circumstances therefore been rightly improved, it would have been impossible for any ill-designing citizen, to have violated the laws and liberties of the commonwealth. But let me entreat you to reflect a moment on the subsequent conduct of my political associates. In the first place, they screened from punishment that infamous intruder on the matron-mysteries, who showed no more reverence for the awful ceremonies of the goddess in whose honour these sacred solemnities are celebrated, than for the chastity of his three sisters. And thus by preventing a worthy tribune of the people from obtaining that justice upon Clodius which he endeavoured to procure, they deprived future times of a most salutary example of chastised sedition. Did not they suffer likewise that monument, that glorious monument, which was erected, not indeed with the spoils I had gained in foreign wars, but by the generosity of the senate for my civil services; did they not most shamefully suffer it to be inscribed with the name of the cruel and avowed enemy of his country? Obliged, most certainly, I am to them for having restored me to the commonwealth: but I could wish they had conducted themselves, not only like physicians whose views terminate merely in the health of their patients, but like the Aliptae also who endeavour to establish the spirits and vigour of those under their care. Whereas they have acted with regard to me, as Apelles did in relation to his celebrated picture of Venus: they have finished one part of their work with great skill and accuracy, but left all the rest a mere rude and imperfect sketch.

In one article, however, I had the satisfaction to disappoint my enemies. They imagined my banishment would have wrought the same effect on me, which they falsely supposed a calamity of a like kind produced formerly in Quintus Metellus. This excellent person (whom I look upon to have been a man of the greatest fortitude and magnanimity of any in his times) they represented as broken and dispirited after his return from exile. But if broken he really were, it could not be the effect of his adversity: as it is certain he submitted to his sentence without the least reluctance, and lived under it, not only with indifference, but with cheerfulness. The truth is, no man ever equalled him in the strength and heroism of his mind; no, not even the celebrated Marcus Scaurus. Nevertheless, such as they had heard, or at least chose to imagine Metellus to have been, they figured me to themselves: or, if possible indeed, even yet more abject. The reverse, however, proved to be the case: and that general concern which the whole republic expressed at my absence, inspired me with more vigorous spirits than I had ever before enjoyed. The fact is, that the sentence of banishment against Metellus was repealed by a law proposed only by a single tribune of the people: whereas I was recalled from mine upon the motion of the consul himself, and by a law in which every magistrate of Rome concurred. Let me add likewise, that each order and degree in the commonwealth, headed by the senate, and supported by all Italy, zealously united in one common effort for recovering me to my country. Yet high as these unexampled honours were, they have never elated my heart with pride, or tempted me to assume an air which could give just offence even to the most malevolent of my enemies. The whole of my ambition is, not to be wanting either in advice or assistance to my friends; or even to those whom I have no great reason to rank in that number. It is this, perhaps, which has given the real ground of complaint to those who view only the lustre of my actions, but cannot be sensible of the pains and solicitude they cost me. But whatever the true cause may be, the pretended one is, my having promoted the honours of Caesar: a circumstance which they interpret, it seems, as a renunciation of my old maxims. The genuine motives however of my conduct in this instance are, not only what I just before mentioned, but particularly what I hinted in the beginning of my letter, and will now more fully explain.

You will not find then, my friend, the aristocratical part of the republic disposed to pursue the same system as when you left them. That system, I mean, which I endeavoured to establish when I was consul, and which, though afterwards occasionally interrupted, and at length entirely overthrown, was again fully restored during your administration. It is now however totally abandoned by those who ought most strenuously to have supported it. I do not assert this upon the credit only of appearances, in which it is exceedingly easy to dissemble: I speak it upon the unquestionable evidence of facts, and the public proceedings of those who were styled patriots in my consulate. The general scheme of politics therefore being thus changed, it is time, most certainly, for every man of prudence (in which number I have the ambition to be justly accounted) to vary likewise his particular plan. Accordingly, that chief and favourite guide of my principles whom I have already quoted, the divine Plato himself advises, not to press any political point farther than is consonant with the general sense of the community: for methods of violence, he maintains, are no more to be used towards one’s country, than one’s parent. Upon this maxim, he tells us, he declined engaging in public affairs: and as he found the people of Athens confirmed by long habit in their mistaken notions of government, he did not think it lawful to attempt by force, what he despaired of effecting by persuasion. My situation, however, is in this respect different from Plato’s: for on the one hand, as I have already embarked in public affairs, it is too late to deliberate whether I should now enter upon them or not: so on the other, the Roman people are by no means so incapable of judging of their true interest as he represents the Athenians. It is my happiness, indeed, to be able by the same measures to consult at once both my own and my country’s welfare. To these considerations I must add those uncommon acts of generosity, which Caesar has exerted both towards my brother and myself: so much indeed beyond all example, that even whatever had been his success, I should have thought it incumbent upon me, at least to have defended him. But now, distinguished as he is by such a wonderful series of prosperity, and crowned with so many glorious victories, I cannot but esteem it a duty which I owe the republic, abstracted from all personal obligations to himself, to promote his honours as far as lies in my power. And believe me, it is at once my confession and my glory, that next to you, together with the other generous authors of my restoration, there is not a man in the world from whom I have received such amicable offices.

And now, having laid before you the principal motives of my conduct in general, I shall be the better able to satisfy you concerning my behaviour with respect to Crassus and Vatinius in particular: for as to Appius and Caesar, I have the pleasure to find that you acquit me of all reproach.

My reconciliation then with Vatinius was effected by the mediation of Pompey, soon after the former was elected Praetor. I must confess, when he petitioned to be admitted a candidate for that office, I very warmly opposed him in the senate: but it was much less from my resentment to the man himself, than in order to support the honour and interest of Cato. Soon after this, he was impeached: and it was in compliance with the earnest solicitation of Caesar, that I undertook his defence. But you must not inquire why I appeared at this trial, or indeed at any other of the same kind, as a witness in favour of the accused: lest I should hereafter have an opportunity of retorting the question upon you. Though to say truth, I may fairly ask it even now: for do you not remember, my friend, in whose behalf it was that you formerly transmitted certain honourable testimonials even from the utmost limits of the Roman Empire? You need not scruple, however, to acknowledge the fact: for I have acted, and shall continue to act, the same part towards those very persons. But to return to Vatinius: besides the reasons I have already assigned, I was provoked to engage in his defence, by an opposition of the same sort which the parasite recommends to the amorous soldier in the play. The obsequious Gnatho, you know, advises his friend the captain whenever his mistress endeavours to pique his jealousy by mentioning his rival Phaedria, to play off Pamphila upon her in return. Thus, as I told the judges at this trial, since certain honourable persons who were formerly much in my interest had thought proper, by many little mortifying instances in the senate, to caress my avowed enemy before my face, I thought it but equitable to have a Clodius on my part, in opposition to the Clodius on theirs. Accordingly I have upon many occasions acted suitably to this declaration: and all the world acknowledges I have reason.

Having thus explained my conduct with regard to Vatinius, I will now lay before you those motives which determined me in respect to Crassus. I was willing, for the sake of the common cause, to bury in oblivion the many and great injuries I had formerly received from him. Agreeably to this disposition, as we were then upon good terms, I should have borne his unexpected defence of Gabinius (whom he had very lately with so much warmth opposed) if he had avoided all personal reflections on myself. But when with the most unprovoked violence, he broke in upon me whilst I was in the midst of my speech; I must confess it raised my indignation: and perhaps I took fire so much the sooner, as possibly there still remained in my heart some latent sparks of my former resentment. However, my behaviour in the senate upon this occasion, was much and generally applauded. Among the rest, I was complimented likewise by the same men whom I have often hinted at in this letter; and who acknowledged I had rendered a very essential service to their cause, by that spirit which I had thus exerted. In short, they affected to speak of me in public, as being now indeed restored to the commonwealth in the best and most glorious sense. Nevertheless, they had the malice in their private conversations (as I was informed by persons of undoubted honour) to express singular satisfaction in the new variance that had thus happened between Crassus and myself: as they pleased themselves with imagining it would for ever throw me at a distance from those who were joined with him in the same interest. Pompey in the meantime employed incredible pains to close this breach: and Caesar also mentioned it in his letters, as an incident that gave him much concern. Upon these considerations therefore I thought it expedient to act agreeably both to the dictates of my natural temper, and to that experience which I had gained by my former misfortunes. In pursuance of these sentiments, I consented to a reconcilement: and in order to render it more conspicuous to the world, Crassus set out for his government almost from under my roof: for having invited himself to spend the preceding night with me, we supped together in the gardens of my son-in-law Crassipes. It was for these reasons that I thought my honour obliged me to defend his cause in the senate: and I confess I mentioned him with that high applause, of which, it seems, you have been informed.

Thus I have given you a full detail of the several views and motives by which I am governed in the present conjuncture, as well as of the particular disposition in which I stand with respect to the slender part I can pretend to claim in the administration of public affairs. And, believe me, I should have judged and acted entirely in the same manner, had I been totally free from every sort of amicable bias. For, on the one hand, I should have esteemed it the most absurd folly to have attempted to oppose so superior a force; and on the other, supposing it possible, I should yet have deemed it imprudent to weaken the authority of persons so eminently and so justly distinguished in the commonwealth. Besides, it appears to me to be the dictates of sound policy, to act in accommodation to particular conjunctures, and not inflexibly pursue the same unalterable scheme, when public circumstances, together with the sentiments of the best and wisest members of the community, are evidently changed. In conformity to this notion, the most judicious reasoners on the great art of government have universally condemned an obstinate perseverance in one uniform tenor of measures. The skill of the pilot is shown in weathering the storm at least, though he should not gain his port: but if shifting his sails, and changing his direction will infallibly carry him with security into the intended harbour, would it not be an instance of most unreasonable tenaciousness to continue in the more hazardous course wherein he began his voyage? Thus (and it is a maxim I have often had occasion to inculcate) the point we ought all of us to keep in view in our administration of the commonwealth, is the final enjoyment of an honourable repose: but the method of securing to ourselves this dignity of retreat, is by having been invariable in our intentions for the public welfare, and not by a positive perseverance in certain favourite modes of obtaining it. To repeat therefore what I just now declared; had I been absolutely uninfluenced by every motive of friendship, I should still have pursued the same public measures in which I am now engaged. But when gratitude and resentment both conspire in recommending this scheme of action to me, I cannot hesitate a moment in adopting it, especially since it appears most conducive to the interests of the republic in general, as well as to my own in particular. To speak freely, I act upon this principle so much the more frequently, and with the less reserve, not only as my brother is Lieutenant under Caesar, but as the latter receives the slightest action or even word of mine in his favour, with an air that evidently shows he considers them as obligations of the most sensible kind. And, in fact, I derive the same benefit from that popularity and power which you know he possesses, as if they were so many advantages of my own. The sum of the whole in short is this: I imagined that I had no other method of counteracting those perfidious designs with which a certain party were secretly contriving to undermine me, than by thus uniting the friendship and protection of the men in power, with those internal aids which have never yet been wanting to my support.

I am well persuaded, had you been in Rome, you would have concurred with me in these sentiments. I know, indeed, the candour and moderation of your temper; and I know, too, that your heart not only glows with friendship towards me, but is wholly untainted with malevolence towards others: in a word, I know that as you possess every sublime and generous affection, you are incapable of anything so mean as artifice and disguise. Nevertheless, even this elevated disposition has not secured you from the same unprovoked malice, which I have experienced in my own affairs. I doubt not, therefore, if you had been an actor in this scene, the same motives would have swayed your conduct, which have governed mine. But however that may be, I shall most certainly submit all my actions to your guidance and advice, whenever I shall again enjoy your company: and I am sure you will not be less attentive to the preservation of my honour, than you formerly were to that of my person. Of this at least you may be persuaded, that you will find me a faithful friend and associate in all your counsels and measures: as it will be the first and daily purpose of my life, to supply you with additional and more powerful reasons for rejoicing in those obligations you have conferred upon me.

As you desire me to send you those compositions which I have written since you left Rome, I shall deliver some orations into the hands of Menocrates for that purpose. However, not to alarm you, their number is but inconsiderable; for I withdraw as much as possible from the contention of the Bar, in order to join those more gentle muses which were always my delight, and are particularly so at this juncture. Accordingly I have drawn up three dialogues upon oratory, wherein I have endeavoured to imitate the manner of Aristotle. I trust they will not prove altogether useless to your son, as I have rejected the modern precepts of rhetoric, and adopted the ancient Aristotelian and Isocratic rules. To this catalogue of my writings I must also add an historical poem which I have lately composed in three cantos, upon the subject of my banishment; and as a lasting memorial likewise of your friendship and my gratitude. This I should long since have transmitted to you, had it been my immediate intention to make it public. But I am discouraged from this design at present, not indeed as fearing the resentment of those who may imagine themselves the objects of my satire (for in this respect I have been extremely tender), but as finding it impossible to make particular mention of every one from whom I received obligations at that season. However, when I shall meet with a proper opportunity, I will send it to you; submitting my writings as well as my actions entirely to your judgment. I know indeed these literary meditations have ever been the favourite employment of your thoughts no less than of mine.

Your family concerns which you recommend to me, are so much a part of my own, that I am sorry you should think it necessary even to remind me of them. I could not therefore read your solicitations for that purpose, without some uneasiness.

I find you were prevented by an indisposition from going the last summer into Cilicia; which was the occasion, it seems, of your not settling my brother’s affairs in that province. However you give me assurance that you will now take all possible methods of adjusting them. You cannot indeed oblige him more: and he will think himself as much indebted to you for procuring him this additional farm, as if you had settled him in the possession of his patrimony. In the meantime, I entreat you to inform me frequently and freely of all your affairs, and particularly give me an account of the studies and exercises in which your son is engaged. For be well persuaded, never friend was more agreeable or more endeared to another, than you are to me: and of this truth I hope to render not only you, but all the world, and even posterity itself, thoroughly sensible.

Appius has lately declared in the senate (what he had before indeed often intimated in conversation) that if he could get his proconsular commission confirmed in an assembly of the Curiae he would cast lots with his colleague for the particular province to which they should respectively succeed: if not, that by an amicable agreement between themselves he had resolved upon yours. He added, that in the case of a consul it was not absolutely necessary, though perhaps it might be expedient, to procure a law of this kind: and as a government had been appointed him by a decree of the senate, he was entitled, he said, in consequence of the Cornelian law, to a military command, till the time of his entrance into Rome. I know not what accounts you may have received of this matter from your other friends: but I find the sentiments of the world are much divided. Some are of opinion, that you are not obliged to resign your government, if your successor should not be authorised by an assembly of the Curiae: whilst others maintain, that notwithstanding you should think proper to leave the province, you may nevertheless depute a person to preside in your absence. As to myself, I am not altogether so clear with respect to the law in question: though I must own at the same time, that my doubts are by no means considerable. Of this however I am perfectly sure, that it is agreeable to your honour, and to that generosity of conduct in which I know you place your highest gratification, quietly to yield up your province to your successor; especially as you cannot in this instance oppose his ambitious views without incurring the suspicion of being influenced by the same motives yourself. But be that as it will, I thought it incumbent upon me to inform you of my sentiments: as I shall certainly defend yours, which ever way they may determine you to act.

After I had finished my letter, I received your last concerning the farmers of the revenues. Your decision appears to me, I must own, perfectly equitable; yet at the same time, I cannot but wish you might be so happy as not to disgust a body of men, whose interest you have hitherto always favoured. However, you may be assured I shall support the decrees you have made upon this occasion: though you know well the temper and disposition of these people, and what formidable enemies they proved to the excellent Quintus Scaevola. I would recommend it to you therefore, if possible, to recover their good graces, or at least to soften them. The task, I confess, is difficult: but prudence, I think, requires you should use your best endeavours for that purpose. Farewell.

[Dec. 54 B.C.]


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Chicago: Marcus Tullius Cicero, "To Lentulus," Select Letters to Several Friends, trans. W. Melmoth Original Sources, accessed May 28, 2023,

MLA: Cicero, Marcus Tullius. "To Lentulus." Select Letters to Several Friends, translted by W. Melmoth, Original Sources. 28 May. 2023.

Harvard: Cicero, MT, 'To Lentulus' in Select Letters to Several Friends, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 28 May 2023, from