THE LETTERS OF THE YOUNGER PLINY, BOOKS 1-5. WITH TRANSLATED BY JOHN B. FIRTH.
You have constantly urged me to collect and publish the more highly finished of the letters that I may have written. I have made such a collection, but without preserving the order in which they were composed, as I was not writing a historical narrative. So I have taken them as they happened to come to hand. I can only hope that you will not have cause to regret the advice you gave, and that I shall not repent having followed it; for I shall set to work to recover such letters as have up to now been tossed on one side, and I shall not keep back any that I may write in the future. Farewell.
As I see that your arrival is likely to be later than I expected, I forward you the speech which I promised in an earlier letter. I beg that you will read and revise it as you have done with other compositions of mine, because I think none of my previous works is written in quite the same style. I have tried to imitate, at least in manner and turns of phrase, your old favourite, Demosthenes, and Calvus, to whom I have recently taken a great fancy; for to catch the fire and power of such acknowledged stylists is only given to the heaven-inspired few. I hope you will not think me conceited if I say that the subject- matter was not unworthy of such imitation, for throughout the whole argument I found something that kept rousing me from my sleepy and confirmed indolence, that is to say, as far as a person of my temperament can be roused. Not that I abjured altogether the pigments of our master Cicero; when an opportunity arose for a pleasant little excursion from the main path of my argument I availed myself of it, as my object was to be terse without being unnecessarily dry. Nor must you think that I am apologising for these few passages. For just to make your eye for faults the keener, I will confess that both my friends here and myself have no fear of publishing the speech, if you will but set your mark of approval against the passages that possibly show my folly. I must publish something, and I only hope that the best thing for the purpose may be this volume which is ready finished. That is the prayer of a lazy man, is it not? but there are several reasons why I must publish, and the strongest is that the various copies I have lent out are said to still find readers, though by this time they have lost the charm of novelty. Of course, it may be that the booksellers say this to flatter me. Well, let them flatter, so long as fibs of this kind encourage me to study the harder. Farewell.
1.3.--TO CANINIUS RUFUS.
How is Comum looking, your darling spot and mine? And that most charming villa of yours, what of it, and its portico where it is always spring, its shady clumps of plane trees, its fresh crystal canal, and the lake below that gives such a charming view? How is the exercise ground, so soft yet firm to the foot; how goes the bath that gets the sun's rays so plentifully as he journeys round it? What too of the big banqueting halls and the little rooms just for a few, and the retiring rooms for night and day? Have they full possession of you, and do they share your company in turn? or are you, as usual, continually being called away to attend to private family business? You are indeed a lucky man if you can spend all your leisure there; if you cannot, your case is that of most of us. But really it is time that you passed on your unimportant and petty duties for others to look after, and buried yourself among your books in that secluded yet beautiful retreat. Make this at once the business and the leisure of your life, your occupation and your rest; let your waking hours be spent among your books, and your hours of sleep as well. Mould something, hammer out something that shall be known as yours for all time. Your other property will find a succession of heirs when you are gone; what I speak of will continue yours for ever--if once it begins to be. I know the capacity and inventive wit that I am spurring on. You have only to think of yourself as the able man others will think you when you have realised your ability. Farewell.
1.4.--TO POMPEIA CELERINA.
What treasures you have in your villas at Ocriculum, at Narnia, at Carsola and Perusia! Even a bathing place at Narnia! My letters--for now there is no need for you to write--will have shown you how pleased I am, or rather the short letter will which I wrote long ago. The fact is, that some of my own property is scarcely so completely mine as is some of yours; the only difference being that I get more thoroughly and attentively looked after by your servants than I do by my own. You will very likely find the same thing yourself when you come to stay in one of my villas. I hope you will, in the first place that you may get as much pleasure out of what belongs to me as I have from what belongs to you, and in the second that my people may be roused a little to a sense of their duties. I find them rather remiss in their behaviour and almost careless. But that is their way; if they have a considerate master, their fear of him grows less and less as they get to know him, while a new face sharpens their attention and they study to gain their master's good opinion, not by looking after his wants but those of his guests. Farewell.
1.5.--TO VOCONIUS ROMANUS.
Did you ever see a man more abject and fawning than Marcus Regulus has been since the death of Domitian? His misdeeds were better concealed during that prince's reign, but they were every bit as bad as they were in the time of Nero. He began to be afraid that I was angry with him and he was not mistaken, for I certainly was annoyed. After doing what he could to help those who were compassing the ruin of Rusticus Arulenus, he had openly exulted at his death, and went so far as to publicly read and then publish a pamphlet in which he violently attacks Rusticus and even calls him "the Stoics' ape," adding that "he is marked with the brand of Vitellius." You recognise, of course, the Regulian style! He tears to pieces Herennius Senecio so savagely that Metius Carus said to him, "What have you to do with my dead men? Did I ever worry your Crassus or Camerinus?"--these being some of Regulus's victims in the days of Nero. Regulus thought I bore him malice for this, and so he did not invite me when he read his pamphlet. Besides, he remembered that he once mortally attacked me in the Court of the Centumviri.
I was a witness on behalf of Arionilla, the wife of Timon, at the request of Rusticus Arulenus, and Regulus was conducting the prosecution. We on our side were relying for part of the defence on a decision of Metius Modestus, an excellent man who had been banished by Domitian and was at that moment in exile. This was Regulus's opportunity. "Tell me, Secundus," said he, "what you think of Modestus." You see in what peril I should have placed myself if I had answered that I thought highly of him, and how disgraceful it would have been if I had said that I thought ill of him. I fancy it must have been the gods who came to my rescue. "I will tell you what I think of him," I said, "when the Court has to give a decision on the point." He returned to the charge: "My question is, what do you think of Modestus?" Again I replied: "Witnesses used to be interrogated about persons in the dock, not about those who are already convicted." A third time he asked: "Well, I won't ask you now what you think of Modestus, but what you think of his loyalty." "You ask me," said I, "for my opinion. But I do not think it is in order for you to ask an opinion on what the Court has already passed judgment." He was silenced, while I was congratulated and praised for not having smirched my reputation by giving an answer that might have been discreet but would certainly have been dishonest, and for not having entangled myself in the meshes of such a crafty question.
Well, now the fellow is conscience-stricken, and buttonholes first Caecilius Celer and then implores Fabius Justsus to reconcile me to him. Not content with that, he makes his way in to see Spurinna, and begs and prays of him--you know what an abject coward he is when he is frightened--as follows. "Do go," says he, "and call on Pliny in the morning--early in the morning, for my suspense is unbearable--and do what you can to remove his anger against me." I was early awake that day, when a message came from Spurinna, "I am coming to see you." I sent back word, "I will come and see you." We met at the portico of Livia, just as we were each of us on the way to see the other. He explained his commission from Regulus and added his own entreaties, but did not press the point too strongly, as became a worthy gentleman asking a favour for a worthless acquaintance. This was my answer: "Well, you must see for yourself what message you think best to take back to Regulus; I should not like you to be under any misapprehension. I am waiting till Mauricus returns"--he had not yet returned from exile- -"and so I cannot give you an answer either way, for I shall do just what he thinks best. It is he who is principally interested in this matter, I am only secondarily concerned." A few days afterwards Regulus himself met me when I was paying my respects to the new praetor. He followed me thither and asked for a private conversation. He said he was afraid that something he once said in the Court of the Centumviri rankled in my memory, when, in replying to Satrius Rufus and myself, he remarked, "Satrius Rufus, who is quite content with the eloquence of our days, and does not seek to rival Cicero." I told him that as I had his own confession for it I could now see that the remark was a spiteful one, but that it was quite possible to put a complimentary construction upon it. "For," said I, "I do try to rival Cicero, and I am not content with the eloquence of our own time. I think it is very stupid not to take as models the very best masters. But how is it that you remember this case and forget the other one in which you asked me what I thought of the loyalty of Metius Modestus?" As you know, he is always pale, but he grew perceptibly paler at this thrust. Then he stammered out, "I put the question not to damage you but Modestus." Observe the man's malignant nature who does not mind acknowledging that he wished to do an injury to an exile. Then he went on to make this fine excuse; "He wrote in a letter which was read aloud in Domitian's presence, 'Regulus is the vilest creature that walks on two legs.'" Modestus never wrote a truer word.
That practically closed the conversation. I did not wish it to go any further, so that I might not commit myself until Mauricus arrived. Moreover, I am quite aware that Regulus is a difficult bird to net. He is rich, he is a shrewd intriguer, he has no inconsiderable body of followers and a still larger circle of those who fear him, and fear is often a more powerful factor than affection. But, after all, these are bonds that may be shattered and weakened, for a bad man's influence is as little to be relied upon as is the man himself. Moreover, let me repeat that I am waiting for Mauricus. He is a man of sound judgment and sagacity, which he has learned by experience, and he can gauge what is likely to happen in the future from what has occurred in the past. I shall be guided by him, and either strike a blow or put by my weapons just as he thinks best. I have written you this letter because it is only right, considering our regard for one another, that you should be acquainted not only with what I have said and done, but also with my plans for the future. Farewell.
1.6.--TO CORNELIUS TACITUS.
You will laugh, and I give you leave to. You know what sort of sportsman I am, but I, even I, have bagged three boars, each one of them a perfect beauty. "What!" you will say, "YOU!" Yes, I, and that too without any violent departure from my usual lazy ways. I was sitting by the nets; I had by my side not a hunting spear and a dart, but my pen and writing tablets. I was engaged in some composition and jotting down notes, so that I might have full tablets to take home with me, even though my hands were empty. You need not shrug your shoulders at study under such conditions. It is really surprising how the mind is stimulated by bodily movement and exercise. I find the most powerful incentive to thought in having the woods all about me, in the solitude and the silence which is observed in hunting. So when next you go hunting, take my advice and carry your writing tablets with you as well as your luncheon basket and your flask. You will find that Minerva loves to wander on the mountains quite as much as Diana. Farewell.
1.7.--TO OCTAVIUS RUFUS.
See on what a pinnacle you have placed me by giving me the same power and royal will that Homer attributed to Jupiter, Best and Greatest:-- "One half his prayer the Father granted, the other half he refused." For I too can answer your request by just nodding a yes or no. It is open to me, especially as you press me to do so, to decline to act on behalf of the Barbici against a single individual; but I should be violating the good faith and constancy that you admire in me, if I were to accept a brief against a province to which I am bound by many friendly ties, and by the work and dangers I have often undertaken in its behalf. So I will take a middle course, and of the alternative favours you ask I will choose the one which will commend itself both to your interest and your judgment. For what I have to consider is not so much what will meet your wishes of the moment, but how to do that which will win the steady approval of a man of your high character. I hope to be in Rome about the Ides of October and then join my credit with yours, and convince Gallus in person of the wisdom of my resolve, though even now you may assure him of my good intentions. "He spake, and Kronios nodded his dark brows." Homer again, but why should I not go on plying you with Homeric lines? You will not let me ply you with verses of your own, though I love them so well that I think your permission to quote them would be the one bribe that would induce me to appear against the Barbici. I have almost made a shocking omission, and forgotten to thank you for the dates you sent me. They are very fine, and are likely to prove strong rivals of my figs and mushrooms. Farewell.
1.8.--TO POMPEIUS SATURNINUS.
Your letter, asking me to send you one of my compositions, came at an opportune moment, for I had just made up my mind to do so. So you were spurring a willing horse, and you have not only spoiled your only chance of making excuses for declining, but have enabled me to press work upon you without feeling ashamed at asking the favour. For it would be equally unbecoming for me to hesitate about accepting your offer as for you who made it to look upon it as a bore. However, you must not expect anything of an original kind from a lazy man like me. I shall only ask you to find time to again look through the speech which I made to my townsfolk at the dedication of the public library. I remember that you have already criticised a few points therein, but merely in a general way, and I now beg that you will not only criticise it as a whole, but will ply your pencil on particular passages as well, in your severest manner. For even after a thorough revision it will still be open to us to publish or suppress it as we think fit. Very likely the revision will help us out of our hesitation and enable us to decide one way or the other. By looking through it again and again we shall either find that it is not worth publication or we shall render it worthy by the way we revise it.
What makes me doubtful is rather the subject-matter than the actual composition. It is perhaps a shade too laudatory and ostentatious. And this will be more than our modesty can carry, however plain and unassuming the style in which it is written, especially as I have to enlarge on the munificence of my relatives as well as on my own. It is a ticklish and dangerous subject, even when one can flatter one's self that there was no way of avoiding it. For if people grow impatient at hearing the praises of others, how much more difficult must it be to prevent a speech becoming tedious when we sing our own praises or those of our family? We look askance even at unpretentious honesty, and do so all the more when its fame is trumpeted abroad. In short, it is only the good action that is done by stealth and passes unapplauded which protects the doer from the carping criticism of the world. For this reason I have often debated whether I ought to have composed the speech, such as it is, simply to suit my own feelings, or whether I should have looked beyond myself to the public. I am inclined to the former alternative by the thought that many actions which are necessary to the performance of an object lose their point and appositeness when that object is attained. I will not weary you with examples further than to ask whether anything could have been more appropriate than my gracing in writing the reasons which prompted my generosity. By so doing, the result was that I grew familiar with generous sentiments; the more I discussed the virtue the more I saw its beauties, and above all I saved myself from the reaction that often follows a sudden fit of open- handedness. From all this there gradually grew up within me the habit of despising money, and whereas nature seems to have tied men down to their money bags to guard them, I was enabled to throw off the prevailing shackles of avarice by my long and carefully reasoned love of generosity. Consequently my munificence appeared to me to be all the more worthy of praise, inasmuch as I was drawn to it by reason and not by any sudden impulse.
Again, I also felt that I was promising not mere games or gladiatorial shows, but an annual subscription for the upbringing of freeborn youths. The pleasures of the eye and ear never lack eulogists; on the contrary, they need rather to be put in the background than in the foreground by speakers: but to obtain volunteers who will undertake the fatigue and hard work of self-culture, we have not only to offer rewards but to encourage them with the choicest addresses. For if doctors have to coax their patients into adopting an insipid but yet wholesome diet, how much the more ought the man who is giving his fellows good advice to use all the allurements of oratory to make his hearers adopt a course which, though most useful, is not generally popular? Especially is this the case when we have to try and convince men who have no children of the value of the boon which is bestowed on those who have, and to induce all the rest to wait patiently till their turn comes to receive the benefit now given to a few, and in the meantime show themselves fit recipients for it. But just as then, when we wished to explain the meaning and bearing of our bounty, we were studying the common good and not seeking an opportunity for self-boasting, so now in the matter of publication we are afraid lest people should think that we have had an eye not so much to the benefit of others as to our own glorification. Besides, we do not forget how much better it is to seek the reward of a good action in the testimony of one's conscience than in fame. For glory ought to follow of its own accord, and not to be consciously sought for; nor, again, is a good deed any the less beautiful because owing to some chance or other no glory attends it. Those who boast of their own good deeds are credited not so much with boasting for having done them, but with having done them in order to be able to boast of them. Consequently what would have been considered a noble action if told of by a stranger, loses its striking qualities when recounted by the actual doer. For when men find that the deed itself is inassailable they attack the boastfulness of the doer, and hence if you commit anything to be ashamed of, the deed itself is blamed, while if you perform anything deserving of praise, you are blamed for not having kept silence upon it.
Beyond all this, however, there is a special obstacle in the way of publishing the speech. I delivered it not before the people but before the municipal corporation, not in public but in the Council Chamber. So I am afraid that it may look inconsistent if, after avoiding the applause and cheers of the crowd when I delivered the speech, I now seek for that applause by publishing it, and if, after getting the common people, whose interests I was seeking, removed from the threshold and the walls of the Chamber--to prevent the appearance of courting popularity--I should now seem to deliberately seek the acclamations of those who are only interested in my munificence to the extent of having a good example shown them. Well, I have told you the grounds of my hesitation, but I shall follow the advice you give me, for its weight will be reason sufficient for me. Farewell.
1.9.--TO MINUTIUS FUNDANUS.
It is surprising how if you take each day singly here in the city you pass or seem to pass your time reasonably enough when you take stock thereof, but how, when you put the days together, you are dissatisfied with yourself. If you ask any one, "What have you been doing to-day?" he will say, "Oh, I have been attending a coming-of-age function; I was at a betrothal or a wedding; so-and-so asked me to witness the signing of a will; I have been acting as witness to A, or I have been in consultation with B." All these occupations appear of paramount importance on the day in question, but if you remember that you repeat the round day after day, they seem a sheer waste of time, especially when you have got away from them into the country; for then the thought occurs to you, "What a number of days I have frittered away in these chilly formalities!" That is how I feel when I am at my Laurentine Villa and busy reading or writing, or even when I am giving my body a thorough rest and so repairing the pillars of my mind. I hear nothing and say nothing to give me vexation; no one comes backbiting a third party, and I myself have no fault to find with any one except it be with myself when my pen does not run to my liking. I have no hopes and fears to worry me, no rumours to disturb my rest. I hold converse with myself and with my books. 'Tis a genuine and honest life; such leisure is delicious and honourable, and one might say that it is much more attractive than any business. The sea, the shore, these are the true secret haunts of the Muses, and how many inspirations they give me, how they prompt my musings! Do, I beg of you, as soon as ever you can, turn your back on the din, the idle chatter, and the frivolous occupations of Rome, and give yourself up to study or recreation. It is better, as our friend Attilius once very wittily and very truly said, to have no occupation than to be occupied with nothingness. Farewell.
1.10.--TO ATTIUS CLEMENS.
If ever there was a time when this Rome of ours was devoted to learning, it is now. There are many shining lights, of whom it will be enough to mention but one. I refer to Euphrates the philosopher. I saw a great deal of him, even in the privacy of his home life, during my young soldiering days in Syria, and I did my best to win his affection, though that was not a hard task, for he is ever easy of access, frank, and full of the humanities that he teaches. I only wish that I had been as successful in fulfilling the hopes he then formed of me as he has been increasing his large stock of virtues, though possibly it is I who now admire them the more because I can appreciate them the better. Even now my appreciation is not as complete as it might be. It is only an artist who can thoroughly judge another painter, sculptor, or image-maker, and so too it needs a philosopher to estimate another philosopher at his full merit. But so far as I can judge, Euphrates has many qualities so conspicuously brilliant that they arrest the eyes and attention even of those who have but modest pretensions to learning. His reasoning is acute, weighty, and elegant, often attaining to the breadth and loftiness that we find in Plato. His conversation flows in a copious yet varied stream, strikingly pleasant to the ear, and with a charm that seizes and carries away even the reluctant hearer. Add to this a tall, commanding presence, a handsome face, long flowing hair, a streaming white beard--all of which may be thought accidental adjuncts and without significance, but they do wonderfully increase the veneration he inspires. There is no studied negligence in his dress, it is severely plain but not austere; when you meet him you revere him without shrinking away in awe. His life is purity itself, but he is just as genial; his lash is not for men but for their vices; for the erring he has gentle words of correction rather than sharp rebuke. When he gives advice you cannot help listening in rapt attention, and you hope he will go on persuading you even when the persuasion is complete. He has three children, two of them sons, whom he has brought up with the strictest care. His father-in-law is Pompeius Julianus, a man of great distinction, but whose chief title to fame is that though, as ruler of a province, he might have chosen a son-in-law of the highest social rank, he preferred one who was distinguished not for social dignities but for wisdom.
Yet why describe at greater length a man whose society I can no longer enjoy? Is it to make myself feel my loss the more? For my time is all taken up by the duties of an office--important, no doubt, but tedious in the extreme. I sit at my magisterial desk; I countersign petitions, I make out the public accounts; I write hosts of letters, but what illiterary productions they are! Sometimes--but how seldom I get the opportunity--I complain to Euphrates about these uncongenial duties. He consoles me and even assures me that there is no more noble part in the whole of philosophy than to be a public official, to hear cases, pass judgment, explain the laws and administer justice, and so practise in short what the philosophers do but teach. But he never can persuade me of this, that it is better to be busy as I am than to spend whole days in listening to and acquiring knowledge from him. That makes me the readier to urge you, whose time is your own, to let him put a finish and polish upon you when you come to town, and I hope you will come all the sooner on that account. I am not one of those--and there are many of them--who grudge to others the happiness they are debarred from themselves; on the contrary, I feel a very lively sense of pleasure in seeing my friends abounding in joys that are denied to me. Farewell.
1.11.--TO FABIUS JUSTUS.
It is quite a long time since I had a letter from you. "Oh," you say, "there has been nothing to write about." But at least you might write and say just that, or you might send me the line with which our grandfathers used to begin their letters: "All is well if you are well, for I am well." I should be quite satisfied with so much; for, after all, it is the heart of a letter. Do you think I am joking? I am perfectly serious. Pray, let me know of your doings. It makes me feel downright uneasy to be kept in ignorance. Farewell.
1.12.--TO CALESTRIUS TIRO.
I have suffered a most grievous loss, if loss is a word that can be applied to my being bereft of so distinguished a man. Corellius Rufus is dead, and what makes my grief the more poignant is that he died by his own act. Such a death is always most lamentable, since neither natural causes nor Fate can be held responsible for it. When people die of disease there is a great consolation in the thought that no one could have prevented it; when they lay violent hands on themselves we feel a pang which nothing can assuage in the thought that they might have lived longer. Corellius, it is true, felt driven to take his own life by Reason--and Reason is always tantamount to Necessity with philosophers-- and yet there were abundant inducements for him to live. His conscience was stainless, his reputation beyond reproach; he stood high in men's esteem. Moreover, he had a daughter, a wife, a grandson, and sisters, and, besides all these relations, many genuine friends. But his battle against ill-health had been so long and hopeless that all these splendid rewards of living were outweighed by the reasons that urged him to die.
I have heard him say that he was first attacked by gout in the feet when he was thirty-three years of age. He had inherited the complaint, for it often happens that a tendency to disease is handed down like other qualities in a sort of succession. While he was in the prime of life he overcame his malady and kept it well in check by abstemious and pure living, and when it became sharper in its attacks as he grew old he bore up against it with great fortitude of mind. Even when he suffered incredible torture and the most horrible agony--for the pain was no longer confined, as before, to the feet, but had begun to spread over all his limbs--I went to see him in the time of Domitian when he was staying at his country house. His attendants withdrew from his chamber, as they always did whenever one of his more intimate friends entered the room. Even his wife, a lady who might have been trusted to keep any secret, also used to retire. Looking round the room, he said: "Why do you think I endure pain like this so long? It is that I may outlive that tyrant, even if only by a single day." Could you but have given him a frame fit to support his resolution, he would have achieved the object of his desire. However, some god heard his prayer and granted it, and then feeling that he could die without anxiety and as a free man ought, he snapped the bonds that bound him to life. Though they were many, he preferred death.
His malady had become worse, though he tried to moderate it by his careful diet, and then, as it still continued to grow, he escaped from it by a fixed resolve. Two, three, four days passed and he refused all food. Then his wife Hispulla sent our mutual friend Caius Geminius to tell me the sad news that Corellius had determined to die, that he was not moved by the entreaties of his wife and daughter, and that I was the only one left who might possibly recall him to life. I flew to see him, and had almost reached the house when Hispulla sent me another message by Julius Atticus, saying that now even I could do nothing, for his resolve had become more and more fixed. When the doctor offered him nourishment he said, "My mind is made up," and the word has awakened within me not only a sense of loss, but of admiration. I keep thinking what a friend, what a manly friend is now lost to me. He was at the end of his seventy-sixth year, an age long enough even for the stoutest of us. True. He has escaped a lifelong illness; he has died leaving children to survive him, and knowing that the State, which was dearer to him than everything else beside, was prospering well. Yes, yes, I know all this. And yet I grieve at his death as I should at the death of a young man in the full vigour of life; I grieve--you may think me weak for so doing--on my own account too. For I have lost, lost for ever, the guide, philosopher, and friend of my life. In short, I will say again what I said to my friend Calvisius, when my grief was fresh: "I am afraid I shall not live so well ordered a life now." Send me a word of sympathy, but do not say, "He was an old man, or he was infirm." These are hackneyed words; send me some that are new, that are potent to ease my trouble, that I cannot find in books or hear from my friends. For all that I have heard and read occur to me naturally, but they are powerless in the presence of my excessive sorrow. Farewell.
1.13.--TO SOSIUS SENECIO.
This year has brought us a fine crop of poets: right through April hardly a day passed without some recital or other. I am delighted that literature is so flourishing and that men are giving such open proofs of brains, even though audiences are found so slow in coming together. People as a rule lounge in the squares and waste the time in gossip when they should be listening to the recital. They get some one to come and tell them whether the reciter has entered the hall yet, whether he has got through his introduction, or whether he has nearly reached the end of his reading. Not until then do they enter the room, and even then they come in slowly and languidly. Nor do they sit it out; no, before the close of the recital they slip away, some sidling out so as not to attract attention, others rising openly and walking out boldly. And yet, by Hercules, our fathers tell a story of how Claudius Caesar one day, while walking up and down in the palace, happened to hear some clapping of hands, and on inquiring the cause and being told that Nonianus was giving a reading, he suddenly joined the company to every one's surprise. But nowadays even those who have most time on their hands, after receiving early notices and frequent reminders, either fail to put in an appearance, or if they do come they complain that they have wasted a day just because they have not wasted it. All the more praise and credit, therefore, is due to those who do not allow their love of writing and reciting to be damped either by the laziness or the fastidiousness of their audiences. For my own part, I have hardly ever failed to attend. True, the authors are mostly my friends, for almost all the literary people are also friends of mine, and for this reason I have spent more time in Rome than I had intended. But now I can betake myself to my country retreat and compose something, though not for a public recital, lest those whose readings I attended should think I went not so much to hear their works as to get a claim on them to come and hear mine. As in everything else, if you lend a man your ears, all the grace of the act vanishes if you ask for his in return. Farewell.
1.14.--TO JUNIUS MAURICUS.
You ask me to look out for a husband for your brother's daughter, and you do well to select me for such a commission. For you know how I looked up to him, and what an affection I had for his splendid qualities; you know, too, what good advice he gave me in my salad days, and how by his warm praises he actually made it appear that I deserved them. You could not have given me a more important commission or one that I should be better pleased to undertake, and there is no charge that I could possibly accept as a greater compliment to myself than that of being set to choose a young man worthy of being the father of grandchildren to Arulenus Rusticus. I should have had to look carefully and long, had it not been that Minucius Acilianus was ready to hand,-- one might almost say that Providence had prepared him for the purpose. He has for me the close and affectionate regard of one young man for another--for he is only a few years younger than myself--yet at the same time he pays me the deference due to a man of years, for he is as anxious that I should mould and form his character as I used to be that you and your son should mould mine. His native place is Brixia, a part of that Italy of ours which still retains and preserves much of the old- fashioned courtesy, frugality and even rusticity. His father, Minucius Macrinus, was one of the leaders of the Equestrian order, because he did not wish to attain higher rank; he was admitted by the divine Vespasian to Praetorian rank, and to the end of his days preferred this modest and honourable distinction to the--what shall I say?--ambitions or dignities for which we strive. His grandmother on his mother's side was Serrana Procula, who belonged to the township of Patavia. You know the character of that place--well, Serrana was a model of austere living even to the people of Patavia. His uncle was Publius Acilius, a man of almost unique weight, judgment, and honour. In short, you will find nothing in the whole of his family which will fail to please you as much as if the family were your own.
As for Acilianus himself, he is an energetic and untiring worker, and the very pink of courtesy. He has already acquitted himself with great credit in the quaestorship, tribunate, and praetorship, and so he has thus spared you the trouble of having to canvass in his behalf. He has a frank, open countenance, fresh-coloured and blooming; a handsome, well-made figure, and an air that would become a senator. These are points which, in my opinion, are not to be neglected, for I regard them as meet rewards to a girl for her chastity. I don't know whether I should add that his father is a well-to-do man, for when I think of you and your brother for whom we are looking out for a son-in-law, I feel disinclined to speak of money. On the other hand, when I consider the prevailing tendencies of the day and the laws of the state which lay such prominent stress upon the matter of income, I think it right not to overlook the point. Moreover, when I remember the possible issue of the marriage, I feel that in choosing a bridegroom one must take his income into account. Perhaps you will imagine that I have let my affection run away with me, and that I have exaggerated my friend's merits beyond their due. But I pledge you my word of honour that you will find his virtues to be far in excess of my description of them. I have the most intense affection for the young man, and he deserves my love, but it is one of the proofs of a lover that you do not overburden the object of your regard with praise. Farewell.
1.15.--TO SEPTICIUS CLARUS.
What a fellow you are! You promise to come to dinner and then fail to turn up! Well, here is my magisterial sentence upon you. You must pay the money I am out of pocket to the last farthing, and you will find the sum no small one. I had provided for each guest one lettuce, three snails, two eggs, spelt mixed with honey and snow (you will please reckon up the cost of the latter as among the costly of all, since it melts away in the dish), olives from Baetica, cucumbers, onions, and a thousand other equally expensive dainties. You would have listened to a comedian, or a reciter, or a harp-player, or perhaps to all, as I am such a lavish host. But you preferred to dine elsewhere,--where I know not--off oysters, sow's matrices, sea-urchins, and to watch Spanish dancing girls! You will be paid out for it, though how I decline to say. You have done violence to yourself. You have grudged, possibly yourself, but certainly me, a fine treat. Yes, yourself! For how we should have enjoyed ourselves, how we should have laughed together, how we should have applied ourselves! You can dine at many houses in better style than at mine, but nowhere will you have a better time, or such a simple and free and easy entertainment. In short, give me a trial, and if afterwards you do not prefer to excuse yourself to others rather than to me, why then I give you leave to decline my invitations always. Farewell.
I used to be very fond of Pompeius Saturninus--our Saturninus, as I may call him--and to admire his intellectual powers, even before I knew him; they were so varied, so supple, so many-sided; but now I am devoted to him body and soul. I have heard him pleading in the Courts, always keen and empassioned, and his addresses are as polished and graceful when they are impromptu as when they have been carefully prepared. He has a never-failing flow of apt sentiment; his style is weighty and dignified, his language is of the sonorous, classical school. All these qualities charm me immensely when they come pouring forth in a streaming rush of eloquence, and they charm me too when I read them in book form. You will experience the same pleasure as I do when you take them up, and you will at once compare them with some one of the old masters whose rival indeed he is. You will find even greater charm in the style of his historical compositions, in its terseness, its lucidity, smoothness, brilliancy and stateliness, for there is the same vigour in the historical harangues as there is in his own orations, only rather more compressed, restricted, and epigrammatic.
Moreover, he writes verses that Catullus or Calvus might have composed. They are positively brimming over with grace, sweetness, irony and love. He occasionally, and of set design, interpolates among these smooth and easy-flowing verses others cast in a more rugged mould, and here again he is like Catullus and Calvus. A little while ago he read me some letters which he declared had been written by his wife. I thought, on hearing them, that they were either Plautus or Terence in prose, and whether they were composed, as he said, by his wife or by himself, as he denies, his credit is the same. It belongs to him either as the actual author of the letters or as the teacher who has made such a polished and learned lady of his wife--whom he married when she was a girl. So I pass the whole day in the company of Saturninus. I read him before I set pen to paper; I read him again after finishing my writing, and again when I am at leisure. He is always the same but never seems the same. Let me urge and beg of you to do likewise, for the fact that the author is still alive ought not to be of any detriment to his works. If he had been a contemporary of those on whom we have never set eyes, we should not only be seeking to procure copies of his books but also asking for busts of him. Why then, as he is still amongst us, should his credit and popularity dwindle, as though we were tired of him? Surely it is discreditable and scandalous that we should not give a man the due he richly deserves, simply because we can see him with our own eyes, speak to him, hear him, embrace him, and not only praise but love him. Farewell.
1.17.--TO CORNELIUS TITIANUS.
Faith and loyalty are not yet extinct among men: there are still those to be found who keep friendly remembrances even of the dead. Titinius Capito has obtained permission from our Emperor to erect a statue of Lucius Silanus in the Forum. It is a graceful and entirely praiseworthy act to turn one's friendship with a sovereign to such a purpose, and to use all the influence one possesses to obtain honours for others. But Capito is a devoted hero-worshipper; it is remarkable how religiously and enthusiastically he regards the busts of the Bruti, the Cassii, and the Catos in his own house, where he may do as he pleases in this matter. He even composes splendid lyrics on the lives of all the most famous men of the past. Surely a man who is such an intense admirer of the virtue of others must know how to exemplify a crowd of virtues in his own person. Lucius Silanus quite deserved the honour that has been paid to him, and Capito in seeking to immortalise his memory has immortalised his own quite as much. For it is not more honourable and distinguished to have a statue of one's own in the Forum of the Roman People than to be the author of some one else's statue being placed there. Farewell.
1.18.--TO SUETONIUS TRANQUILLUS.
You say in your letter that you have been troubled by a dream, and are afraid lest your suit should go against you. So you ask me to try and get it postponed, and that I will have to put it off for a few days, or at least for one day. It is not an easy matter, but I will do my best, for, as Homer says, "A dream comes from Zeus." However, it makes all the difference whether your dreams usually signify the course of future events or their opposite. When I think over a certain dream I once had, what causes you fear seems to me to promise a splendid termination to your case. I had undertaken a brief for Julius Pastor, when there appeared to me in my sleep a vision of my mother-in-law, who threw herself on her knees before me and begged that I would not plead. I was quite a young man at the time of the action, which was to be heard in the Fourfold Court, and I was appearing against the most powerful men of the State, including some of the Friends of Caesar. All these things or any one of them might well have shattered my resolution after such an ominous dream. Nevertheless, I went on with the case, remembering the well-known line of Homer: "But one omen is best, to fight on behalf of one's country." For in my case the keeping of my word seemed to me as important as fighting on behalf of my country or as any other still more pressing consideration--if any consideration more pressing can be imagined. Well, the action went off successfully, and it was the way that I conducted that case which got me a hearing with men and opened the door to fame. So I advise you to see whether you too cannot turn your dream, as I did mine, to a prosperous issue, or if you think that it is safer to follow the well-known proverb: "Never do anything if you feel the least hesitation," write and tell me so. I will invent some excuse or other, and will so arrange matters that you can have your suit brought on when you like. For, after all, your position is not the same as mine was; a trial before the Centumvir's Court cannot be postponed on any consideration, but an action like yours can be, although it is rather difficult to arrange. Farewell.
1.19.--TO ROMANUS FIRMUS.
You and I were born in the same township, we went to school together, and shared quarters from an early age; your father was on terms of friendship with my mother and my uncle, and with me--as far as the disparity in our years allowed. These are overwhelming reasons why I ought to advance you as far as I can along the path of dignities. The fact of your being a decurio in our town shows that you have an income of a hundred thousand sesterces, and so, that we may have the pleasure of enjoying your society not only as a decurio, but as a Roman knight, I offer you300,000 numm., to make up the equestrian qualification. The length of our friendship is sufficient guarantee that you will not forget this favour, and I do not even urge you to enjoy with modesty the dignity which I thus enable you to attain, as perhaps I ought, just because I know you will do so without any urging from without. People ought to guard an honour all the more carefully, when, in so doing, they are taking care of a gift bestowed by the kindness of a friend. Farewell.
1.20.--TO CORNELIUS TACITUS.
I am constantly having arguments with a friend of mine who is a learned and practised speaker, but who admires in pleading nothing so much as brevity. I allow that brevity ought to be observed, if the case permits of it; but sometimes it is an act of collusion to pass over matters that ought to be mentioned, and it is even an act of collusion to run briefly and rapidly over points which ought to be dwelt upon, to be thoroughly driven home, and to be taken up and dealt with more than once. For very often an argument acquires strength and weight by being handled at some length, and a speech ought to be impressed on the mind, not by a short, sharp shock, but by measured blows, just as a sword should be used in dealing with the body of an opponent. Thereupon he plies me with authorities, and flourishes before me the speeches of Lysias among the Greeks, and those of the Gracchi and Cato from among Roman orators. The majority of these are certainly characterised by conciseness and brevity, but I quote against Lysias the examples of Demosthenes, Aeschines, Hyperides, and a multitude of others, while against the Gracchi and Cato I set Pollio, Caesar, Caelius, and, above all, Marcus Tullius, whose longest speech is generally considered to be his best. And upon my word, as with all other good things, the more there is of a good book, the better it is. You know how it is with statues, images, pictures, and the outlines of many animals and even trees, that if they are at all graceful nothing gives them a greater charm than size. It is just the same with speeches,--even the mere volumes themselves acquire a certain additional dignity and beauty from mere bulk.
These are but a few of the many arguments I usually employ to establish my point; but there is no pinning my friend down in an argument. He is such a slippery fellow that he wriggles off the pin and declares that these same orators, whose speeches I instance, spoke at less length than their published addresses seem to show. I hold the contrary to be the case, and there are many speeches of many orators in favour of my opinion, as, for example, the Pro Murena and the Pro Vareno of Cicero, in which he indicates by side-heads alone, and quite barely and briefly, how he dealt with certain charges against his clients. From these it is clear that he actually spoke at much greater length and left out a considerable number of passages when he published the addresses. Cicero indeed says that in his defence of Cluentius "he had simply followed the ancient custom and compressed his whole case into a peroration," and that in defending Caius Cornelius "he had pleaded for four days." Hence it cannot be questioned that after speaking somewhat discursively for several days, as he was bound to do, he subsequently trimmed and revised his oration and compressed it into a single book--a long one, it is true, but yet a single book.
But, argues my friend, a good indictment is a different thing from a good speech. I know some people hold that view, but I--of course I may be wrong--feel persuaded that though it is possible to have a good indictment without a good speech, it is not possible for a good speech not to be a good indictment. For a speech is the exemplar of an indictment--one might even call it its archetype. Hence in every first- class oration we find a thousand extempore figures of speech, even in those which we know to have been carefully edited. For example, in the Speech against Verres:--"--some artist. What was his name? Yes, you are quite right. My friends here tell me it was Polycletus." It follows, therefore, that the most perfect indictment is that which most resembles a spoken speech, provided only that sufficiently adequate time is allowed for its delivery. If it is not, then the orator is not at fault, but the presiding magistrate is very much to blame. My opinion receives support from the laws, which are lavish in the amount of time they place at a pleader's disposal. They do not inculcate brevity among counsel, but exhaustiveness--that is to say, they give them time for a painstaking statement of their case, and this is quite incompatible with brevity, except the most unimportant actions. I will add also what experience has taught me, and experience is the finest master. I have constantly acted as counsel, as presiding magistrate, and as one of the consulting bench. Different people are influenced by different things, and it often happens that unimportant details have important consequences. Men do not think alike, nor have they the same inclinations, and hence it comes about that though people have listened together to the same case being tried, they often form different opinions about it, and sometimes, though arriving at the same conclusion, they have been influenced by very different motives. Moreover, each one has a bias in favour of his own interpretation, and thus, when a second party enunciates an opinion which he himself has arrived at, he takes it for gospel and holds to it firmly. Consequently, a pleader should give each member of the jury something that he may get hold of and recognise as his own opinion.
Regulus once said to me when we were in Court together: "You think you ought to follow up every single point in the case: I lose no time in getting a view of my opponent's throat, and consider only the easiest way of cutting it." (I must admit that he does cut it when he gets hold of it, but often in trying to get a hold he makes a mistake.) Here was my answer to him: "Yes, but sometimes what you think is the throat is only the knee, or the shin bone or the ankle. As for myself, I may not be quick at getting a clear view of my enemy's throat, but I keep feeling for a grip and try him at every point. In short, as the Greeks say, 'I leave no stone unturned.'" I am like a husbandman, I look carefully after not only my vineyards but my orchards, not only my orchards but my meadows, while in the meadows I set seed for barley, beans, and other vegetables, as well as for spelt and the best white wheat. So when I plead in the Courts I scatter my arguments like seeds with a lavish hand, and reap the crop that they produce. For the minds of judges are as obscure, as little to be relied upon, and as deceptive as the dispositions of storms and soils.
Nor do I forget that in his eulogy of that consummate orator, Pericles, the comedy-writer Eupolis used the following language:--"But besides his keenness, Persuasion sate upon his lips. So he charmed all ears and, alone of all our orators, left his thrill behind him in his hearer's minds." But even Pericles would not have possessed the persuasion and charm of which Eupolis speaks merely owing to his conciseness or to his keenness, or to both (for they are different attributes), unless he had also possessed consummate oratorical power. In order to delight and carry conviction an orator must have ample time and room allowed him, for he alone can leave a thrill in his hearers' minds who plants his weapon besides merely puncturing the skin. Again, see what another comic poet writes of the same Pericles: "He lightened, he thundered, he turned Hellas upside down." Such metaphors as thunder, lightning, and chaos and confusion could not be used of abbreviated and compressed oratory, but only of oratory on a sweeping scale, pitched in a lofty and exalted key.
But, you say, the mean is the best. Quite so, but the mean is as much neglected by those who fail to do justice to their subject as by those who overdo it, by those who wear a bearing rein as by those who give themselves their heads. And so you often hear the criticism that a speech was "frigid and weak," just as you hear that another was "overloaded and a mass of repetition." The one speaker is said to have over-elaborated his subject, the other not to have risen to the occasion. Both are at fault; one through weakness, the other through too much strength, and the latter, though he may not show the more refined intellect, certainly shows the more robust mind. When I say this it must not be supposed that I am approving Homer's Thersites--the man who was a torrent of words--but rather his Ulysses, whose "words were like snow-flakes in winter," though at the same time I admire his Menelaus, who spoke "Few words, but well to the point." Yet, if I had to choose, I should prefer the speech that is like the winter snow- storm--viz. fluent, flowing, and of generous width; and not only that, but divine and celestial. It may, I know, be said that many people prefer a short pleading. No doubt, but they are lazy creatures, and it is ridiculous to consult the tastes of such sloths as though they were critics. For if you take their opinion as worth anything, you will find that they not only prefer a short pleading, but no pleading at all.
Well, I have told you what I think. I shall change my opinion if you do not agree with me, but in that case I beg of you to give me clear reasons for your disagreement; for although I feel bound to bow to a man of your judgment, yet in a point of such importance, I consider that I ought to give way rather to a reasoned statement than to an ipse dixit. But even if you think I am right, still write and tell me so, and make the letter as short as you like--for you will thus confirm my judgment. If I am wrong, see that you write me a very long letter. I feel sure I have not estimated you wrongly in thus asking you for a short note if you agree with me, while laying on you the obligation of writing at length if you disagree. Farewell.
1.21.--TO PLINIUS PATERNUS.
Let me acknowledge not only the keenness of your judgment but the sharpness of your eyesight, not because you are full of wisdom--no, don't plume yourself on that--but because you are just as wise as I am, and that is saying a great deal. Yet, joking apart, I think the slaves which I bought on your recommendation are a tidy-looking lot. It now remains to be seen whether they are honest; because in judging the value of a slave, it is better to trust one's ears than one's eyes. Farewell.
1.22.--TO CATILIUS SEVERUS.
Here am I still in Rome, and a good deal surprised to find myself here. But I am troubled at the long illness of Titus Aristo, which he cannot shake off. He is a man for whom I feel an extraordinary admiration and affection: search where you will, he is second to none in character, uprightness, and learning--so much so that I hardly look upon his illness as that of a mere individual being in danger. It is rather as if literature and all good arts were personified in him, and through him were in grievous peril. What a knowledge he has of private and public rights and the laws relating to them! What a mastery he has of things in general, what experience, what an acquaintance with the past! There is nothing you may wish to learn that he cannot teach you; to me, certainly, he is a perfect mine of learning whenever I am requiring any out-of-the-way information. Then again, how convincing his conversation is, how strongly it impresses you, how modest and becoming is his hesitation! What is there that he does not know straight away? And yet, often enough, he shows hesitation and doubt, from the very diversity of the reasons that come crowding into his mind, and upon these he brings to bear his keen and mighty intellect, and, going back to their fountain-head, reviews them, tests them, and weighs them in the balance. Again, how sparing he is in his manner of life, how unassuming in his dress! I often look at his bedroom and the bed itself, as though they were models of old-fashioned economy. However, they are adorned by his splendid mind, which has not a thought for ostentation, but refers everything to his conscience. He seeks his reward for a good deed not in the praise of the world, but in the deed itself. In short, you will not find it easy to discover any one, even among those who prefer to study wisdom rather than take heed to their bodily pleasures, worthy to be compared with him. He does not haunt the training grounds and the public porticos, nor does he charm the idle moments of others and his own by indulging in long talks; no, he is always in his toga and always at work; his services are at the disposal of many in the Courts, and he helps numbers more by his advice. Yet in chastity of life, in piety, in justice, in courage even, there is no one of all his acquaintance to whom he need give place.
You would marvel, if you were by his side, at the patience with which he endures his illness, how he fights against his suffering, how he resists his thirst, how, without moving and without throwing off his bed- clothes, he endures the dreadful burning heats of his fever. Just recently he sent for me and a few others of his especial friends with me, and begged us to consult his doctors and ask them about the termination of his illness, so that if there were no hope for him he might voluntarily give up his life, but might fight against it and hold out if the illness only threatened to be difficult and long. He owed it, he said, to the prayers of his wife, the tears of his daughter, and the regard of us who were his friends, not to cheat our hopes by a voluntary death, providing those hopes were not altogether futile. I think that such an acknowledgment as that must be especially difficult to make, and worthy of the highest praise; for many people are quite capable of hastening to death under the impulse of a sudden instinct, but only a truly noble mind can weigh up the pros and cons of the matter, and resolve to live or die according to the dictates of Reason. However, the doctors give us reassuring promises, and it now remains for the Deity to confirm and fulfil them, and so at length release me from my anxiety. The moment my mind is easy, I shall be off to my Laurentine Villa--that is to say, to my books and tablets, and to my studious ease. For now as I sit by my friend's bedside I can neither read nor write, and I am so anxious that I have no inclination for such study.
Well, I have told you my fears, my hopes, and my future plans; it is your turn now to write and tell me what you have been doing, what you are doing now, and what your plans are, and I hope your letter will be a more cheerful one than mine. If you have nothing to complain about, it will be no small consolation to me in my general upset. Farewell.
1.23.--TO POMPEIUS FALCO.
You ask me whether I think you ought to practise in the courts while you are tribune. The answer entirely depends on the conception you have of the tribuneship, whether you think it is a mere empty honour, a name with no real dignity, or an office of the highest sanctity, and one that no one, not even the holder himself, ought to slight in the least degree. When I was tribune, I may have been wrong for thinking that I was somebody, but I acted as if I were, and I abstained from practising in the courts. In the first place, I thought it below my dignity that I, at whose entrance every one ought to rise and give way, should stand to plead while all others were sitting; or that I, who could impose silence on all and sundry, should be ordered to be silent by a water- clock; that I, whom it was a crime to interrupt, should be subjected even to abuse, and that I should make people think I was a spiritless fellow if I let an insult pass unnoticed, or proud and puffed up if I resented and avenged it. Again, there was this embarrassing thought always before me. Supposing appeal was made to me as tribune either by my client or by the other party to the suit, what should I do? Lend him aid, or keep silence and say not a word, and thus forswear my magistracy and reduce myself to a mere private citizen? Moved by these considerations, I preferred to be at the disposal of all men as a tribune rather than act as an advocate for a few. But, to repeat what I said before, it makes all the difference what conception you happen to have of the office, and what part you essay to play. Providing you carry it through to the end, either will be quite congruous with a man of wisdom. Farewell.
1.24.--TO BAEBIUS HISPANUS.
My comrade Tranquillus wishes to buy a bit of land which your friend is said to be offering for sale. I beg that you will see that he purchases it at a fair price, for in that case he will be glad to have bought it. A bad bargain is always annoying, and especially so as it seems to show that the previous owner has played one a scurvy trick. As to the plot in question, if only the price is right, there are many reasons that tempt my friend Tranquillus to buy--the nearness of the city, the convenient road, the modest dimensions of his villa and the extent of the farm, which is just enough to pleasantly disengage his thoughts from other things, but not enough to give him any worry. In fact learned schoolmen, like Tranquillus, on turning land-owners, ought only to have just sufficient land to enable them to get rid of headaches, cure their eyes, walk lazily round their boundary paths, make one beaten track for themselves, get to know all their vines and count their trees. I have gone into these details that you might understand what a regard I have for Tranquillus, and how greatly I shall be indebted to you if he is enabled to purchase the estate which has all these advantages to commend it at such a reasonable price that he will not regret having bought it. Farewell.
Not for many years have the Roman people seen so striking and even so memorable a spectacle as that provided by the public funeral of Virginius Rufus, one of our noblest and most distinguished citizens, and not less fortunate than distinguished. He lived in a blaze of glory for thirty years. He read poems and histories composed in his honour, and so enjoyed in life the fame that awaited him among posterity. He held the consulship three times, so that he might attain the highest distinction open to a private citizen, as he had declined to lay hands on the sovereign power. He escaped unscathed from the Emperors, who were suspicious of his motives and hated him for his virtues; while the best Emperor of them all, and the one who was his devoted friend, he left behind him safely installed on the throne, as though his life had been preserved for this very reason, that he might be honoured with a public funeral. He was eighty-three years of age when he died, sublimely calm, and respected by all. He enjoyed good health, for though his hands were palsied they gave him no pain: only the closing scenes were rather painful and prolonged, but even in them he won men's praise. For while he was getting ready a speech, to return thanks to the Emperor during his consulship, he happened to take up a rather heavy book. As he was an old man and standing at the time, its weight caused it to fall from his hands, and while he was stooping to pick it up his foot slipped on the smooth and slippery floor, and he fell and broke his collar-bone. This was not very skilfully set for him, and owing to his old age it did not heal properly. But his funeral was a source of glory to the Emperor, to the age in which he lived, and even to the Roman Forum and the rostra. His panegyric was pronounced by Cornelius Tacitus, and Virginius's good fortune was crowned by this, that he had the most eloquent man in Rome to speak his praises.
He died full of years, full of honours, full even of the honours he refused. We shall seek his like in vain; we shall lose in him a living example of an earlier age. I shall miss him most of all, for my affection equalled my admiration, not only of his public virtue but of his private life. In the first place, we came from the same district, we belonged to neighbouring municipalities, our estates and property lay alongside, and, moreover, he was left as my guardian and showed me all the affection of a parent. When I was a candidate for office he honoured me with his support; in all my elections he left his private retreat and hastened to escort me in all my entries upon office--though for years he had ceased to show his friends these attentions,--and on the day when the priests are accustomed to nominate those they think to be worthiest of the priesthood he always gave me his nomination. Even in his last illness, when he was afraid lest he should be appointed one of the commission of five who were being appointed on the decree of the Senate to lessen public expenditure, he chose me, young as I am--though he had a number of friends still surviving who were much older than I and men of consular rank--to act as his substitute, and he used these words: "Even if I had a son, I should give this commission to you." Hence it is that I cannot help but mourn his death on your bosom, as though he had died before his time; if indeed it is right to mourn at all in such a case, or speak of death in connection with such a man, who has rather ceased to be mortal than ceased to live. For he still lives and will do for all time, and he will acquire a broader existence in the memories and conversation of mankind, now that he has gone from our sight.
I wished to write to you on many other subjects, but my whole mind is given up to and fixed on this one subject of thought. I keep thinking of Virginius, I dream of him, and, though my dreams are illusory, they are so vivid that I seem to hear his voice, to speak to him, to embrace him. It may be that we have other citizens like him in his virtues, and shall continue to have them, but there is none to equal with him in glory. Farewell.
I am angry with you; whether I ought to be I am not quite sure, but I am angry all the same. You know how affection is often biassed, how it is always liable to make a man unreasonable, and how it causes him to flare up on even small provocation. But I have serious grounds for my anger, whether they are just or not, and so I am assuming that they are as just as they are serious, and am downright cross with you because you have not sent me a line for such a long time. There is only one way that you can obtain forgiveness, and that is by your writing me at once a number of long letters. That will be the only excuse I shall take as genuine; any others you may send I shall regard as false. For I won't listen to such stuff as "I was away from Rome," or "I have been fearfully busy." As for the plea, "I have not been at all well," I hope Providence has been too kind to let you write that. I am at my country house, enjoying study and idleness in turns, and both of these delights are born of leisure-hours. Farewell.
Isaeus's reputation--and it was a great one--had preceded him to Rome, but it was found to fall short of his merits. He has consummate oratorical power, fluency and choice of expression, and though he always speaks extempore his speeches might have been carefully written out long beforehand. He speaks in Greek, and that the purest Attic; his prefatory remarks are polished, neat and agreeable, and occasionally stately and sparkling. He asks to be supplied with a number of subjects for discussion, and allows his audience to choose which they will have and often which side they would like him to take. Then he rises to his feet, wraps his gown round him, and begins. Without losing a moment he has everything at his fingers' ends, irrespective of the subject selected. Deep thoughts come crowding into his mind and words flow to his lips. And such words--exquisitely choice! Every now and then there come flashes which show how widely he has read and how much he has written. He opens his case to the point; he states his position clearly; his arguments are incisive; his conclusions are forcible; his word-painting is magnificent. In a word, he instructs, delights, and impresses his hearers, so that you can hardly say wherein he most excels. He makes constant use of rhetorical arguments, his syllogisms are crisp and finished--though that is not an easy matter to attain even with a pen. He has a wonderful memory and can repeat, without missing a single word, even his extempore speeches. He has attained this facility by study and constant practice, for he does nothing else day or night: either as a listener or speaker he is for ever discussing. He has passed his sixtieth year and is still only a rhetorician, and there is no more honest and upright class of men living. For we who are always rubbing shoulders with others in the Forum and in the lawsuits of everyday life, cannot help picking up a good deal of roguery, while in the imaginary cases of the lecture hall and the schoolroom it is like fighting with the button on the foil and quite harmless, and is every whit as enjoyable, especially for men of years. For what can be more enjoyable for men in their old age than that which gave them the keenest pleasure in their youth?
Consequently, I look upon Isaeus not only as a wonderfully learned man but as one who possesses a most enviable lot, and you must be made of flint and iron if you do not burn to make his acquaintance. So if there is nothing else to draw you here, if I myself am not a sufficient attraction, do come to hear Isaeus. Have you never read of the man who lived at Gades who was so fired by the name and glory of Titus Livius that he came from the remotest corner of the world to see him, and returned the moment he had set eyes on him? It would stamp a man as an illiterate boor and a lazy idler, it would be disgraceful almost for any one not to think the journey worth the trouble when the reward is a study which is more delightful, more elegant, and has more of the humanities than any other. You will say: "But I have here authors just as learned, whose works I can read." Granted, but you can always read an author, while you cannot always listen to him. Moreover, as the proverb goes, the spoken word is invariably much more impressive than the written one; for however lively what you read may be, it does not sink so deeply into the mind as what is pressed home by the accent, the expression, and the whole bearing and action of a speaker. This must be admitted unless we think the story of Aeschines untrue, when, after reading a speech of Demosthenes at Rhodes, he is said to have exclaimed to those who expressed their admiration of it: "Yes, but what would you have said if you had heard the beast himself?" And yet Aeschines himself, if we are to believe Demosthenes, had a very striking delivery! None the less he acknowledged that the author of the speech delivered it far better than he had done. All these things point to this, that you should hear Isaeus, if only to enable you to say that you have heard him. Farewell.
If your father had owed his other creditors, or any one of them, as much as he owed to me, there would perhaps have been good reason for you to hesitate about entering on the inheritance of an estate which even a man might find burdensome. However, I am now the sole creditor, for as we are relations I thought it my duty to pay off all those who were--I will not say importunate--but were rather more particular about getting their money. When your father was alive, and you were about to be married, I contributed100,000 sesterces towards your dower, in addition to the sum which your father assigned as your wedding portion, out of my pocket-- for it had to be paid out of my money,--so you have ample proof of my leniency towards you in money matters, and you may boldly rely thereon and defend the credit and honour of your dead father. Moreover, to show you that I can be generous with my purse as well as with my advice, I authorise you to enter as paid whatever sum was owing by your father to me. You need not be afraid that my generosity will embarrass my finances. Though my means are modest, though my position is expensive to keep up and my income is equally small and precarious owing to the state of the land market, my unemployed capital is increased by my economical living, and this is the source, as I may call it, from which I gratify my generosity. I have to husband it carefully lest the source should dry up if I draw on it too freely; but such caution is reserved for others. In your case I can easily justify my liberality, even though it be rather larger than usual. Farewell.
I have forwarded to you the speech which you have often asked for, and which I have often promised to send, but not the whole of it. A portion thereof is still undergoing the polishing process. Meanwhile, I thought it would not be out of place to submit to your judgment the parts which seemed to me to be more finished. I hope you will bestow on them the same critical attention that the writer has given them. I have never handled any subject that demanded greater pains from me, for whereas in other speeches I have submitted merely my carefulness and good faith to men's judgment, in this I submit my patriotism as well. It is out of that that the speech has grown, for it is a pleasure to sing the praises of one's native place and at the same time to do what I could to help its interests and its fame. But be sure you prune even these passages according to your judgment. For when I think of the fastidiousness of the general reader and the niceties of his taste, I understand that the best way to win praise is to keep within moderate limits.
Yet at the same time, though I ask you to show this strictness, I feel bound to request you to display the opposite quality also and deal indulgently with many of the passages. For we must make certain concessions to our young readers, especially if the subject-matter allows of it. Descriptions of scenery, of which there are more than usual in this speech, should be treated not in a strict historical fashion, but with some approach to poetic licence. However, if any one thinks that I have written more ornately than is warranted by the serious nature of the subject, the remaining portions of the address ought to mollify what one may call the austerity of such a man. I have certainly tried, by varying the character of the style, to get hold of all sorts and conditions of readers, and though I am afraid that each individual reader will not find every single passage to his liking, yet I think I may be pretty confident that the variety of styles will recommend the whole to all classes. For at a banquet, though we each one of us taboo certain dishes, yet we all praise the banquet as a whole, nor do the dishes which our palate declines make those we like any less enjoyable. I want my speech to be taken in the same spirit, not because I think I have succeeded in my aim, but because I have tried to succeed therein, and I believe my efforts will not have been in vain if only you will take pains now with what I enclose in this letter and afterwards with the remaining portions.
You will say that you cannot do this sufficiently carefully until you have gone through the entire speech. That is so; but for the present you will be able to get a thorough acquaintance with what I send you, and there are sure to be certain passages that can be altered in part. For if you were to see the head or any limb of a statue torn from the trunk, though you might not be able to speak definitely of its symmetry and proportion to the rest of the body, you would at least be able to judge whether the part you were looking at was sufficiently well shaped. That is the only reason why authors send round to their friends specimens of their speeches, because any part can be judged to be perfect or not apart from the remainder. The pleasure of speaking with you has led me farther than I intended, but I will conclude for fear of exceeding in a letter the limits which I think ought to be set to a speech. Farewell.
It would be a long story--and it is of no importance--to tell you how I came to be dining--for I am no particular friend of his--with a man who thought he combined elegance with economy, but who appeared to me to be both mean and lavish, for he set the best dishes before himself and a few others and treated the rest to cheap and scrappy food. He had apportioned the wine in small decanters of three different kinds, not in order to give his guests their choice but so that they might not refuse. He had one kind for himself and us, another for his less distinguished friends--for he is a man who classifies his acquaintances--and a third for his own freedmen and those of his guests. The man who sat next to me noticed this and asked me if I approved of it. I said no. "Then how do you arrange matters?" he asked. "I set the same before all," I answered, "for I invite my friends to dine not to grade them one above the other, and those whom I have set at equal places at my board and on my couches I treat as equals in every respect." What! even the freedmen?" he said. "Yes," I replied, "for then I regard them as my guests at table, not as freedmen." He went on: "It must cost you a lot." "Not at all," said I. "Then how do you manage it?" "It's easily done; because my freedmen do not drink the same wine as I do, but I drink the same that they do." And, by Jove, the fact is that if you keep off gluttony it is not at all ruinously expensive to entertain a number of people to the fare you have yourself. It is this gluttony which is to be put down, to be reduced as it were to the ranks, if you wish to cut down expenses, and you will find it better to consult your own moderate living than to care about the nasty things people may say of you. What then is my point? Just this, that I don't want you, who are a young man of great promise, to be taken in by the extravagance with which some people load their tables under the guise of economy. Whenever such a concrete instance comes in my way it becomes the affection I bear you to warn you of what you ought to avoid by giving you an example. So remember that there is nothing you should eschew more than this new association of extravagance and meanness; they are abominable qualities when separated and single, and still more so when you get a combination of them. Farewell.
Yesterday, on the motion of the Emperor, a triumphal statue was decreed to Vestricius Spurinna. He is not one of those heroes, of whom there have been many, who have never stood in battle, never seen a camp, and never heard the call of the trumpets except at the public shows: no, he is one of the real heroes who used to win that decoration by the sweat of their brow, by shedding their blood and doing mighty deeds. For Spurinna restored by force of arms the king of the Bructeri to his kingdom, and, after threatening war, subdued that savage race by the terror of his name, which is the noblest kind of victory. That was the reward of his valour, and the fact that his son Cottius, whom he lost while he was away on his duties, was deemed worthy of being honoured with a statue has solaced his grief for his loss. Young men rarely attain such distinction, but his father deserved this additional honour, for it required some considerable solace to heal his bitter wound. Moreover, Cottius himself had given such striking proofs of his splendid character that his short and narrow life ought to be prolonged by the immortality, so to speak, that a statue confers upon him; for his uprightness, his weight of character, his influence were such that his virtues served as a spur even to the older men with whom he has now been placed on an equality by the honour paid to him.
If I understand the matter aright, in conferring that dignity upon him, regard was had not only to the memory of the dead man and the grief of his father, but also to the effect it would have upon others. When such splendid rewards are bestowed upon young men--provided they deserve them--they will serve to sharpen the inclinations of the rising generation to the practice of the honourable arts; they will make our leading men more desirous of bringing up their children, increase the joy they will have in them if they survive, and provide a glorious consolation if they lose them. It is for these reasons that I rejoice on public grounds that a statue has been decreed to Cottius, and on personal grounds I am equally delighted. My affection for that most accomplished youth was as strong as is my ungovernable sorrow at his loss. So I shall find it soothing from time to time to gaze upon his statue, to look back upon it, to stand beneath it, and to walk past it. For if the busts of the dead that we set up in our private houses assuage our grief, how much more soothing should be the statues of our dead friends erected in the most frequented spots, which recall to us not only the form and face of our lost ones, but also their dignities and glory? Farewell.
Are you at your books, or are you fishing, or hunting, or doing all three together? For the latter is possible in the neighbourhood of our Larian lake. The lake supplies fish in plenty, the woods that girdle its shores are full of game, and their secluded recesses inspire one to study. But whether you combine the three at once, or occupy yourself with either one of them, I cannot say "I grudge you your happiness," though I feel annoyed to think that I am debarred from pleasures which I long for as ardently as an invalid longs for wine, and the baths, and the fountains. If I cannot unloose the close meshes of the net that enfolds me, shall I never snap them asunder? Never, I am afraid, for new business keeps piling up on top of the old, and that without even the old being got rid of. Every day the entangling chain of my engagements seems to lengthen by acquiring additional links. Farewell.
I am worried and anxious about the candidature of my friend Sextus Erucius. I am quite careworn, and feel for my second self, as it were, a solicitude that I did not feel on my own account. Besides, my honour, my reputation, my position are all at stake: for it was I who obtained from our Emperor for Sextus the right to wear the latus clavis, it was I who secured for him the quaestorship; it was owing to my interest that he was advanced to the right of standing for the tribunate, and unless he is elected by the Senate, I am afraid that it will look as if I had deceived the Emperor. Consequently, I have to do my best to induce all the senators to take the same favourable view of him that the Emperor did on my recommendation. If this were not reason sufficient to rouse my zeal in his behalf, yet I should like to see a young man helped on, who is of such sterling character, who is of such weight and learning, and is fully worthy of any and every praise, as indeed are all the members of his family.
His father, Erucius Clarus, is a man of probity of the old-fashioned sort, full of learning and an experienced counsel, conducting his cases with splendid honesty, perseverance, and modesty as well. His uncle is Caius Septicius, than whom I never met any one more sterling, simple, frank, and trustworthy. They all see who can shower most affection upon me, though they all love me equally, and now I can repay the love of all in the person of young Erucius. So I am button-holing all my friends, begging them for their support, going round to see them and haunting their houses and favourite resorts, and I am putting both my position and influence to the test by my entreaties. I beg of you to think it worth your while to relieve me of some part of my burden. I will do the same for you whenever you ask the return favour; nay I will do so even if you do not ask me. You are a favourite with many, people seek your society, and you have a wide circle of friends. Do you but give a hint that you have a wish, and there will be plenty who will make your wish their desire. Farewell.
What an indolent fellow you are, or perhaps I should say how hard- hearted you are and almost cruel to keep back so long such splendid volumes of verse! How long will you deprive yourself of the chorus of praise that awaits you, and us of the pleasure of reading them? Do let them be borne on the lips of men and circulate through all the wide regions where the Roman tongue is spoken. People have long been eagerly looking forward to your publishing them, and you really ought not to cheat and disappoint them any longer. Some of your verses have become known, and--no thanks to you--have broken down the barriers you set round them, and unless you rescue them and include them in the main body of your work they will one day, like vagrant slaves, find some one else to claim the ownership of them. Don't lose sight of the fact that you are but mortal, and that you can only defend yourself from being forgotten by such a monument as this: all other titles to fame are fragile and perishable, and come to a sudden end as soon as the breath is out of your body. You will say, as usual, "Oh! my friends must see to that for me." Well, I hope you have friends loyal enough, learned enough, painstaking enough, to be capable and desirous of undertaking such a responsible task, but I would have you consider whether it is altogether prudent to expect from other people the toil which you will not undergo for yourself. However, as to publishing, do as you please, but at least give some public readings, in order to stir you on to publishing, and that you may at length see how pleased people will be to hear you, as I have for a long time been bold enough to anticipate on your account. For I picture to myself what a run there will be to hear you, how they will admire your work, what applause is in store for you, and what a hush of attention. Personally, when I speak or recite I like a hush quite as much as loud applause, provided that the people are quiet, because they are keenly interested and eager to hear more. With such a reward before you so absolutely certain, do not go on chilling our enthusiasm by that never-ending hesitation of yours, for if it once gets over a certain line, there is a danger of people giving it another name and saying you are idle, slothful, or even nervous. Farewell.
I know you are always delighted when the Senate behaves in a way befitting its rank, for though your love of peace and quiet has caused you to withdraw from Rome, your anxiety that public life should be kept at a high level is as strong as it ever was. So let me tell you what has been going on during the last few days. The proceedings are memorable owing to the commanding position of the person most concerned; they will have a healthy influence because of the sharp lesson that has been administered; and the importance of the case will make them famous for all time.
Marius Priscus, on being accused by the people of Africa, whom he had governed as proconsul, declined to defend himself before the Senate and asked to have judges assigned to hear the case. Cornelius Tacitus and myself were instructed to appear for the provincials, and we came to the conclusion that we were bound in honesty to our clients to notify the Senate that the charges of inhumanity and cruelty brought against Priscus were too serious to be heard by a panel of judges, inasmuch as he was accused of having received bribes to condemn and even put to death innocent persons. Fronto Catius spoke in reply, and urged that the prosecution should be confined within the law dealing with extortion: he is wonderfully skilled at drawing tears, and throughout his speech he filled his sails with a breeze of pathos. Then a hubbub arose, and there were loud exclamations of applause and dissent; some held that a trial of the case by the Senate was barred by law; others declared that the Senate was quite competent and entitled to deal with it, and argued that the law should punish the whole guilt of the defendant. At length Julius Ferox, the consul-designate, a man of honour and probity, gave it as his opinion that judges should be assigned for the time being, and that those who were said to have bribed Priscus to punish innocent persons should be summoned to Rome. This proposal not only carried the day, but it was the only one that was numerously supported in spite of the previous fierce dissension, for it has often been remarked that though partisanship and pity lead men to make very keen and heated attacks in the first instance, they gradually sober down under the influence of further consideration and reason. Hence it comes about that no one cares to make the point, when the other people are sitting still, which a number of persons may be anxious to make if an uproar is going on all round them; for when you get away from the throng a quiet consideration of the subject at issue makes clear all the points that were lost sight of in the throng of speakers.
Well, the witnesses who were summoned came to Rome, viz., Vitellius Honoratus and Flavius Martianus. Honoratus was charged with having bribed Priscus to the tune of three hundred thousand sesterces to exile a Roman knight and put seven of his friends to death; Martianus was accused of having given Priscus seven hundred thousand sesterces to sentence a single Roman knight to still more grievous punishment, for he was beaten with rods, condemned to the mines, and then strangled in prison. Honoratus--luckily for him--escaped the investigation of the Senate by dying; Martianus was brought before them when Priscus was not present. Consequently Tuccius Cerealis, a man of consular rank, pleaded senatorial privileges and demanded that Priscus should be informed of the attendance of Martianus, either because he thought that Priscus by being present would have a better chance of awakening the compassion of the Senate or to increase the feeling against him, or possibly, and I think this was his real motive, because strict justice demanded that both should defend themselves against a charge that affected them both, and that both should be punished if they could not rebut the accusation.
The subject was postponed to the next meeting of the Senate, and a very august assembly it was. The Emperor presided in his capacity as consul; besides, the month of January brings crowds of people to Rome and especially senators, and moreover the importance of the case, the great notoriety it had obtained, which had been increased by the delays that had taken place, and the ingrained curiosity of all men to get to know all the details of an unusually important matter, had made everybody flock to Rome from all quarters. You can imagine how nervous and anxious we were in having to speak in such a gathering and in the presence of the Emperor on such an important case. It was not the first time that I had pleaded in the Senate, and there is nowhere where I get a more sympathetic hearing, but then the novelty of the whole position seemed to afflict me with a feeling of nervousness I had never felt before. For in addition to all that I have mentioned above I kept thinking of the difficulties of the case and was oppressed by the feeling that Priscus, the defendant, had once held consular rank and been one of the seven regulators of the sacred feasts, and was now deprived of both these dignities. So I found it a very trying task to accuse a man on whom sentence had already been passed, for though the shocking offences with which he was charged weighed heavily against him, he yet was protected to a certain extent by the commiseration felt for a man already condemned to punishment that one might have thought final.
However, as soon as I had pulled myself together and collected my thoughts, I began my address, and though I was nervous I was on the best of terms with my audience. I spoke for nearly five hours, for, in addition to the twelve water-clocks--the largest I could get--which had been assigned to me, I obtained four others. And, as matters turned out, everything that I thought before speaking would have proved an obstacle in the way of a good speech really helped me during my address. As for the Emperor, he showed me such kind attention and consideration-- for it would be too much to call it anxiety on my behalf--that he frequently nodded to my freedman, who was standing just behind me, to give me a hint not to overtax my voice and lungs, when he thought that I was throwing myself too ardently into my pleading and imposing too great a burden on my slender frame. Claudius Marcellinus answered me on behalf of Martianus, and then the Senate was dismissed and met again on the following day. For there was no time to begin a fresh speech, as it would have had to be broken off by the fall of night. On the following day, Salvius Liberalis, a man of shrewd wit, careful in the arrangement of his speeches, with a pointed style and a fund of learning, spoke for Marius, and in his speech he certainly brought out all he knew. Cornelius Tacitus replied to him in a wonderfully eloquent address, characterised by that lofty dignity which is the chief charm of his oratory. Then Fronto Catius made another excellent speech on Marius's behalf, and he spent more time in appeals for mercy than in rebutting evidence, as befitted the part of the case that he had then to deal with. The fall of night terminated his speech but did not break it off altogether, and so the proceedings lasted over into the third day. This was quite fine and just like it used to be for the Senate to be interrupted by nightfall, and for the members to be called and sit for three days running.
Cornutus Tertullus, the consul-designate, a man of high character and a devoted champion of justice, gave as his opinion that the seven hundred thousand sesterces which Marius had received should be confiscated to the Treasury, that Marius should be banished from Rome and Italy, and that Martianus should be banished from Rome, Italy, and Africa. Towards the conclusion of his speech he added the remark that the Senate considered that, since Tacitus and myself, who had been summoned to plead for the provincials, had fulfilled our duties with diligence and fearlessness, we had acted in a manner worthy of the commission entrusted to us. The consuls-designate agreed, and all the consulars did likewise, until it was Pompeius Collega's turn to speak. He proposed that the seven hundred thousand sesterces received by Marius should be confiscated to the Treasury, that Martianus should be banished for five years, and that Marius should suffer no further penalty than that for extortion--which had already been passed upon him. Opinion was largely divided, and there was possibly a majority in favour of the latter proposal, which was the more lenient or less severe of the two, for even some of those who appeared to have supported Cornutus changed sides and were ready to vote for Collega, who had spoken after them. But when the House divided, those who stood near the seats of the consuls began to cross over to the side of Cornutus. Then those who were allowing themselves to be counted as supporters of Collega also crossed over, and Collega was left with a mere handful. He complained bitterly afterwards of those who had led him to make the proposal he did, especially of Regulus, who had failed to support him in the proposal that he himself had suggested. But Regulus is a fickle fellow, rash to a degree, yet a great coward as well.
Such was the close of this most important investigation; but there is still another bit of public business on hand of some consequence, for Hostilius Firminus, the lieutenant of Marius Priscus, who was implicated in the matter, had received a very rough handling. It was proved by the accounts of Martianus and a speech he made in the Council of the Town of Leptis that he had engaged with Priscus in a very shady transaction, that he had bargained to receive from Martianus 50,000 denarii and had received in addition ten million sesterces under the head of perfume money--a most disgraceful thing for a soldier, but one which was not at all inconsistent with his character as a man with well-trimmed hair and polished skin. It was agreed on the motion of Cornutus that the case should be investigated at the next meeting of the Senate, but at that meeting he did not put in an appearance, either from some accidental reason or because he knew he was guilty.
Well, I have told you the news of Rome, you must write and tell me the news of the country. How are your shrubs getting on, your vines and your crops, and those dainty sheep of yours? In short, unless you send me as long a letter I am sending you, you mustn't expect anything more than the scrappiest note from me in the future. Farewell.
As for the bit of public business which, as I told you in my last letter, arose out of the case of Marius Priscus, I don't know whether it has been thoroughly pruned, but it certainly has been trimmed. When Firminus was called before the Senate he replied to the charges brought against him. What they were you know. The two consuls-designate thereupon expressed their opinions as to the sentence and disagreed with one another. Cornutus Tertullus proposed that he should be degraded from his rank as senator; Acutius Nerva urged that when the provinces were allotted Firminus's claim should not be allowed, and his suggestion, as being the least severe, carried the day, though on the whole I think it is the harsher and more vindictive of the two. For what could be more wretched than to be cut off and debarred from all the privileges of senatorship, and yet not to be freed from its toil and trouble? What position can be more trying for a man with such a stain on his name than not to be allowed to hide himself from public view, but to have to show himself in a position of eminence to the gaze and pointing fingers of the world? Moreover, can you imagine anything, from the point of view of the public interest, less congruous or becoming than that a member of the Senate who has been branded by that body should keep his seat among them, that he should retain equal rank with the very persons who branded him, that after being debarred from holding a governorship for disgraceful conduct as one of an embassy he should sit in judgment on other governors, and that after being found guilty of peculation he should pronounce the condemnation or acquittal of others? However, the majority approved this proposal, for votes are merely counted and are not weighed according to merit, and there is no other way possible in a public council. Yet in such cases this presumed equality of opinions is really most unequal, for all are equal in the right to vote though the judgment of the voters is a very unequal quantity. I have fulfilled my promise and made good my word contained in the earlier letter I sent you, which I reckon you will by this time have received, for I entrusted it to a fleet and conscientious messenger who must have reached you unless he has been hindered on the road. It now rests with you to recompense me for both these epistles with the very fullest letter that can be sent from where you are staying. Farewell.
I know you are only too pleased to seize an opportunity for doing me a service, and for my own part I would rather be in your debt than in that of any one else. So, for both these reasons, I have decided to choose you of all people as the one from whom to ask a favour which I am very anxious to have granted me. You are in command of a magnificent army, which gives you abundant material for conferring favours, and, moreover, has provided you with ample time during which you have advanced the interests of your own friends. Now give my friends a turn, please. There are not many of them, though you doubtless wish there were. But I am too modest to ask favours for more than one or two. Indeed there is only one, and that is Voconius Romanus. His father held a distinguished position in the equestrian order; his stepfather, or rather his second father, an even more distinguished place, for Voconius took the name of the latter out of his regard for him, while his mother belonged to one of the leading families of Hither Spain. You know how sound and weighty the opinion of that province is--well, Voconius was quite recently its flamen. When we were students he and I were close and intimate friends; we spent our days together in Rome and in the country; he was my companion both in moments of work and play. You could not imagine a more trusty friend or a more delightful companion. He has wonderful conversational powers, and a remarkably sweet face and expression, and besides this he possesses a lofty intellect and is shrewd, pleasant, ready, and a clever advocate. The letters he writes are so good as to make you think the Muses speak Latin. I have the greatest affection for him, and he has the same for me. When we were both young I did all that I possibly could as a young man to advance him, and just lately I induced our excellent Emperor to grant him the privileges attached to the parentage of three children. That is a favour he bestows but sparingly and after careful choice, yet he acceded to my request as though the choice were his own. There is no better way by which I may keep up my services to him than by adding to their number, especially as he, the recipient, shows himself so grateful to me that by accepting former favours he earns others to come. I have told you what kind of a man he is, how thoroughly I esteem him and how dear he is to me, and I now ask you to use your wits and splendid opportunities for his advancement. Above all, give him your regard, for though you shower upon him your richest dignities you can give him nothing more valuable than your friendship. It was to assure you that he is worthy of even your closest intimacy that I have briefly set before you his tastes, his character and his whole life. I would spin out my request to greater length, but I know that you would rather I did not press you further and the whole of this letter is nothing but a request. For the best way of asking a favour is to give good reason for asking it. Farewell.
Yes, you are quite right; my time is fully taken up by cases in the Centumviral Court, but they give me more worry than pleasure, for most of them are of a minor and unimportant character. Only rarely does a case crop up that can be described as a cause celebre, owing either to the distinguished position of the persons in the suit or to the magnitude of the interests involved. Add to this that there are very few with whom I care to plead; all the other advocates are bumptious, and for the most part young men of no standing, who come over here to do their declamations with such utter want of respect and modesty that I think our friend Atilius just hit the nail on the head when he said that mere boys begin their forensic career with cases in the Centumviral Court, just as they begin with Homer in the schools. For here as there they make their first beginnings on the hardest subjects. Yet, by Heaven, before my time--to use an old man's phrase--not even the highest-born youths had any standing here, unless they were introduced by a man of consular rank.
Such was the respect with which this noble profession was regarded, but now modesty and respect are thrown to the winds and one man is as good as another. So far from being introduced, they burst their way in. Their audiences follow them as if they were actors, bought and paid to do so; the agent is there to meet them in the middle of the basilica, where the doles of money are handed over as openly as the doles of food at a banquet; and they are ready to pass from one court to another for a similar bribe. So these hirelings have been rather wittily dubbed Zophokleis--from their readiness to call bravo,--and they have also been given the Latin name of Laudicaeni--from their eagerness to applaud for the sake of getting a dinner. Yet this disgraceful practice gets worse from day to day, in spite of the terms of opprobrium applied to it in both languages. Yesterday two of my own nomenclators--young men, I admit, about the age of those who have just assumed the toga--were enticed off to join the claque for three denarii apiece. Such is the outlay you must make to get a reputation for eloquence! At that price you can fill the benches, however many there are, you can collect a great throng of bystanders and obtain thunders of applause as soon as the conductor gives the signal. For a signal is absolutely necessary for people who do not understand and do not even listen to the speeches, and many of these fellows do not listen at all, though they applaud as heartily as any. If you happen to be crossing through the basilica and wish to know how any one is speaking, there is no need for you to mount to the Bench or listen. It is perfectly safe to guess on the principle that he is speaking worst who gets the most applause.
Largius Licinius was the first to introduce this new fashion of procuring an audience, but he went no further than asking people to go and hear him. At least I remember that Quintilian, my old tutor, used to tell me so. He told the story thus: "I was in attendance on Domitius Afer when he was pleading in the Centumviral Court in the deliberate and measured style with which he conducted all his cases. He happened to hear from a neighbouring court the sound of extravagant and unusual applause. Wondering what it could mean, he stopped, and then resumed where he had broken off as soon as quiet was restored. Again the shouts came, again he stopped, and after a short period of quiet it began again for the third time. In the end he inquired who was speaking, and was told that it was Licinius. At that he discontinued his case, exclaiming: 'Centumvirs, this is death to our profession.'" Indeed, it was beginning to go to the bad in other ways when Afer thought that it had already gone to the bad, but it is now practically ruined and destroyed, root and branch. I am ashamed to tell you what an affected delivery these people have and with what unnatural cheering their speeches are greeted. Their sing-song style only wants clapping of hands, or rather cymbals and drums, to make them like the priests of Cybele, for as for howlings--there is no other word to express the unseemly applause in the theatres--they have enough and to spare. It is only a desire to save my friends and my age that has induced me to go on practising so long, for I am afraid people would think that if I retired my object was not to shun these indecent scenes but to escape hard work. Yet I am making fewer appearances than usual, and that is the beginning of gradually ceasing to attend altogether. Farewell.
How does your old Marsian property treat you? And your new purchase? Do you like the estate now that it is your own? It is rarely one does, for we never find things as nice when we have obtained them as when we wished to obtain them. My mother's property is giving me considerable trouble, but I like it because it was my mother's, and besides, I have put up with so much that I am now hardened. If people go on complaining long enough, they end in being ashamed to complain further. Farewell.
You, with your usual watchfulness on my behalf, advise me that the codicils of Acilianus, who left me heir to half his estate, may be treated as though they were non-existent, because they are not confirmed by the will. I was quite aware of the law on the subject, for even those who know nothing else know as much as that. But I have made a law of my own for such cases, which leads me to treat as valid the wishes of a dead man, even though they are not legally binding upon me. It is beyond question that the codicils in question were drawn up by Acilianus in his own hand. So, even though they are not confirmed by the will, I shall carefully carry out their intentions as though they were, especially as there is no loophole for an informer to meddle in the matter. For if there were any reason to be afraid of the money I have given being confiscated, I ought to act with perhaps greater hesitation and caution; but since an heir is at perfect liberty to give away what has reverted to him under an inheritance, there is no reason why I should not abide by my own law, which does not clash with the regulations of the State. Farewell.
You are surprised, you say, at my infatuation for my Laurentine estate, or Laurentian if you prefer it so. You will cease to wonder when you are told the charms of the villa, the handiness of its site, and the stretch of shore it commands. It is seventeen miles distant from Rome, so that after getting through all your business, and without loss or curtailment of your working hours, you can go and stay there. It can be reached by more than one route, for the roads to Laurentium and Ostia both lead in the same direction, but you must branch off on the former at the fourth, and on the latter at the fourteenth milestone. From both of these points onward the road is for the most part rather sandy, which makes it a tedious and lengthy journey if you drive, but if you ride it is easy going and quickly covered. The scenery on either hand is full of variety. At places the path is a narrow one with woods running down to it on both sides, at other points it passes through spreading meadows and is wide and open. You will see abundant flocks of sheep and many herds of cattle and horses, which are driven down from the high ground in the winter and grow sleek in a pasturage and a temperature like those of spring.
The villa is large enough for all requirements, and is not expensive to keep in repair. At its entrance there is a modest but by no means mean- looking hall; then come the cloisters, which are rounded into the likeness of the letter D, and these enclose a smallish but handsome courtyard. They make a fine place of refuge in a storm, for they are protected by glazed windows and deep overhanging eaves. Facing the middle of the cloisters is a cheerful inner court, then comes a dining- room running down towards the shore, which is handsome enough for any one, and when the sea is disturbed by the south-west wind the room is just flecked by the spray of the spent waves. There are folding doors on all sides of it, or windows that are quite as large as such doors, and so from the two sides and the front it commands a prospect as it were of three seas, while at the back one can see through the inner court, the cloisters, the courtyard, then more cloisters and the hall, and through them the woods and the distant hills. A little farther back, on the left-hand side, is a spacious chamber; then a smaller one which admits the rising sun by one window and by another enjoys his last lingering rays as he sets, and this room also commands a view of the sea that lies beneath it, at a longer but more secure distance. An angle is formed by this chamber and the dining-room, which catches and concentrates the purest rays of the sun. This forms the winter apartments and exercise ground for my household. No wind penetrates thither except those which bring up rain-clouds and only prevent the place being used when they take away the fine weather. Adjoining this angle is a chamber with one wall rounded like a bay, which catches the sun on all its windows as he moves through the heavens. In the wall of this room I have had shelves placed like a library, which contains the volumes which I not only read, but read over and over again. Next to it is a sleeping chamber, through a passage supported by pillars and fitted with pipes which catch the hot air and circulate it from place to place, keeping the rooms at a healthy temperature. The remaining part of this side of the villa is appropriated to the use of my slaves and freedmen, most of the rooms being sufficiently well furnished for the reception of guests.
On the other side of the building there is a nicely decorated chamber, then another room which would serve either as a large bed-chamber or a moderate sized dining-room, as it enjoys plenty of sunshine and an extensive sea-view. Behind this is an apartment with an ante-room, suitable for summer use because of its height, and for winter use owing to it sheltered position, for it is out of reach of all winds. Another room with an ante-room is joined to this by a common wall. Next to it is the cold bath room, a spacious and wide chamber, with two curved swimming baths thrown out as it were from opposite sides of the room and facing one another. They hold plenty of water if you consider how close the sea is. Adjoining this room is the anointing room, then the sweating room, and then the heating room, from which you pass to two chambers of graceful rather than sumptuous proportions. Attached to these is a warm swimming bath which everybody admires, and from it those who are taking a swim can command a view of the sea. Close by is the tennis court, which receives the warmest rays of the afternoon sun; on one side a tower has been built with two sitting rooms on the ground floor, two more on the first floor, and above them a dining-room commanding a wide expanse of sea, a long stretch of shore, and the pleasantest villas of the neighbourhood. There is also a second tower, containing a bedroom which gets the sun morning and evening, and a spacious wine cellar and store-room at the back of it. On the floor beneath is a sitting-room where, even when the sea is stormy, you hear the roar and thunder only in subdued and dying murmurs. It looks out upon the exercise ground, which runs round the garden.
This exercise ground has a border of boxwood, or rosemary where the box does not grow well--for box thrives admirably when it is sheltered by buildings, but where it is fully exposed to wind and weather and to the spray of the sea, though it stands at a great distance therefrom, it is apt to shrivel. On the inside ring of the exercise ground is a pretty and shady alley of vines, which is soft and yielding even to the bare foot. The garden itself is clad with a number of mulberry and fig- trees, the soil being specially suitable for the former trees, though it is not so kindly to the others. On this side, the dining-room away from the sea commands as fine a view as that of the sea itself. It is closed in behind by two day-rooms, from the windows of which can be seen the entrance to the villa from the road and another garden as rich as the first one but not so ornamental.
Along its side stretches a covered portico, almost long enough for a public building. It has windows on both sides, most of them facing the sea; those looking on the garden are single ones, and less numerous than those on the other side, as every alternate window was left out. All these are kept open when it is a fine day and there is no wind; when the wind is high, the windows only on the sheltered side are opened and no harm is done. In front of the portico is a terrace walk that is fragrant with violets. The portico increases the warmth of the sun by radiation, and retains the heat just as it keeps off and breaks the force of the north wind. Hence it is as warm in front as it is cool behind. In the same way it checks the south-west winds, and similarly with all winds from whatever quarter they blow--it tempers them and stops them dead. This is its charm in winter, but in summer it is even greater, for in the mornings its shade tempers the heat of the terrace walk, and in the afternoon the heat of the exercise ground and the nearest part of the garden, the shadows falling longer and shorter on the two sides respectively as the sun rises to his meridian and sinks to his setting. Indeed, the portico has least sunshine when the sun is blazing down upon its roof. Consequently it receives the west winds through its open windows and circulates them through the building, and so never becomes oppressive through the stuffy air remaining within it.
At the head of the terrace and portico successively is a garden suite of rooms, my favourite spot and well worthy of being so. I had them built myself. In this is a sunny chamber which commands the terrace on one side, the sea on another, and the sun on both; besides an apartment which looks on the portico through folding doors and on the sea through a window. In the middle of the wall is a neat recess, which by means of glazed windows and curtains can either be thrown into the adjoining room or be cut off from it. It holds a couch and two easy-chairs, and as you lie on the couch you have the sea at your feet, the villa at your back, and the woods at your head, and all these views may be looked at separately from each window or blended into one prospect. Adjoining is a chamber for passing the night in or taking a nap, and unless the windows are open, you do not hear a sound either of your slaves talking, or the murmur of the sea, or the raging of the storms; nor do you see the flashes of the lightning or know that it is day. This deep seclusion and remoteness is due to the fact that an intervening passage separates the wall of the chamber from that of the garden, and so all the sound is dissipated in the empty space between. A very small heating apparatus has been fitted to the room, which, by means of a narrow trap-door, either diffuses or retains the hot air as may be required. Adjoining it is an ante-room and a chamber projected towards the sun, which the latter room catches immediately upon his rising, and retains his rays beyond mid-day though they fall aslant upon it. When I betake myself into this sitting-room, I seem to be quite away even from my villa, and I find it delightful to sit there, especially during the Saturnalia, when all the rest of the house rings with the merry riot and shouts of the festival-makers; for then I do not interfere with their amusements, and they do not distract me from my studies.
The convenience and charm of the situation of my villa have one drawback in that it contains no running water, but I draw my supply from wells or rather fountains, for they are situated at a high level. Indeed, it is one of the curious characteristics of the shore here that wherever you dig you find moisture ready to hand, and the water is quite fresh and not even brackish in the slightest degree, though the sea is so close by. The neighbouring woods furnish us with abundance of fuel, and other supplies we get from a colony of Ostia. The village, which is separated only by one residence from my own, supplies my modest wants; it boasts of three public baths, which are a great convenience, when you do not feel inclined to heat your own bath at home, if you arrive unexpectedly or wish to save time. The shore is beautified by a most pleasing variety of villa buildings, some of which are close together, while others have great intervals between them. They give the appearance of a number of cities, whether you view them from the sea or from the shore itself, and the sands of the latter are sometimes loosened by a long spell of quiet weather, or--as more often happens--are hardened by the constant beating of the waves. The sea does not indeed abound with fish of any value, but it yields excellent soles and prawns. Yet our villa provides us with plenty of inland produce and especially milk, for the herds come down to us from the pastures whenever they seek water or shade.
Well, do you think that I have just reasons for living here, for passing my time here, and for loving a retreat for which your mouth must be watering, unless you are a confirmed town-bird? I wish that your mouth did water! If it did, the many great charms of my little villa would be enhanced in the highest degree by your company. Farewell.
No, you could not have given me a pleasanter commission than to find a teacher of rhetoric for your brother's children. For, thanks to you, I go to school again, and, as it were, enjoy once more the happiest days of my life. I sit among young people, as I used to do, and I can judge what authority I have among them owing to my literary pursuits. Just recently in a full class-room, before a number of members of our order, the boys were joking among themselves quite loudly; the moment I entered they were quiet as mice. I should not mention the incident except that it redounded more to their credit than to mine, and that I wish you to feel sure that your brother's sons can attend the lectures to their advantage. Moreover, when I have heard all the lectures, I will write and tell you what I think about each one of them, and so--as far as I can by a letter--I will make you think that you have heard them all yourself. I owe this to you, and I owe it to the memory of your brother to deal loyally by him and take this interest, especially on such an important subject. For what can touch you more closely than that these children--I should say your children, but that you love them more than if they were your own--should be found worthy of such a father and such an uncle as yourself. Even if you had not asked me to look after them, I should have done so on my own account. I do not forget that in choosing a public teacher one is apt to give offence, but on behalf of your brother's sons I must risk giving offence and even incurring animosity with as little compunction as a parent would in looking after his own children. Farewell.
You urge me to recite my speech before a company of my friends. I will do so, because you ask me to, but I am exceedingly doubtful of the wisdom of the step. For I cannot help remembering that speeches which are recited lose all their spirit and passion and almost the right to the name of speeches--which are properly enhanced and fired by the bench of judges, the crowds of supporters, the waiting for the verdict, the reputation of the various counsel, and the divided partisanship of the audience. Besides all this, there are the gestures of the pleader, his moving to and fro, even his hurried strides, and every movement of his body which corresponds to some thought passing through his mind. Hence it is that those who plead sitting down, although they have practically the same environment as those who plead standing, are not so impressive and telling just because they happen to be seated. But when a man recites a speech, his eyes and hands--which are the most important aids to expression--are otherwise occupied, and so it is no wonder that the attention of the audience becomes languid, when there are no external graces to charm them and no thrills to stimulate them. Moreover, the address I am talking about is a fighting speech and full of contentious matter, and Nature has so ordained it that we think, if a subject has given us trouble to write, it will give an audience trouble to listen to it. How few conscientious listeners there are who prefer a stiff, closely-reasoned argument to honeyed and sonorous eloquence! It is wrong, I know, that there should be a difference of taste between judge and listener, but there is such a difference and it constantly crops up. The audience want one thing and the judges another, whereas, on the contrary, a listener ought to be impressed just by those points which would make most impression on him if he were judge. However, it is possible that in spite of these difficulties the speech may be recommended by a certain novelty--a novelty that is quite Roman,--for though the Greeks have a custom which does bear a remote resemblance to it, it is really quite different. For just as it was their practice, in showing that a law was opposed to earlier laws, to prove that it was so by comparing it with the others, so I had to show that my accusation was covered by the law against extortion by comparing it with other laws as well as by proving it from the law itself. Such a subject, though far from having any charm for the ears of the man in the street, ought to be as interesting to the learned as it is uninteresting to the unlearned. But if I make up my mind to recite the speech, I shall invite all the learned people to hear it. However, please think it over by all means and tell me whether you still consider that I ought to recite it; place on either side all the considerations I have raised, and choose the conclusion which has the weight of argument in its favour. It is from you, not from me, that a reason will be required; my apology will be that I did as I was told. Farewell.
Get ready your penny and I will tell you a golden story, nay, more than one, for the new one has reminded me of some old tales, and it does not matter with which I begin. Verania, the wife of Piso, was lying very ill--I mean the Piso who was adopted by Galba. Regulus paid her a visit. First mark the impudence of the man in coming to see the invalid, for he had been her husband's bitter enemy and she loathed and detested him. However, that might pass if he had only called, but he actually sat down beside her on the couch and asked her on what day and at what hour she had been born. On being told he puts on a grave look, fixes his eyes hard, moves his lips, works his fingers and makes his reckoning, but says nothing. Then after keeping the poor lady on the tenter-hooks, wondering what he would say, he exclaims: "You are passing through a critical time, but you will pull through. Still, just to reassure you, I will go and consult a soothsayer with whom I have often had dealings." He goes off at once; offers the sacrifice and swears that the appearance of the entrails corresponds with the warning of the stars. She, with all the credulity of an invalid, calls for her tablets and writes down a legacy for Regulus; subsequently she grows worse and exclaims as she dies, "What a rascal, what a lying and worse than perjured wretch, thus to have sworn falsely on the head of his son!"
That is Regulus's trick, and he has recourse to the scandalous device constantly, for he calls down the anger of the gods, whom he daily outrages, upon the head of his luckless son. Velleius Blaesus, the rich Consular, was stricken with the illness which carried him off, and was desirous of changing his will. Regulus, who was capable of hoping for anything from an alteration of the will because he had lately begun to haunt him on the chance of a legacy, begged and prayed of the doctors to prolong Blaesus's life by hook or by crook. But when the will was signed he took quite a different line. He changed his tone and said to the same doctors: "How long do you intend to torture the poor man? Why do you grudge him an easy death when you cannot give him life?" Blaesus dies, and, as though he had heard every word, he leaves Regulus not a brass farthing. Two stories are quite enough. Or do you ask for a third, on the rhetoricians' principle? Well, I have one for you. When Aurelia, a lady of great means, was about to make her will, she put on for the occasion her most handsome tunics. When Regulus came to witness the signing he said, "I beg you to leave me these." Aurelia thought the man was joking, but he was serious and pressed the matter. Well, to cut the story short, he compelled the poor woman to open the tablets and leave to him the tunics she was wearing at the time. He watched her as she wrote, and looked to see whether she had written it rightly. Aurelia still lives, but he forced her to make that legacy as if she had been on the point of death. Yet this is the fellow who receives inheritances and legacies as though he deserved them.
But why do I worry myself when I live in a country where villainy and rascality have long been getting not less but far more handsome rewards than modesty and virtue? Look at Regulus, for example, who, from being a pauper and without a shilling, has now become such a rich man by sheer villainy that he once told me that, when he was consulting the omens as to how soon he would be worth sixty millions of sesterces, he found double sets of entrails, which were a token that he would be worth120 millions. So he will too, if only he goes on, as he has begun, dictating wills which are not their own to the very people who are making their wills, which is about the most disgraceful kind of forgery imaginable. Farewell.
I don't think I ever spent a more delightful time than during my recent visit at Spurinna's house; indeed, I enjoyed myself so much that, if it is my fortune to grow old, there is no one whom I should prefer to take as my model in old age, as there is nothing more methodical than that time of life. Personally, I like to see men map out their lives with the regularity of the fixed courses of the stars, and especially old men. For while one is young a little disorder and rush, so to speak, is not unbecoming; but for old folks, whose days of exertion are past and in whom personal ambition is disgraceful, a placid and well-ordered life is highly suitable. That is the principle upon which Spurinna acts most religiously; even trifles, or what would be trifles were they not of daily occurrence, he goes through in fixed order and, as it were, orbit.
In the morning he keeps his couch; at the second hour he calls for his shoes and walks three miles, exercising mind as well as body. If he has friends with him the time is passed in conversation on the noblest of themes, otherwise a book is read aloud, and sometimes this is done even when his friends are present, but never in such a way as to bore them. Then he sits down, and there is more reading aloud or more talk for preference; afterwards he enters his carriage, taking with him either his wife, who is a pattern lady, or one of his friends, a distinction I recently enjoyed. How delightful, how charming that privacy is! What glimpses of old times one gets! What noble deeds and noble men he tells you of! What lessons you drink in! Yet at the same time it is his custom so to blend his learning with modesty that he never seems to be playing the schoolmaster. After riding seven miles he walks another mile, then he again resumes his seat or betakes himself to his room and his pen. For he composes, both in Latin and Greek, the most scholarly lyrics. They have a wonderful grace, wonderful sweetness, and wonderful humour, and the chastity of the writer enhances its charm. When he is told that the bathing hour has come--which is the ninth hour in winter and the eighth in summer--he takes a walk naked in the sun, if there is no wind. Then he plays at ball for a long spell, throwing himself heartily into the game, for it is by means of this kind of active exercise that he battles with old age. After his bath he lies down and waits a little while before taking food, listening in the meantime to the reading of some light and pleasant book. All this time his friends are at perfect liberty to imitate his example or do anything else they prefer. Then dinner is served, the table being as bright as it is modest, and the silver plain and old-fashioned; he also has some Corinthian vases in use, for which he has a taste though not a mania. The dinner is often relieved by actors of comedy, so that the pleasures of the table may have a seasoning of letters. Even in the summer the meal lasts well into the night, but no one finds it long, for it is kept up with such good humour and charm. The consequence is that, though he has passed his seventy-seventh year, his hearing and eyesight are as good as ever, his body is still active and alert, and the only symptom of his age is his wisdom.
This is the sort of life that I have vowed and determined to forestall, and I shall enter upon it with zest as soon as my age justifies me in beating a retreat. Meanwhile, I am distracted with a thousand things to attend to, and my only solace therein is the example of Spurinna again, for he undertook official duties, held magistracies, and governed provinces as long as it became him to do so, and earned his present leisure by abundant toil. That is why I set myself the same race to run and the same goal to attain, and I now register the vow and place it in your hands, so that, if ever you see me being carried beyond the mark, you may bring me to book, quote this letter of mine against me and order me to take my ease, so soon as I shall have made it impossible for people to charge me with laziness. Farewell.
I think I am justified in asking you to grant to one of my friends a favour which I should certainly have offered to friends of yours, had I the same opportunity for conferring them as you have. Arrianus Maturus is the leading man in Altinum; and when I say that, I mean not that he is the richest man there--though he possesses considerable property--but I refer to his character, to his chastity, justice, weight, and wisdom. I turn to him in business for advice, and for criticism in literary matters, for he is wonderfully loyal, straightforward, and shrewd. He has the same regard for me as you have, and I cannot conceive a more ardent affection than that. He is by no means an ambitious man, and for that reason, though he might easily have attained the highest rank in the state, he has been content to remain in the equestrian order. Yet I feel that I must do something to add to his honours and give him some token of my regard. And so I am very anxious to heap some dignity upon him, though he does not expect it, knows nothing about it, and perhaps even would rather I did not--but it must be a real distinction and one that involves no troublesome responsibilities. So I ask you to confer upon him such a favour at your earliest opportunity, and I shall be profoundly obliged to you. And he will be also, for though he does not run after honours, he welcomes them as thankfully as if his heart were set upon them. Farewell.
3.3.--TO CORELLIA HISPULLA.
I know not whether I regarded your father, who was a man of consummate judgment and rectitude of life, with greater love or reverence, and as I have a very special regard for you for his sake and also for your own, I feel bound to desire and even to do all that lies in my power to help your son to turn out like his grandfather. For choice, I should prefer him to be like his grandfather on his mother's side, though his paternal grandfather was also a man of distinction and eminence, and his father and his uncle won conspicuous laurels. I feel sure that the only way to secure his growing up to be like them in all their good qualities is for him to drink deeply of the honourable arts, and the choice of a teacher from whom he may learn them is a matter of the highest importance. So far, his tender years have naturally kept him close by your side; he has had tutors at home, where there is little or no chance of his going wrong. But now his studies must take him out of doors, and we must look out for a Latin rhetorician with a good reputation for school discipline, for modesty, and above all, for good morals. For our young friend has been endowed, in addition to his other gifts of nature and fortune, with striking physical beauty, and at his slippery age we must find him not only a teacher but a guardian who will keep him straight.
Well, I fancy I can recommend to you Julius Genitor. I have a regard for him, and my affection, which was based on judgment, does not blind my judgment of him. He is without faults, a man of real character, perhaps a little over-rugged and austere for this libertine age. You can learn from others what an accomplished speaker he is, for ability to speak is an open gift and is recognised at once when the power is displayed, but a man's private life is full of deep recesses and obscure mazes. For the latter in Genitor's case you may hold me as guarantor. From a man like him your son will hear nothing but what will be to his profit; he will learn nothing of which he had better have remained in ignorance, and Genitor will remind him, as often as you or I would, of the special obligations in his case of "noblesse oblige" and the dignity of the names he has to worthily uphold. So bid him God-speed and entrust him to a tutor who will teach him morals first and eloquence afterwards, for it is but a poor thing to learn the latter without the former. Farewell.
Although my course of action was approved in general estimation and by the friends who were with me at the time, I am anxious to know what you think of it. I should have liked to have had your opinion before finally deciding, so now that the matter is over I am exceedingly keen to hear your judgment. I had run down to my Tuscan estate to lay the foundations of a public building at my own expense, after obtaining leave of absence as Praefect of the Treasury, when a deputation from the province of Baetica, who were about to lodge complaints against the governorship of Caecilius Classicus, petitioned the Senate to appoint me to conduct their case for them. My colleagues, who are the best of fellows and devoted to my interests, pleaded the engagements and duties of the office we hold, and tried to get me off and make excuses for me. The Senate passed a handsome resolution, saying that I should be allowed to champion the cause of the provincials if they succeeded in persuading me to take up the brief. Then the deputation was again introduced, when I was in my place in the Senate, and asked my assistance, appealing to my loyalty, of which they had previous experience in the action against Massa Baebius, and adducing their legal right to a patronus. The Senate responded to the appeal with the loud applause which usually precedes a decree of that body.
Then I rose and said: "Conscript Fathers, I beg to withdraw my plea to be excused as inadequate," and the House approved the modesty of the remark and the reason. However, I was drawn to act as I did not only by the applause of the Senate, though that had great weight with me, but by a variety of other reasons, less in themselves, but all telling in the account. I remembered that our forefathers used to voluntarily undertake the championship of individual private friends who had been wronged, and so I thought that it would be shameful for me to neglect the claims of an entire people who were my friends. Moreover, when I recollected what hazards I had run for the same people of Baetica in my earlier championship of them, I thought I had better preserve their gratitude for the old favour by granting them a new one. For it is a law of nature that people soon forget an old benefit, unless you keep on renewing it by later ones, for however often you oblige them, if you refuse them one request, they only remember the refusal. Another motive was that Classicus was dead, and so there was no fear of the odium of endangering a senator, which in these cases is usually the most serious objection. I saw, therefore, that if I undertook the case I should obtain just as much kudos as if he were alive, and yet escape all odium. In short, I reckoned that if I consented to appear a third time in a brief of this kind, I should have an easier task to excuse myself if a case turned up in which I felt I ought not to play the part of accuser. For as there is a limit to the granting of all favours, the best method of paving the way to obtain a right of refusal is by consenting to previous requests. I have now told you my reasons for acting as I did, and it is open to you to agree or dissent, but let me assure you that frank dissent will be no less agreeable to me than the sanction of your approval. Farewell.
3.5.--TO BAEBIUS MACER.
I was delighted to find that you are so zealous a student of my uncle's books that you would like to possess copies of them all, and that you ask me to give you a complete list of them. I will play the part of an index for you, and tell you, moreover, the order in which they were written, for this is a point that students are interested to know. "Throwing the Javelin from Horseback," one volume; this was composed, with considerable ingenuity and research, when he was on active service as a cavalry lieutenant. "The Life of Pomponius Secundus," two volumes;--Pomponius was remarkably attached to my uncle, who, so to speak, composed this book to his friend's memory in payment of his debt of gratitude. "The German Wars," twenty volumes;--this comprises an account of all the wars we have waged with the German races. He commenced it, while on service in Germany, in obedience to the warning of a dream, for, while he was asleep, the shade of Drusus Nero, who had won sweeping victories in that country and died there, appeared to him and kept on entrusting his fame to my uncle, beseeching him to rescue his name from ill-deserved oblivion. "The Student," three volumes, afterwards split up into six on account of their length;--in this he showed the proper training and equipment of an orator from his cradle up. "Ambiguity in Language," in eight volumes, was written in the last years of Nero's reign when tyranny had made it dangerous to write any book, no matter the subject, in anything like a free and candid style. "A Continuation of the History of Aufidius Bassus," in thirty-one books, and a "Natural History," in thirty-seven books;--the latter is a comprehensive and learned work, covering as wide a field as Nature herself.
Does it surprise you that a busy man found time to finish so many volumes, many of which deal with such minute details? You will wonder the more when I tell you that he for many years pleaded in the law courts, that he died in his fifty-seventh year, and that in the interval his time was taken up and his studies were hindered by the important offices he held and the duties arising out of his friendship with the Emperors. But he possessed a keen intellect; he had a marvellous capacity for work, and his powers of application were enormous. He used to begin to study at night on the Festival of Vulcan, not for luck but from his love of study, long before dawn; in winter he would commence at the seventh hour or at the eighth at the very latest, and often at the sixth. He could sleep at call, and it would come upon him and leave him in the middle of his work. Before daybreak he would go to Vespasian-- for he too was a night-worker--and then set about his official duties. On his return home he would again give to study any time that he had free. Often in summer after taking a meal, which with him, as in the old days, was always a simple and light one, he would lie in the sun if he had any time to spare, and a book would be read aloud, from which he would take notes and extracts. For he never read without taking extracts, and used to say that there never was a book so bad that it was not good in some passage or another. After his sun bath he usually bathed in cold water, then he took a snack and a brief nap, and subsequently, as though another day had begun, he would study till dinner-time. After dinner a book would be read aloud, and he would take notes in a cursory way. I remember that one of his friends, when the reader pronounced a word wrongly, checked him and made him read it again, and my uncle said to him, "Did you not catch the meaning?" When his friend said "yes," he remarked, "Why then did you make him turn back? We have lost more than ten lines through your interruption." So jealous was he of every moment lost.
In summer he used to rise from the dinner-table while it was still light; in winter always before the first hour had passed, as though there was a law obliging him to do so. Such was his method of living when up to the eyes in work and amid the bustle of Rome. When he was in the country the only time snatched from his work was when he took his bath, and when I say bath I refer to the actual bathing, for while he was being scraped with the strigil or rubbed down, he used to listen to a reader or dictate. When he was travelling he cut himself aloof from every other thought and gave himself up to study alone. At his side he kept a shorthand writer with a book and tablets, who wore mittens on his hands in winter, so that not even the sharpness of the weather should rob him of a moment, and for the same reason, when in Rome, he used to be carried in a litter. I remember that once he rebuked me for walking, saying, "If you were a student, you could not waste your hours like that," for he considered that all time was wasted which was not devoted to study.
Such was the application which enabled him to compile all those volumes I have enumerated, and he left me one hundred and sixty commonplace books, written on both sides of the scrolls, and in a very small handwriting, which really makes the number of the volumes considerably more. He used to say that when he was procurator in Spain he could have sold these commonplace books to Largius Licinus for four hundred thousand sestertia, and at that time they were much fewer in number. Do you not feel when you think of his voluminous writing and reading that he cannot have had any public duties to attend to, and that he cannot have been an intimate friend of the Emperors? Again, when you hear what an amount of work he put into his studies, does it not seem that he neither wrote nor read as much as he might? For his other duties might surely have prevented him from studying altogether, and a man with his application might have accomplished even more than he did. So I often smile when some of my friends call me a book-worm, for if I compare myself with him I am but a shocking idler. Yet am I quite as bad as that, considering the way I am distracted by my public and private duties? Who is there of all those who devote their whole life to literature, who, if compared with him, would not blush for himself as a sleepy-head and a lazy fellow? I have let my pen run on, though I had intended simply to answer your question and give you a list of my uncle's works; but I trust that even my letter may give you as much pleasure as his books, and that it will spur you on not only to read them, but also to compose something worthy to be compared with them. Farewell.
3.6.--TO ANNIUS SEVERUS.
Out of a legacy which I have come in for I have just bought a Corinthian bronze, small it is true, but a charming and sharply-cut piece of work, so far as I have any knowledge of art, and that, as in everything else perhaps, is very slight. But as for the statue in question even I can appreciate its merits. For it is a nude, and neither conceals its faults, if there are any, nor hides at all its strong points. It represents an old man in a standing posture; the bones, muscles, nerves, veins, and even the wrinkles appear quite life-like; the hair is thin and scanty on the forehead; the brow is broad; the face wizened; the neck thin; the shoulders are bowed; the breast is flat, and the belly hollow. The back too gives the same impression of age, as far as a back view can. The bronze itself, judging by the genuine colour, is old and of great antiquity. In fact, in every respect it is a work calculated to catch the eye of a connoisseur and to delight the eye of an amateur, and this is what tempted me to purchase it, although I am the merest novice. But I bought it not to keep it at home--for as yet I have no Corinthian art work in my house--but that I might put it up in my native country in some frequented place, and I specially had in mind the Temple of Jupiter. For the statue seems to me to be worthy of the temple, and the gift to be worthy of the god. So I hope that you will show me your usual kindness when I give you a commission, and that you will undertake the following for me. Will you order a pedestal to be made, of any marble you like, to be inscribed with my name and titles, if you think the latter ought to be mentioned? I will send you the statue as soon as I can find any one who is not overburdened with luggage, or I will bring myself along with it, as I dare say you would prefer me to do. For, if only my duties allow me, I am intending to run down thither. You are glad that I promise to come, but you will frown when I add that I can only stay a few days. For the business which hitherto has kept me from getting away will not allow of my being absent any longer. Farewell.
3.7.--TO CANINIUS RUFUS.
News has just come that Silius Italicus has starved himself to death at his villa near Naples. Ill-health was the cause assigned. He had an incurable corn, which made him weary of life and resolved him to face death with a determination that nothing could shake, yet to his last day he was prosperous and happy, save that he lost the younger of his two children. The elder and the better of the two still survives him in prosperous circumstances and of consular rank. During Nero's reign Silius had injured his reputation, for it was thought that he voluntarily informed against people, but he had conducted himself with prudence and courtesy as one of the friends of Vitellius; he had returned from his governorship of Asia covered with glory, and he had succeeded in obliterating the stains on his character, caused by his activity in his young days, by the admirable use he made of his retirement. He ranked among the leading men of the State, though he held no official position and excited no man's envy. People paid their respects to him and courted his society, and, though he spent much of his time on his couch, his room was always full of company who were no mere chance callers, and he passed his days in learned and scholarly conversation, when he was not busy composing. He wrote verses which show abundant pains rather than genius, and sometimes he submitted them to general criticism by having them read in public.
At last he retired from the city, prompted thereto by his great age, and settled in Campania, nor did he stir from the spot, even at the accession of the new Emperor. A Caesar deserves great credit for allowing a subject such liberty, and Italicus deserves the same for venturing to avail himself of it. He was such a keen virtuoso that he got the reputation of always itching to buy new things. He owned a number of villas in the same neighbourhood, and used to neglect his old ones through his passion for his recent purchases. In each he had any quantity of books, statues and busts, which he not only kept by him but even treated with a sort of veneration, especially the busts of Virgil, whose birthday he kept up far more scrupulously than he did his own, principally at Naples, where he used to approach the poet's monument as though it were a temple. In these peaceful surroundings he completed his seventy-fifth year, his health being delicate rather than weak, and just as he was the last consul appointed by Nero, so too in him died the sole survivor of all the consuls appointed by that Emperor. It is also a curious fact that, besides his being the last of Nero's consuls, it was in his term of office that Nero perished. When I think of this, I feel a sort of compassion for the frailty of humanity. For what is so circumscribed and so short as even the longest human life? Does it not seem to you as if Nero were alive only the other day? Yet of all those who held the consulship during his reign not one survives at the present moment.
But, after all, what is there remarkable in that? Not so long ago Lucius Piso, the father of the Piso who was must shamefully put to death in Africa by Valerius Festus, used to say that he did not see a single soul in the Senate of all those whom he had called upon to speak during his consulship. Within such narrow limits are the powers of living of even the mightiest throng confined that it seems to me the royal tears are not only excusable but even praiseworthy. For the story goes that when Xerxes cast his eyes over his enormous host, he wept to think of the fate that in such brief space would lay so many thousands low. But that is all the more reason why we should apply all the fleeting, rushing moments at our disposal, if not to great achievements--for these may be destined for other hands than ours--at least to study, and why, as long life is denied us, we should leave behind us some memorial that we have lived. I know that you need no spurring on, yet the affection I have for you prompts me even to spur a willing horse, just as you do with me. Well, it is a noble contention when friends exhort one another to work and sharpen one another's desires to win an immortal name. Farewell.
3.8.--TO SUETONIUS TRANQUILLUS.
It is just like your usual respectful regard for me that you beg me so earnestly to transfer the tribuneship, which I obtained for you from that noble man Neratius Marcellus, to your relative Caesennius Silvanus. I should have been delighted to see you as tribune, but I shall be equally pleased to see another take the post through your generosity, for I do not think it would be becoming in me to grudge a man whom you desire to advance in dignity the fame of family affection, which is a greater distinction than any honorific titles. Besides, as it is a splendid thing both to deserve benefits and to confer them, I see that you will at one and the same time receive credit for both, now that you bestow on another what your own merits have won. Moreover, I quite understand that I too shall come in for some glory when it is known through your generous deed that friends of mine can not only fill the office of tribune, but can bestow it on others. For these reasons I bow to the wishes which do you the greatest credit. No name has yet been placed on the lists, and so we can quite well substitute that of Silvanus for yours. I hope that he will show himself as grateful to you as you have to me. Farewell.
3.9.--TO CORNELIUS MINICIANUS.
I can now give you a full account of the enormous trouble entailed upon me in the public trial brought by the Province of Baetica. It was a complicated suit, and new issues kept constantly cropping up. Why this variety, and why these different pleadings? you well ask. Well, Caecilius Classicus--a low rascal who carries his villainy in his face-- had during his proconsulship in Baetica, in the same year that Marius Priscus was Governor of Africa, behaved both with violence and rapacity. Now, Priscus came from Baetica and Classicus from Africa, and so there was a rather good saying among the people of Baetica, for even resentment often inspires wit: "It is give and take between us." But in the case of Marius only one city publicly impeached him besides several private individuals, while the whole Province pressed the charges home against Classicus. He forestalled their accusation by a sudden death which may or may not have been self-inflicted, for there was some doubt about his dishonourable end. Men thought that though it was quite intelligible that he should have been willing to die as he had no defence to offer, yet they could hardly understand why he had died rather than undergo the shame of being condemned when he was not ashamed to commit the crime which merited the condemnation. None the less, the Province determined to go on with the accusation of the dead man. Provision had been made for such cases by the laws, but the custom had fallen into disuse and it was revived then for the first time after many years. Another argument urged by the Baetici for continuing the suit was that they had impeached not only Classicus, but his intimates and tools, and had demanded leave to prosecute them by name.
I was acting for the Province, assisted by Lucceius Albinus, an eloquent and ornate speaker, and though we have long been on terms of the closest regard for one another, our association in this suit has made me feel vastly more attached to him. As a rule, and especially in oratorical efforts, people do not run well in double harness in their striving for glory, but he and I were not in any sense rivals and there was no jealousy between us, as we both did our level best, not for our own hand, but for the common cause, which was of such a serious character and of such public importance that it seemed to demand from us that we should not over-elaborate each single pleading. We were afraid that time would fail us, and that our voices and lungs would break down if we tied up together so many charges and so many defendants into one bundle. Again, we feared that the attention of the judges would not only be wearied by the introduction of so many names and charges, but that they would be confused thereby, that the sum-total of the influence of each one of the accused might procure for each the strength of all, and finally we were afraid lest the most influential of the accused should make a scapegoat of the meanest among them, and so slip out of the hands of justice at the expense of some one else--for favour and personal interest are strongest when they can skulk behind some pretence of severity. Moreover, we were advised by the well-known story of Sertorius, who set two soldiers--one young and powerful, and the other old and weak--to pull off the tail of a horse. You know how it finishes. And so we too thought that we could get the better of even such a long array of defendants, provided we took them one by one.
Our plan was first to prove the guilt of Classicus himself; then it was a natural transition to his intimates and tools, because the latter could never be condemned unless Classicus were guilty. Consequently, we took two of them and closely connected them with Classicus, Baebius Probus and Fabius Hispanus, both men of some influence, while Hispanus possesses a strong gift of eloquence. To prove the guilt of Classicus was an easy and simple task that did not take us long. He had left in his own handwriting a document showing what profits he had made out of each transaction and case, and he had even despatched a letter couched in a boasting and impudent strain to one of his mistresses containing the words, "Hurrah! hurrah! I am coming back to you with my hands free; for I have already sold the interests of the Baetici to the tune of four million sesterces." But we had to sweat to get a conviction against Hispanus and Probus. Before I dealt with the charges against them, I thought it necessary to establish the legal point that the execution of an unjust sentence is an indictable offence, for if I had not done this it would have been useless for me to prove that they had been the henchmen of Classicus. Moreover, their line of defence was not a denial. They pleaded that they could not help themselves and therefore were to be pardoned, arguing that they were mere provincials and were frightened into doing anything that a proconsul bade them do. Claudius Restitutus, who replied to me, a practised and watchful speaker who is equal to any emergency however suddenly sprung up upon him, is now going about saying that he never was so dumbfounded and thrown off his balance as when he discovered that the ground on which he placed full reliance for his defence had been cut from under him and stolen away from him.
Well, the outcome of our line of attack was as follows: the Senate decreed that the property owned by Classicus before he went to the Province should be set apart from that which he subsequently acquired, and that his daughter should receive the former and the rest be handed over to the victims of his extortion. It was also decreed that the sums which he had paid over to his creditors should be refunded. Hispanus and Probus were banished for five years. Such was the serious view taken of their conduct, about which at the outset there were doubts whether it was legally criminal at all. A few days afterwards we accused Claudius Fuscus, a son-in-law of Classicus, and Stilonius Priscus, who had acted under him as tribune of a cohort. Here the verdicts differed, for while Priscus was banished from Italy for two years, Fuscus was acquitted.
In the third action, we thought our best course was to lump the defendants together, fearing lest, if the trial were to be spun out to undue length, those who were hearing the case would grow sick and tired of it, and their zeal for strict justice and severity would abate. Besides, the accused persons, who had been designedly kept over till then, were all of comparatively little importance, except the wife of Classicus, and, although suspicion against her was strong, the proofs seemed rather weak. As for the daughter of Classicus, who was also among the defendants, she had cleared herself even of suspicion. Consequently, when I reached her name in the last trial--for there was no fear then as there had been at the beginning that such an admission would weaken the force of the prosecution--I thought the most honourable course was to refrain from pressing the charge against an innocent person, and I frankly said so, repeating the idea in various forms. For example, I asked the deputation of the Baetici whether they had given me definite instructions on any point which they felt confident they could prove against her; I turned to the senators and inquired whether they thought I ought to employ what eloquence I might possess against an innocent person, and hold, as it were, the knife to her throat; and, finally, I concluded the subject with these words: "Some one may say, 'You are presuming to act as judge.' No, I reply, I am not presuming to be a judge, but I cannot forget that the judges appointed me to act as counsel."
Well, the conclusion of this trial, with its crowd of defendants, was that a certain few were acquitted, but the majority were condemned and banished, some for a fixed term of years, and others for life. In the same decree the Senate expressed in most handsome terms its appreciation of our industry, loyalty, and perseverance, and this was the only possible worthy and adequate reward for the trouble we had taken. You can imagine how worn out we were, when you think how often we had to plead, and answer the pleadings of our opponents, and how many witnesses we had to cross-question, encourage, and refute. Besides, you know how trying and vexatious it is to say "no" to the friends of the accused when they come pleading with you in private, and to stoutly oppose them when they confront you in open court. I will tell you one of the things I said. When one of those who were acting as judges interrupted me on behalf of one of the accused in whom he took a special interest, I replied: "He will be none the less innocent, if he be innocent, when I have had my full say." You can guess from this sample what opposition we had to face, and how we could not avoid giving offence,--but that only lasted a short time, for though at the moment a loyal conduct of a case may offend those whom one is opposing, in the end it wins even their admiration and respect.
I have brought you up to date as well as I could. You will say, "It was not worth while, for what have I to do with such a long letter?" If you do, don't ask again what is going on at Rome, and bear in mind that you cannot call a letter long which covers so many days, so many trials, and so many defendants and pleadings. I think I have dealt with all these subjects as briefly as I am sure they are exactly dealt with. But no, I was rash to say "exactly"; I remember a point which I had omitted, and I will tell you about it even now, though it is out of its proper place. Homer does this, and many other authors have followed his example--with very good effect too--though that is not my reason for so doing. One of the witnesses, annoyed at being summoned to appear, or bribed by some one of the defendants in order to weaken the prosecution, laid an accusation against Norbanus Licinianus, a member of the deputation, who had been instructed to get up the case, and charged him with having acted in collusion with the other side in relation to Casta, the wife of Classicus. It is a legal rule in such instances that the trial of the accused must be finished before inquiry is made into a charge of collusion, on the ground that one can best form an opinion on the bona fides of the prosecution by noticing how the case has been carried through. However, Norbanus reaped no advantage from this point of law, nor did his position as member of the deputation, nor his duties as one of those getting up the action stand him in good stead. A storm of prejudice broke out against him, and there is no denying that his hands were crime-stained, that he, like many others, had taken advantage of the evil times of Domitian, and that he had been selected by the provincials to get up the case, not as a man of probity and honour, but because he had been a personal enemy of Classicus, by whom, indeed, he had been banished.
He demanded that a day should be fixed for his trial, and that the charge against him should be published; both were refused, and he was obliged to answer on the spot. He did so, and though the thorough badness and depravity of the fellow make me hesitate to say whether he showed more impudence or resolution, he certainly replied with great readiness. There were sundry things brought against him which did him much greater damage than the charge of collusion, and two men of consular rank, Pomponius Rufus and Libo Frugi, severely damaged him by giving evidence to the effect that during the reign of Domitian he had assisted the prosecution of Salvius Liberalis before the judge. He was convicted and banished to an island. Consequently, when I was accusing Casta, I specially pressed the point that her accuser had been found guilty of collusion. But I did so in vain, and we had the novel and inconsistent result that the accused was acquitted though her accuser was found guilty of collusion with her. You may ask what we were about while this was going on. We told the Senate that we had received all our instructions for this public trial from Norbanus, and that the case ought to be tried afresh if he were proved guilty of collusion, and so, while his trial was proceeding, we sat still. Subsequently Norbanus was present every day the trial lasted, and showed right up to the end the same resolute or impudent front.
I wonder if I have forgotten anything else. Well, I almost did. On the last day Salvius Liberalis bitterly assailed the rest of the deputation on the ground that they had not brought accusations against all whom they were commissioned to accuse by the province. He is a powerful and able speaker, and he put them in some danger. However, I went to the protection of those excellent and most grateful men, and they declare that they owe it entirely to me that they safely weathered that storm. This is the end, positively the end of my letter: I will not add another syllable, even if I discover that I have still omitted to tell you something. Farewell.
3.10.--TO VESTRICIUS SPURINNA AND HIS WIFE COTTIA.
When I was last at your house I did not tell you that I had composed some verses about your son. I refrained from so doing, first, because I had not written them simply for the sake of reciting them, but in order to relieve my feelings of love and sorrow; and, in the second place, Spurinna, I thought that when you were told that I had given a recitation--as you mentioned to me--you had also heard its subject. Moreover, I was afraid of troubling you in your happiness by recalling to your remembrance your bitter sorrow. Even now I have been hesitating somewhat as to whether I should send you at your request only the verses that I actually read, or whether I should also send those which I am thinking of reserving for another volume. For my love for him was such that I find it impossible to do justice to the memory of one who was so dear and precious to me in a single volume, and his fame will be best consulted if it is husbanded and carefully expressed. But though, as I say, I am doubtful whether to show you all that I have composed on the subject, or whether I should still keep back a part, it has seemed to me that frankness and our friendship demand that I should let you have the whole, especially as you promise that you will keep them strictly entre nous until I decide to publish them. The only other request I make is that you will be equally candid with me and tell me if you think any additions, alterations, or omissions should be made. It is difficult to focus the mind on such subjects when one is in trouble, but in spite of that I want you to deal with me as you would with a sculptor or a painter who was making a model or portrait of your son. In such a case, you would advise him as to the points he should bring out and alter, and similarly I hope you will guide and direct me, for I am essaying a likeness, neither frail nor perishable, but one, as you think, which will last for ever. It will be the more durable, according to its trueness to life and correctness of detail. Farewell.
3.11.--TO JULIUS GENITOR.
Our friend Artemidorus has so much goodness of heart that he always exaggerates the services his friends render him, and hence, in my case, though it is true that I have done him a good turn, he speaks of it in far too glowing language. When the philosophers were banished from the city I was staying with him in his suburban residence, and the visit was the more talked about and the more dangerous to me, because I was praetor at the time. Moreover, as he stood in need of a considerable sum of money to discharge some debts which he had incurred for the most honourable of reasons, I borrowed the sum and gave it to him as a free gift, when certain of his powerful and rich friends held aloof. I did so in spite of the fact that seven of my friends had been put to death or banished; Senecio, Rusticus, and Helvidius having suffered the former, and Mauricus, Gratilla, Arria, and Fannia the latter punishment. With all these thunderbolts falling round me, I felt scorched, and there were certain clear indications that a like fate was hanging over my head, but I do not on that account think I deserve the splendid credit which Artemidorus assigns me--I only claim to have avoided the disgrace of deserting my friends. For I loved and admired his father-in-law, Caius Musonius, as far as the difference in our ages would permit, while as for Artemidorus himself, even when I was on active service as tribune in Syria, I was on terms of close intimacy with him, and the first sign I gave of possessing any brains at all was that I appeared to appreciate a man who was either the absolute sage, or the nearest possible approximation to such a character. For, of all those who nowadays call themselves philosophers, you will hardly find another to match him in the qualities of sincerity and truth. I say nothing of the physical fortitude with which he bears the extremes both of summer and winter, or of the way in which he never shrinks from work, never indulges himself in the pleasures of eating and drinking, and keeps constant restraint over his appetites and desires. In another man these would appear great virtues, but in Artemidorus they appear mere trifles compared with his other noble qualities, which obtained for him the distinction of being chosen by Caius Musonius as his son-in-law amid a crowd of disciples belonging to all ranks of society. As I think of all these things it is pleasant to know that he sings my praises so loudly, not only to others but also to you, but I am afraid he overdoes them, for--to go back again to the point whence I started--he is so good-hearted that he is given to exaggeration. It is one of his faults--an honourable one, no doubt, but still a fault--that, though he is otherwise most level-headed, he entertains a higher opinion of his friends than they deserve. Farewell.
3.12.--TO CATILIUS SEVERUS.
Yes, I will come to dinner, but even now I must stipulate that the meal be short and frugal, and brimming over only with Socratic talk. Nay, even in this respect there must be a limit fixed, for there will be crowds of people going to make calls before day breaks, and even Cato did not escape when he fell in with them, though Caius Caesar, in telling the story, blames him in such a way that it redounds to his praise. For he says that when those who met him drunk uncovered his head and saw who it was, they blushed at the sight, and he adds: "You would think it was not they who had caught Cato, but Cato who had caught them." What greater testimony could there be to Cato's character than that men respected him even when he was in liquor? But for our dinner let us agree not only to have a modest and inexpensive feast but to break up in good time, for we are not Catos that our enemies cannot censure us without praising us in the same breath. Farewell.
3.13.--TO VOCONIUS ROMANUS.
I am sending you, at your request, the speech in which I lately thanked our best of emperors for my nomination as Consul, and I should have sent it to you even though you had not asked for it. I hope you will take into consideration both the beauty and the difficulty of the theme. For in other speeches the attention of the reader is kept fixed by the novelty of the subject, but in this case every detail is familiar, a matter of common knowledge, and has been said before. Consequently the reader will be lazy and careless and will only pay attention to the diction, and when merely the diction is attended to, it is not easy to give satisfaction. I wish that people would pay equal regard to the arrangement of the speech, to its transitions, and the figures of speech employed. For even the unlearned sometimes manage to get a noble inspiration and express it in powerful language, but skilful arrangement and variety of metaphor are only attained by the scholarly. Besides, one must not for ever keep at the same high and lofty level. For, just as in painting there is nothing like shadow to bring out the effect of light, so in a speech it is as important on occasions to reduce the treatment to an ordinary level as to raise it to a high one. But why do I talk of first principles to a man of your accomplishments? What I do wish to insist upon is to ask you to mark the passages which you think should be corrected. For I shall think that you are all the better pleased with the remainder if I find that there are certain portions that you do not like. Farewell.
A shocking affair, worthy of more publicity than a letter can bestow, has befallen Largius Macedo, a man of praetorian rank, at the hands of his own slaves. He was known to be an overbearing and cruel master, and one who forgot--or rather remembered to keenly--that his own father had been a slave. He was bathing at his villa near Formiae, when he was suddenly surrounded by his slaves. One seized him by the throat, another struck him on the forehead, and others smote him in the chest, belly, and even--I am shocked to say--in the private parts. When they thought the breath had left his body they flung him on to the hot tiled floor to see if he was still alive. Whether he was insensible, or merely pretended to be so, he certainly did not move, and lying there at full length, he made them think that he was actually dead. At length they carried him out as though he had been overcome by the heat and handed him over to his more trusty servants, while his mistresses ran shrieking and wailing to his side. Aroused by their cries and restored by the coolness of the room where he lay, he opened his eyes and moved his limbs, betraying thereby that he was still alive, as it was then safe to do so. His slaves took to flight; most of them have been captured, but some are still being hunted for. Thanks to the attentions he received, Macedo was kept alive for a few days and had the satisfaction of full vengeance before he died, for he exacted the same punishment while he still lived as is usually taken when the victim of a murder dies. You see the dangers, the affronts and insults we are exposed to, and no one can feel at all secure because he is an easy and mild-tempered master, for villainy not deliberation murders masters.
But enough of that subject! Have I any other news to tell you? Let me see! No, there is nothing. If there were, I would tell you, for I have room enough on this sheet, and, as to-day is a holiday, I should have plenty of time to write more. But I will just add an incident which I chance to recall that happened to the same Macedo. When he was in one of the public baths in Rome, a curious and--the event has shown--an ominous accident happened to him. Macedo's servant lightly tapped a Roman knight with his hand to induce him to make room for them to pass, and the knight turned round and struck, not the slave who had touched him but Macedo himself, such a heavy blow with his fist that he almost felled him. So one may say that the bath has been by certain stages the scene first of humiliation to him and then of death. Farewell.
3.15.--TO SILIUS PROCULUS.
You ask me to read your poems while I am in the country, and see whether I think they are worth publishing; you even add entreaties, and quote an authority for the request; for you beg me to take a few holiday hours from my own studies and spend them on your efforts, and you say that Marcus Tullius showed wonderful good nature in encouraging the talent of poets. Well, there was no need to beg and pray of me to do such a thing, for I have the most profound regard for the poetic art and I have a very strong affection for you, so I will comply with your request and give them a careful and willing reading. But even now I think I am justified in writing and telling you that your work is charming and should on no account be kept from publication, as far as I could judge from the pieces that you read aloud in my hearing--unless, indeed, your delivery took me in, for you read with great charm and skill. But I feel pretty sure that I am not so completely led away by the mere pleasures of the ear that my critical powers are wholly disarmed by the pleasure of listening--they might be blunted possibly and have their edge turned somewhat, but they certainly could not be subverted or destroyed. Consequently, I am not rash in pronouncing a general verdict on the whole even now, but in order to judge of them in detail, I must read them through. Farewell.
I have often observed that the greatest words and deeds, both of men and women, are not always the most famous, and my opinion has been confirmed by a talk I had with Fannia yesterday. She is a granddaughter of the Arria who comforted her husband in his dying moments and showed him how to die. She told me many stories of her grandmother, just as heroic but not so well known as the manner of her death, and I think they will seem to you as you read them quite as remarkable as they did to me as I listened to them.
Her husband, Caecina Paetus, was lying ill, and so too was their son, both, it was thought, without chance of recovery. The son died. He was a strikingly handsome lad, modest as he was handsome, and endeared to his parents for his other virtues quite as much as because he was their son. Arria made all the arrangements for the funeral and attended it in person, without her husband knowing anything of it. When she entered his room she pretended that the boy was still alive and even much better, and when her husband constantly asked how the lad was getting on, she replied: "He has had a good sleep, and has taken food with a good appetite." Then when the tears, which she had long forced back, overcame her and burst their way out, she would leave the room, and not till then give grief its course, returning when the flood of tears was over, with dry eyes and composed look, as though she had left her bereavement at the door of the chamber. It was indeed a splendid deed of hers to unsheath the sword, to plunge it into her breast, then to draw it out and offer it to her husband, with the words which will live for ever and seem to have been more than mortal, "Paetus, it does not hurt." But at that moment, while speaking and acting thus, there was fame and immortality before her eyes, and I think it an even nobler deed for her without looking for any reward of glory or immortality to force back her tears, to hide her grief, and, even when her son was lost to her, to continue to act a mother's part.
When Scribonianus had started a rebellion in Illyricum against Claudius, Paetus joined his party, and, on the death of Scribonianus, he was brought prisoner to Rome. As he was about to embark, Arria implored the soldiers to take her on board with him. "For," she pleaded, "as he is of consular rank, you will assign him some servants to serve his meals, to valet him and put on his shoes. I will perform all these offices for him." When they refused her, she hired a fishing-boat and in that tiny vessel followed the big ship. Again, in the presence of Claudius she said to the wife of Scribonianus, when that woman was voluntarily giving evidence of the rebellion, "What, shall I listen to you in whose bosom Scribonianus was killed and yet you still live?" Those words showed that her resolve to die gloriously was due to no sudden impulse. Moreover, when her son-in-law Thrasea sought to dissuade her from carrying out her purpose, and urged among his other entreaties the following argument: "If I had to die, would you wish your daughter to die with me?" she replied, "If she had lived as long and as happily with you as I have lived with Paetus, yes." This answer increased the anxiety of her friends, and she was watched with greater care. Noticing this, she said, "Your endeavours are vain. You can make me die hard, but you cannot prevent me from dying." As she spoke she jumped from her chair and dashed her head with great force against the wall of the chamber, and fell to the ground. When she came to herself again, she said, "I told you that I should find a difficult way of dying if you denied me an easy one."
Do not sentences like these seem to you more noble than the "Paetus, it does not hurt," to which they gradually led up? Yet, while that saying is famous all over the world, the others are unknown. But they confirm what I said at the outset, that the noblest words and deeds are not always the most famous. Farewell.
3.17.--TO JULIUS SERVIANUS.
Is everything quite well with you, that I have not had a letter from you for so long? Or if all is well, are you busy? Or if you are not busy, is it that you rarely get a chance of writing, or never a chance at all? Relieve my anxiety, which is altogether too much for me, and do so even if you have to send a special messenger. I will pay the travelling expenses and give him a present for himself, provided only he brings me the news I wish to hear. I am in good health if being in good health is to live in a state of constant anxiety, expecting and fearing every hour to hear that my dearest friend has met with any one of the dreadful accidents to which men are liable. Farewell.
3.18.--TO CURIUS SEVERUS.
As Consul, it naturally devolved upon me to thank the Emperor in the name of the State. After doing so in the Senate in the usual way and in a speech befitting the place and the occasion, I thought that it would highly become me, as a good citizen, to cover the same ground in greater detail and much more fully in a book. In the first place, I desired that the Emperor might be encouraged by well-deserved praise of his virtues; and, secondly, that future Emperors might be shown how best to attain similar glory by having such an example before them, rather than by any precepts of a teacher. For though it is a very proper thing to point out to an Emperor the virtues he ought to display, it involves a heavy responsibility to do so and it has rather a presumptuous look, whereas to eulogise an excellent ruler and so hold up a beacon to his successors by which they may steer their path, is not only an act of public service but involves no assumption of superiority.
But I have been more than a little pleased to find that when I proposed to give a public reading of this speech, my friends, whom I invited not by letters and personal notes, but in general terms, such as "if you find it convenient," or "if you have plenty of time"--for no one has ever plenty of time at Rome, nor is it ever convenient to listen to a recital--attended two days running, in spite of shockingly bad weather, and when my modesty would have brought the recital to an end, they forced me to continue it for another day. Am I to take this as a compliment to myself or to learning? I should prefer to think to the latter, for learning, after having almost drooped to death, is now reviving a little. Yet consider the subject which occasioned all this enthusiasm! Why, in the Senate, when we had to listen to these panegyrics we used to be bored to death after the first moment; yet now there are people to be found who are willing to read and listen to the readings for three days, not because the subject is dealt with more eloquently than before, but because it is treated with greater freedom, and therefore the work is more willingly undertaken. This will be another feather in the cap of our Emperor, that those speeches which used to be as odious as they were unreal are now as popular as they are true to facts.
But I especially noticed with pleasure both the attention and the critical faculties of the audience, for I remarked that they seemed most pleased with the passages which were least adorned. I do not forget that I have read only to a few what I have written for all the reading public, yet none the less I take for granted that the multitude will pass a similar judgment, and I am delighted with their taste for simple passages. Just as the audience in the theatres made the musicians cultivate a false taste in playing, so now I am encouraged to hope that they will encourage the players to cultivate a good taste. For all who write to please will write in the style which they see is popular. As for myself, I hope that with such a subject a luxuriant style may pass muster, inasmuch as the passages which are closely reasoned and stripped of all ornament are more likely to seem forced and far-fetched than those treated in a more buoyant and, as it were, more exultant strain. Nevertheless, I am just as anxious for the day to come (I hope it has come already!) when mere charming and honeyed words, however justly applied, shall give way to a chaste simplicity. Well, I have told you all about my three days' work; when you read it I hope that, though you were absent at the time, you may be as pleased at the compliment paid to learning and to me as you would have been if you had been there. Farewell.
3.19.--TO CALVISIUS RUFUS.
I want to ask your advice, as I have often done, on a matter of private business. Some land adjoining my own, and even running into mine, is for sale, and while there are many considerations tempting me to buy it, there are equally weighty reasons to dissuade me. I feel tempted to purchase, first, because the estate will look well if rounded off, and, secondly, because the conveniences resulting therefrom would be as great as the pleasures it would give me. The same work could be carried on at both places, they could be visited at the same cost of travelling, they could be put under one steward and practically one set of managers, and, while one villa was kept up in style, the other house might be just kept in repair. Moreover, one must take into account the cost of furniture and head-servants, besides gardeners, smiths, and even the gamekeepers, and it makes a great difference whether you have all these in one place or have them distributed in several. Yet, on the other hand, I am afraid it may be rash to risk so much of one's property to the same storms and the same accidents, and it seems safer to meet the caprices of Fortune by not putting all one's eggs into the same basket. Again, there is something exceedingly pleasant in changing one's air and place, and in the travelling from one estate to another.
However, the chief reason why I hesitate is as follows:--The land in question is fertile, rich and well-watered; it consists of meadows, vineyards and woods, which are productive and guarantee an income, not large, it is true, but yet sure. But the fertility of the land is overtaxed by the lack of capital of the tenants. For the last proprietor constantly sold the whole stock, and, though he reduced the arrears of the tenants for the time, he weakened their efficiency for the future, and as their capital failed them their arrears once more began to mount up. I must therefore set them up again, and it will cost me the more because I must provide them with honest slaves, for I have no slaves working in chains in my possession, nor has any landowner in that part of the country. Now, let me tell you the price at which I think I can purchase the property. It is three million sesterces, though at one time the price was five, but owing to the lack of capital of the tenants and the general badness of the times the rents have fallen off and the price has therefore dropped also. Perhaps you will ask whether I can raise these three millions without difficulty. Well, nearly all my capital is invested in land, but I have some money out at interest and I can borrow without any trouble. I can get money from my mother-in-law, whose purse I use as freely as if it were my own. So don't let this consideration trouble you, if the other objections can be got over, and I hope you will give these your most careful attention. For, as in everything else, so too in the matter of investments, your experience and shrewdness are unexceptionable. Farewell.
3.20.--TO MESSIUS MAXIMUS.
Do you remember that you often read of the fierce controversies excited by the Ballot Act, and the praises and denunciations that it brought upon the head of the man who introduced it? Yet, nowadays in the Senate its merits are universally acknowledged, and on the last election day all the candidates demanded the ballot. For when the voting was open and members publicly recorded their votes, the confusion was worse than that which prevails at public meetings. No one paid any heed to the time allotted to speeches; there was no respectful silence, and members did not even remember their dignity and keep their seats. On all sides there was tumult and uproar; all were running to and fro with their candidates; they clustered in knots and rings on the floor of the house, and there was the most unseemly disorder. To such an extent had we degenerated from the customs of our forefathers, who observed in all things order, moderation, and quiet, and never forgot the dignity of the place and the attitude proper to it.
There are still old men living who tell me that elections in their time were conducted as follows:--When a candidate's name was read out the deepest silence was observed. Then he addressed the House in his own interest, gave an account of his life, and produced witnesses to speak in his favour. He would call upon the general under whom he had served, or the governor to whom he had been quaestor, or both if possible, and then he mentioned certain of his supporters, who would speak for him in a few weighty sentences. These had far more effect than entreaties. Sometimes a candidate would lay objections to the pedigree, age, or character of a rival, and the Senate would listen with gravity befitting a censor. Consequently, merit told as a rule more than influence. But when this laudable practice was spoilt by excessive partisanship the House had recourse to the silence of the ballot-box in order to cure the evil, and for a time it did act as a remedy, owing to the novelty of the sudden change. But I am afraid that as time goes on abuses will arise even out of this remedy, for there is a danger that the ballot may be invaded by shameless partiality. How few there are who are as careful of acting honourably in secret as in public! While many people are afraid of what others will say, few are afraid of their own conscience. But it is too early yet to speak of the future, and in the meantime, thanks to the ballot, we shall have as magistrates men who pre-eminently deserve the honour. For in this election we have proved honest judges, like those who are hastily empanelled to serve in the Court of the Recuperators--where the decision is so speedy that those who try the case have no time to be bribed.
I have written this letter, firstly to tell you the news, and secondly to say a word on the general political outlook, and, as opportunities for discussing the latter are much less frequent than they were in the old days, we should seize those which present themselves all the more eagerly. Besides, how long shall we go on using the hackneyed phrases, "How do you spend your time?" and "Are you quite well?" Let us in our correspondence rise above the ordinary poor level and petty details confined to our private affairs. It is true that all political power lies in the hands of one person, who for the common good has taken upon himself the cares and labours of the whole State, yet, thanks to his beneficent moderation, some rills from that bounteous source flow down even to us, and these we may draw for ourselves and serve up, as it were, to our absent friends in letters. Farewell.
3.21.--TO CORNELIUS PRISCUS.
I hear that Valerius Martial is dead, and I am much troubled at the news. He was a man of genius, witty and caustic, yet one who in his writings showed as much candour as he did biting wit and ability to sting. When he left Rome I made him a present to help to defray his travelling expenses, as a tribute to the friendship I bore him and to the verses he had composed about me. It was the custom in the old days to reward with offices of distinction or money grants those who had composed eulogies of private individuals or cities, but in our day this custom, like many other honourable and excellent practices, was one of the first to fall into disuse. For when we cease to do deeds worthy of praise, we think it is folly to be praised. Do you ask what the verses are which excited my gratitude? I would refer you to the volume itself, but that I have some by heart, and if you like these, you may look out the others for yourself in the book. He addresses the Muse and bids her seek my house on the Esquiline and approach it with great respect:--"But take care that you do not knock at his learned door at a time when you should not. He devotes whole days together to crabbed Minerva, while he prepares for the ears of the Court of the Hundred speeches which posterity and the ages to come may compare even with the pages of Arpinum's Cicero. "Twill be better if you go late in the day, when the evening lamps are lit; that is YOUR hour, when the Wine God is at his revels, when the rose is Queen of the feast, when men's locks drip perfume. At such an hour even unbending Catos may read my poems." Was I not right to take a most friendly farewell of a man who wrote a poem like that about me, and do I do wrong if I now bewail his death as that of a bosom-friend? For he gave me the best he could, and would have given me more if he had had it in his power. And yet what more can be given to a man than glory and praise and immortality? But you may say that Martial's poems will not live for ever. Well, perhaps not, yet at least he wrote them in the hope that they would. Farewell.
You say you wish to see your granddaughter again, and me with her, after not having seen us for so long. Both of us are charmed to hear you say so, and, believe me, we are equally anxious to see you. For I cannot tell you how we long to see you, and we shall no longer delay our visit. To that end we are even now getting our luggage together, and we shall push on as fast as the state of the roads will permit. There will be one delay, but it will not detain us long. We shall branch off to see my Tuscan estate--not to inspect the farms and go into accounts, as that can be postponed--but merely to perform a necessary duty. There is a village near my property called Tifernum Tiberinum, which selected me as its patron when I was still almost a boy, and showed, by so doing, more affection than judgment. The people there flock to meet me when I approach, are distressed when I leave them, and rejoice at my preferment. In this village, as a return for their kindness--for it would never do to be outdone in affection--I have, at my own expense, built a temple, and now that it is completed it would be hardly respectful to the gods to put off its dedication any longer. So we shall be present on the dedication day, which I have arranged to celebrate with a banquet. We may possibly stay there for the following day as well, but, if we do, we shall get over the ground with increased speed to make up for lost time. I only hope that we shall find you and your daughter in good health, for I know we shall find you in good spirits if we arrive in safety. Farewell.
4.2.--TO ATTIUS CLEMENS.
Regulus has lost his son--the only misfortune he did not deserve, because I doubt whether he considers it as such. He was a sharp-witted youth, whatever use he might have made of his talents, though he might have followed honourable courses if he did not take after his father. Regulus freed him from his parental control in order that he might succeed to his mother's property, but after freeing him--and those who knew the character of the man spoke of it as a release from slavery--he endeavoured to win his affections by treating him with a pretended indulgence which was as disgraceful as it was unusual in a father. It seems incredible, but remember that it was Regulus. Yet now that his son is dead, he is mad with grief at his loss. The boy had a number of ponies, some in harness and others not broken in, dogs both great and small, nightingales, parrots and blackbirds--all these Regulus slaughtered at his pyre. Yet an act like that was no token of grief; it was but a mere parade of it. It is strange how people are flocking to call upon him. Every one detests and hates him, yet they run to visit him in shoals as though they both admired and loved him. To put in a nutshell what I mean, people in paying court to Regulus are copying the example he set. He does not move from his gardens across the Tiber, where he has covered an immense quantity of ground with colossal porticos and littered the river bank with his statues, for, though he is the meanest of misers, he flings his money broadcast, and though his name is a byword, he is for ever vaunting his glories. Consequently, in this the most sickly season of the year, he is upsetting every one's arrangements, and thinks it soothes his grief to inconvenience everybody. He says he is desirous of taking a wife, and here again, as in other matters, he shows the perversity of his nature. You will hear soon that the mourner is married, that the old man has taken a wife, displaying unseemly haste as the former and undue delay as the latter. If you ask what makes me think he will take this step, I reply that it is not because he says he will--for there is no greater liar than he-- but because it is quite certain that Regulus will do what he ought not to do. Farewell.
That you, like your ancestors of old, have been twice consul, that you have been proconsul of Asia with a record such as not more than one or two of your predecessors and successors have enjoyed--for your modesty is such that I do not like to say that no one has equalled you--that in purity of life, influence and age, you are the principal man of the State,--all these things inspire respect and give distinction, and yet I admire you even more in your retirement. For to season, as you do, all your strict uprightness with charm of manner equally striking, and to be such an agreeable companion as well as such a man of weight, that is no less difficult than it is desirable. Yet you succeed in so doing with wonderful sweetness both in your conversation and above all, when you set pen to paper. For when you talk, all the honey of Homer's old man eloquent seems to flow from your tongue, and when you write, the bees seem to be busy pouring into every line their choicest essences and charging them with sweetness. That certainly was my impression when I recently read your Greek epigrams and iambics. What breadth of feeling they contain, what choice expressions, how graceful they are, how musical, how exact! I thought I was holding in my hands Callimachus or Herodes, or even a greater poet than these, if greater there be, yet neither of these two poets attempted or excelled in both these forms of verse. Is it possible for a Roman to write such Greek? I do not believe that even Athens has so pure an Attic touch. But why go on? I am jealous of the Greeks that you should have elected to write in their language, for it is easy to guess what choice work you could turn out in your mother-tongue, when you have produced such splendid results with an exotic language which has been transplanted into our midst. Farewell.
4.4.--TO SOSIUS SENECIO.
I have the greatest regard for Varisidius Nepos; he is hardworking, upright, and a scholar--a point which with me outweighs almost any other. He is a near relative and, in fact, a son of the sister of Caius Calvisius, my old companion and a friend too of yours. I beg that you will give him a tribuneship for six months and so advance him in dignity, both for his own and for his uncle's sake. By so doing you will confer a favour on me, on our friend Calvisius, and on Varisidius himself, who is quite as worthy to be under an obligation to you as we are. You have showered kindnesses on numbers of people, and I will venture to say that you have never bestowed one that was better deserved, and have but rarely granted one that was deserved so well. Farewell.
There is a story that Aeschines was once asked by the Rhodians to read them one of his speeches, that he afterwards read them one of Demosthenes' as well, and that both were received with great applause. I cannot wonder that the orations of such distinguished men were applauded, when I think that just recently the most learned men in Rome listened for two days together to a speech of mine, with such earnestness, applause, and concentration of attention, though there was nothing to stir their blood, no other speech with which to compare mine, and not a trace of the acharnement of debate. While the Rhodians had not only the beauties of the two speeches to kindle them but also the charm of comparison, my speech was approved though it lacked the advantages of being controversial. Whether it deserved its reception you will be able to judge when you have read it, and its bulk does not allow of my making a longer preface. For I ought certainly to be brief here where brevity is possible, so that I may be the more readily excused for the length of the speech itself, though it is not longer than the subject required. Farewell.
4.6.--TO JULIUS NASO.
My Tuscan farms have been lashed by hail; from my property in the Transpadane region I get news that the crops are very heavy but the prices rule equally low, and it is only my Laurentian estate that makes me any return. It is true that all my belongings there consist of but a house and a garden, yet it is the only property which brings me in any revenue. For while I am there I write hard and I till--not fields, for I have none--but my own wits, and so I can show you there a full granary of MSS., as elsewhere I can show you full barns of wheat. Hence if you are anxious for sure and fruitful farms, you too should sow your grain on the same kind of shore. Farewell.
4.7.--TO CATIUS LEPIDUS.
I am constantly writing to tell you what energy Regulus possesses. It is wonderful the way he carries through anything which he has set his mind upon. It pleased him to mourn for his son--and never man mourned like him; it pleased him to erect a number of statues and busts to his memory, and the result is that he is keeping all the workshops busy; he is having his boy represented in colours, in wax, in bronze, in silver, in gold, ivory, and marble--always his boy. He himself just lately got together a large audience and read a memoir of his life--of the boy's life; he read it aloud, and yet had a thousand copies written out which he has scattered broadcast over Italy and the provinces. He wrote at large to the decurions and asked them to choose one of their number with the best voice to read the memoir to the people, and it was done. What good he might have effected with this energy of his--or whatever name we should give to such dauntless determination on his part to get his own way--if he had only turned it into a better channel! But then, as you know, good men rarely have this faculty so well developed as bad men; the Greeks say, "Ignorance makes a man bold; calculation gives him pause," and just in the same way modesty cripples the force of an upright mind, while unblushing confidence is a source of strength to a man without conscience. Regulus is a case in point. He has weak lungs, he never looks you straight in the face, he stammers, he has no imaginative power, absolutely no memory, no quality at all, in short, except a wild, frantic genius, and yet, thanks to his effrontery, and even just to this frenzy of his, he has got people to regard him as an orator. Herennius Senecio very neatly turned against him Cato's well- known definition of an orator by saying, "An orator is a bad man who knows nothing of the art of speaking," and I really think that he thereby gave a better definition of Regulus than Cato did of the really true orator.
Have you any equivalent to send me for a letter like this? Yes, indeed, you have, if you will write and say whether any one of my friends in your township, or whether you yourself have read this pitiful production of Regulus in the Forum, like a Cheap Jack, pitching your voice high, as Demosthenes says, shouting with delight, and straining every muscle in your throat. For it is so absurd that it will make you laugh rather than sigh, and you would think it was written not about a boy but by a boy. Farewell.
4.8.--TO MATURUS ARRIANUS.
You congratulate me on accepting the office of augur. You are right in so doing, first, because it is a proper thing to obey the wishes of an emperor with a character like ours, and, secondly, because the priestly office is in itself an ancient and sacred one, and inspires respect and dignity from the very fact that it is held for life. For other offices, though almost equal in point of dignity to this, may be bestowed one day and taken away the next, while with the augurship the element of chance only enters into the bestowal of it. I think too that I have special reasons for congratulating myself in that I have succeeded Julius Frontinus, one of the leading men of his day, who for many years running used to bring forward my name, whenever the nomination day for the priesthoods came round, as though he wished to coopt me to fill his place. Now events have turned out in such a way that my election does not seem to have been the work of chance. I can only hope that as I have attained to the priesthood and the consulship at a much earlier age than he did, I may, when I am old, at least in some degree acquire his serenity of mind. But all that man can give has fallen to my lot and to many another; the other thing, which can only be bestowed by the gods, is as difficult to attain to as it is presumptuous to hope for it. Farewell.
4.9.--TO CORNELIUS URSUS.
For some days past Julius Bassus has been on his defence. He is a much harassed man whose misfortunes have made him famous. An accusation was lodged against him in Vespasian's reign by two private individuals; the case was referred to the Senate, and for a long time he has been on the tenter-hooks, but at last he has been acquitted and his character cleared. He was afraid of Titus because he had been a friend of Domitian, yet he had been banished by the latter, was recalled by Nerva, and, after being appointed by lot to the governorship of Bithynia, returned from the province to stand his trial. The case against him was keenly pressed, but he was no less loyally defended.
Pomponius Rufus, a ready and impetuous speaker, opened against him and was followed by Theophanes, one of the deputation from the province, who was the very life and soul of the prosecution, and indeed the originator of it. I replied on Bassus' behalf, for he had instructed me to lay the foundations of his whole defence, to give an account of his distinctions, which were very considerable--as he was a man of good family, and had been in many tight places--to dilate upon the conspiracy of the informers and the gains they counted upon, and to explain how it was that Bassus had roused the resentment of all the restless spirits of the province, and notably of Theophanes himself. He had expressed a wish that I too should controvert the charge which was damaging him most. For as to the others, though they sounded to be even more serious, he deserved not only acquittal but approbation, and the only thing that troubled him was that, in an unguarded moment and in perfect innocence, he had received certain presents from the provincials as a token of friendship, for he had served in the same province previously as quaestor. His accusers stigmatised these gifts as thefts and plunder: he called them presents, but the law forbids even presents to be accepted by a governor.
In such a case what was I to do, what line of defence was I to take up? If I denied them in toto, I was afraid that people would immediately regard as a theft the presents which I was afraid to confess had been received. Moreover, to deny the obvious truth would have been to aggravate and not lessen the gravity of the charge, especially as the accused himself had cut the ground away from under the feet of his counsel. For he had told many people, and even the Emperor, that he had accepted, but only on his birthday or at the feast of the Saturnalia, some few trifling presents, and had also sent similar gifts to some of his friends. Was I then to acknowledge this and plead for clemency? Had I done so, I should have put a knife to my client's throat by confessing that he had committed offences and could only be acquitted by an act of clemency. Was I to defend his conduct and justify it? That would have done him no good, and would have stamped me as an unblushing advocate.
In this difficult position I resolved to take a middle course, and I think I succeeded in so doing. Night interrupted my pleading, as it so often interrupts battles. I had been speaking for three hours and a half, and I had another hour and a half still left me. The law allowed the accuser six hours and the defendant nine, and Bassus had arranged the time at his disposal by giving me five hours, and the remainder to the advocate who was to speak after me. The success of my pleading persuaded me to say no more and make an end, for it is rash not to rest content when things are going well. Besides, I was afraid I might break down physically if I went over the ground again, as it is more difficult to pick up the threads of a speech than to go straight on. There was also the risk of the remainer of my speech meeting with a chilly reception, owing to the threads being dropped, or of it boring the judges if I gathered them up anew. For, just as the flame of a torch is kept alight if you wave it continually up and down, but is difficult to resuscitate when it has been allowed to go out, so the warmth of a speaker and the attention of his audience are kept alive if he goes on speaking, but cool off at any interruption which causes interest to flag. But Bassus begged and prayed of me, almost with tears in his eyes, to take my full time. I gave way, and preferred his interests to my own. It turned out well, for I found that the senators were so attentive and so fresh that, instead of having had quite enough of my speech of the day before, it seemed to have only whetted their appetites for more.
Lucceius Albinus followed me and spoke so much to the point that our speeches were considered to have all the diversity of two addresses but the cohesion of one. Herennius Pollio replied with force and dignity, and then Theophanes again rose. He showed his usual effrontery in demanding a more liberal allowance of time than is usually granted--even after two advocates of ability and consular rank had concluded--and he went on speaking until nightfall, an actually continued after that, when lights had been brought into court.
On the following day Titius Homullus and Fronto made a splendid effort on behalf of Bassus, and the hearing of the evidence took up the fourth day. Baebius Macer, the consul-designate, proposed that Bassus should be dealt with under the law relating to extortion, while Caepio Hispo was in favour of appointing judges to hear the case, but urged that Bassus should retain his place in the Senate. Both were in the right. How can that be? you may ask. For this reason, because Macer, looking at the letter of the law, was justified in condemning a man who had broken the law by receiving presents; while Caepio, acting on the assumption that the Senate has the right--which it certainly has--both to mitigate the severity of the laws and to rigorously put them in force, was not unreasonably desirous of excusing an offence which, though illegal, is very often committed. Caepio's proposal carried the day; indeed, when he rose to speak he was greeted with the applause which is usually reserved for speakers upon resuming their seats. This will enable you to judge how unanimously the motion was received while he was speaking, when it met with such a reception on his rising to put it.
However, just as there was difference of opinion in the Senate, so there is the same with the general public. Those who approved the proposal of Caepio find fault with that of Macer as being vindictive and severe; those who agree with Macer condemn Caepio's motion as lax and even inconsistent, for they say it is incongruous to allow a man to keep his place in the Senate when judges have been allotted to try him. There was also a third proposal. Valerius Paulinus, who agreed in the main with Caepio, proposed that an inquiry should be instituted into the case of Theophanes, as soon as he had concluded his work on the deputation. It was urged that during his conduct of the prosecution he had committed a number of offences which came within the scope of the law under which he had accused Bassus. However, the consuls did not approve this proposal, though it found great favour with a large proportion of the Senate. None the less, Paulinus gained a reputation thereby for justice and consistency. When the Senate rose, Bassus came in for an ovation; crowds gathered round him and greeted him with a remarkable demonstration of their joy. Public sympathy had been aroused in his favour by the old story of the hazards he had gone through being told over again, by the association of his name with grave perils, by his tall physique and the sadness and poverty of his old age. You must consider this letter as the forerunner of another: you will be looking out for my speech in full and with every detail, and you will have to look out for it for some time to come, because, owing to the importance of the subject, it will require more than a mere brief and cursory revision. Farewell.
4.10.--TO STATIUS SABINUS.
You tell me that Sabina, who left us her heirs, never gave any instructions that her slave Modestus was to be granted his freedom, though she left him a legacy in these words: "I give...to Modestus, whom I have ordered to receive his liberty." You ask me what I think of the matter. I have consulted some eminent lawyers and they all agree that Modestus need not be given his freedom, because it was not expressly granted by Sabina, nor his legacy, because she left it to him as a slave. But the mistake is obvious to me, and so I think that we ought to act as though Sabina had ordered him to be freed in express terms, since she certainly was under the impression that she had ordered it. I am sure that you will be of my way of thinking, for you are most punctilious in carrying out the intentions of a dead person, which are, with honourable heirs, tantamount to legal obligations. For with us honour has as much weight as necessity has with others. So I propose that we should allow Modestus to have his liberty and enjoy his legacy, as if Sabina had taken all proper precautions to ensure that he should. For a lady who has made a good choice of her heirs has surely taken all the precautions necessary. Farewell.
4.11.--TO CORNELIUS MINICIANUS.
Have you heard that Valerius Licinianus is teaching rhetoric in Sicily? I do not think you can have done, for the news is quite fresh. He is of praetorian rank, and he used at one time to be considered one of our most eloquent pleaders at the bar, but now he has fallen so low that he is an exile instead of being a senator, and a mere teacher of rhetoric instead of being a prominent advocate. Consequently in his opening remarks he exclaimed, sorrowfully and solemnly: "O Fortune, what sport you make to amuse yourself! For you turn senators into professors, and professors into senators." There is so much gall and bitterness in that expression that it seems to me that he became a professor merely to have the opportunity of uttering it. Again, when he entered the hall wearing a Greek pallium--for those who have been banished with the fire-and- water formula are not allowed to wear the toga--he first pulled himself together and then, glancing at his dress, he said, "I shall speak my declamations in Latin."
You will say that this is all very sad and pitiful, but that a man who defiled his profession of letters by the guilt of incest deserves to suffer. It is true that he confessed his guilt, but it is an open question whether he did so because he was guilty or because he feared an even heavier punishment if he denied it. For Domitian was in a great rage and was boiling over with fury because his witnesses had left him in the lurch. His mind was set upon burying alive Cornelia, the chief of the Vestal Virgins, as he thought to make his age memorable by such an example of severity, and, using his authority as Chief Pontiff, or rather exercising the cruelty of a tyrant and the wanton caprice of a ruler, he summoned the rest of the pontiffs not to the Palace but to his Villa at Alba. There, with a wickedness just as monstrous as the crime which he pretended to be punishing, he declared her guilty of incest, without summoning her before him and giving her a hearing, though he himself had not only committed incest with his brother's daughter but had even caused her death, for she died of abortion during her widowhood. He immediately despatched some of the pontiffs to see that his victim was buried alive and put to death. Cornelia invoked in turns the aid of Vesta and of the rest of the deities, and amid her many cries this was repeated most frequently: "How can Caesar think me guilty of incest, when he has conquered and triumphed after my hands have performed the sacred rites?" It is not known whether her purpose was to soften Caesar's heart or to deride him, whether she spoke the words to show her confidence in herself or her contempt of the Emperor. Yet she continued to utter them until she was led to the place of execution, and whether she was innocent or not, she certainly appeared to be so. Nay, even when she was being let down into the dreadful pit and her dress caught as she was being lowered, she turned and readjusted it, and when the executioner offered her his hand she declined it and drew back, as though she put away from her with horror the idea of having her chaste and pure body defiled by his loathsome touch. Thus she preserved her sanctity to the last and displayed all the tokens of a chaste woman, like Hecuba, "taking care that she might fall in seemly wise."
Moreover, when Celer, the Roman knight who was accused of having intrigued with Cornelia, was being scourged with rods in the Forum, he did nothing but cry out, "What have I done? I have done nothing." Consequently Domitian's evil reputation for cruelty and injustice blazed up on all hands. He fastened upon Licinianus for hiding a freedwoman of Cornelia on one of his farms. Licinianus was advised by his friends who interested themselves on his behalf to take refuge in making a confession and beg for pardon, if he wished to escape being flogged in the Forum, and he did so. Herennius Senecio spoke for him in his absence very much in the words of Homer, "Patroclus is fallen," for he said, "Instead of being an advocate, I am the bearer of news: Licinianus has removed himself." This so pleased Domitian that he allowed his gratification to betray him into exclaiming, "Licinianus has cleared us." He even went on to say that it would not do to press a man who admitted his fault too hard, and gave him permission to get together what he could of his belongings before his goods were confiscated, and granted him a pleasant place of exile as a reward for his consideration. Subsequently, by the clemency of the Emperor Nerva, he was removed to Sicily, where he now is a Professor of Rhetoric and takes his revenge upon Fortune in his prefatory remarks.
You see how careful I am to obey your wishes, as I not only give you the news of the town, but news from abroad, and minutely trace a story from its very beginning. I took for granted that, as you were away from Rome at the time, all you heard of Licinianus was that he had been banished for incest. For rumour only gives one the gist of the matter, not the various stages through which it passes. Surely I deserve that you should return the compliment and write and tell me what is going on in your town and neighbourhood, for something worthy of note is always happening. But say what you will, provided you give me the news in as long a letter as I have written to you. I shall count up not only the pages, but the lines and the syllables. Farewell.
4.12.--TO MATURUS ARRIANUS.
You have a regard for Egnatius Marcellinus and you often commend him to my notice; you will love him and commend him the more when you hear what he has recently done. After setting out as quaestor for his province, he lost by death a secretary, who was allotted to him, before the day when the man's salary fell due, and he made up his mind and resolved that he ought not to keep the money which had been paid over to him to give to the secretary. So when he returned he consulted first Caesar and then the Senate, on Caesar's recommendation, as to what was to be done with the money. It was a trifling question, but, after all, it was a question. The secretary's heirs claimed it should pass to them; the prefects of the treasury claimed it for the people. The case was heard, and counsel for the heirs and for the people pleaded in turn, and both spoke well to the point. Caecilius Strabo proposed that it should be paid over to the treasury; Baebius Macer that it should be given to the man's heirs; Strabo carried the day. I hope you will praise Marcellinus for his conduct, as I did on the spot, for, although he thinks it more than enough to have been congratulated by the Emperor and the Senate, he will be glad to have your commendation as well. All who are anxious for glory and reputation are wonderfully pleased with the approbation and praise even of men of no particular account, while Marcellinus has such regard for you that he attaches the greatest importance to your opinion. Besides, if he knows that the fame of his action has penetrated so far, he cannot but be pleased at the ground his praises have covered and the rapidity and distance they have travelled. For it somehow happens that men prefer a wide even to a well-grounded reputation. Farewell.
I am delighted that you have returned to Rome, for though your arrival is always welcome, it is especially so to me at the present moment. I shall be spending a few more days at my Tusculan villa in order to finish a small work which I have in hand, for I am afraid that if I do not carry it right through now that it is nearly completed I shall find it irksome to start on it again. In the meanwhile, that I may lose no time, I am sending this letter as a sort of forerunner to make a request which, when I am in town, I shall ask you to grant.
But first of all, let me tell you my reasons for asking it. When I was last in my native district a son of a fellow townsman of mine, a youth under age, came to pay his respects to me. I said to him, "Do you keep up your studies?" "Yes," said he. "Where?" I asked. "At Mediolanum," he replied. "But why not here?" I queried. Then the lad's father, who was with him, and indeed had brought him, replied, "Because we have no teachers here." "How is that?" I asked. "It is a matter of urgent importance to you who are fathers"--and it so happened, luckily, that a number of fathers were listening to me--"that your children should get their schooling here on the spot. For where can they pass the time so pleasantly as in their native place; where can they be brought up so virtuously as under their parents' eyes; where so inexpensively as at home? If you put your money together you could hire teachers at a trifling cost, and you could add to their stipends the sums you now spend upon your sons' lodgings and travelling money, which are no light amounts. I have no children of my own, but still, in the interest of the State, which I may consider as my child or my parent, I am prepared to contribute a third part of the amount which you may decide to club together. I would even promise the whole sum, if I were not afraid that if I did so my generosity would be corrupted to serve private interests, as I see is the case in many places where teachers are employed at the public charge. There is but one way of preventing this evil, and that is by leaving the right of employing the teachers to the parents alone, who will be careful to make a right choice if they are required to find the money. For those who perhaps would be careless in dealing with other people's money will assuredly be careful in spending their own, and they will take care that the teacher who gets my money will be worth his salt when he will also get money from them as well. So put your heads together, make up your minds, and let my example inspire you, for I can assure you that the greater the contribution you lay upon me the better I shall be pleased. You cannot make your children a more handsome present than this, nor can you do your native place a better turn. Let those who are born here be brought up here, and from their earliest days accustom them to love and know every foot of their native soil. I hope you may be able to attract such distinguished teachers that boys will be sent here to study from the towns round about, and that, as now your children flock to other places, so in the future other people's children may flock hither."
I thought it best to repeat this conversation in detail and from the very beginning, to convince you how glad I shall be if you will undertake my commission. As the subject is one of such importance, I beg and implore you to look out for some teachers from among the throng of learned people who gather round you in admiration of your genius, whom we can sound on the matter, but in such a way that we do not pledge ourselves to employ any one of them. For I wish to give the parents a perfectly free hand. They must judge and choose for themselves; my responsibilities go no further than a sympathetic interest and the payment of my share of the cost. So if you find any one who is confident in his own abilities, let him go to Comum, but on the express understanding that he builds upon no certainty beyond his own confidence in himself. Farewell.
Perhaps you are asking and looking out for a speech of mine, as you usually do, but I am sending you some wares of another sort, exotic trifles, the fruit of my playtime. You will receive with this letter some hendecasyllabics of mine with which I pass my leisure hours pleasantly when driving, or in the bath, or at dinner. They contain my jests, my sportive fancies, my loves, sorrows, displeasures and wrath, described sometimes in a humble, sometimes in a lofty strain. My object has been to please different tastes by this variety of treatment, and I hope that certain pieces will be liked by every one. Some of them will possibly strike you as being rather wanton, but a man of your scholarship will bear in mind that the very greatest and gravest authors who have handled such subjects have not only dealt with lascivious themes, but have treated them in the plainest language. I have not done that, not because I have greater austerity than they--by no means, but because I am not quite so daring. Otherwise, I am aware that Catullus has laid down the best and truest regulations governing this style of poetry in his lines: "For it becomes a pious bard to be chaste himself, though there is no need for his verses to be so. Nay, if they are to have wit and charm, they must be voluptuous and not too modest."
You may guess from this what store I set on your critical judgment when I say that I prefer you should weigh the whole in the balance rather than pick out a few for your special praise. Yet pieces, perfect in themselves, cease to appear so the moment they are all on a dead level of perfection. Besides, a reader of judgment and acumen ought not to compare different pieces with one another, but to weigh each on its own merits and not to think one inferior to another, if it is perfect of its kind. But why say more? What more foolish than to excuse or commend mere trifles with a long preface? Still there is one thing of which I think I should advise you, and it is that I am thinking of calling these trifles "Hendecasyllables," a title which simply refers to the single metre employed. So, whether you prefer to call them epigrams, or idylls, or eclogues, or little poems, as many do, or any other name, remember that I only offer you "Hendecasyllables." I appeal to your candour to speak to me frankly about my tiny volume as you would to a third person, and this is no hard request. For if this trifling work of mind were my chef d'oeuvre, or my one solitary composition, it might perhaps seem harsh to say, "Seek out some other employment for your talent," but it is perfectly gentle and kindly criticism to say, "You have another sphere in which you show to greater advantage." Farewell.
If I have ever been guided by judgment, it has been in the strength of regard I have for Asinius Rufus. He is one of a thousand, and a devoted admirer of all good men among whom why may I not include myself? He is on the very closest of terms of friendship with Cornelius Tacitus, and you know what an honourable man Tacitus is. So if you have any high opinion of both Tacitus and myself, you must also think as highly of Rufus as you do of us, since similarity of character is perhaps the strongest bond for cementing friendships. Rufus has a number of children. Even in this respect he has acted the part of a good citizen, in that he was willing to freely undertake the responsibilities entailed upon him by the fruitfulness of his wife, in an age when the advantages of being childless are such that many people consider even one son to be a burden. He has scorned all those advantages, and has also become a grandfather. For a grandfather he is, thanks to Saturius Firmus, whom you will love as I do when you know him as intimately.
I mention these particulars to show you what a large and numerous household you can oblige by a single favour, and I am induced to ask it from you, in the first place, because I wish to do so, and in the second, owing to a good omen. For we hope and prophesy that next year you will be consul, and we are led to make that forecast by your own good qualities, and by the opinion that the Emperor has of you. But it also happens that Asinius Bassus, the eldest son of Rufus, will be quaestor in the same year, and he is a young man even more worthy than his father, though I don't know whether I ought to mention such a fact, which the modesty of the young fellow would deny, but which his father desires me to think and openly declare. Though you always repose confidence in what I say, it is difficult, I know, for you to credit my account of an absent man when I say that he possesses splendid industry, probity, learning, wit, application, and powers of memory, as you will discover for yourself when you have tried him. I only wish that our age was so productive of men of high character that there were others to whom you ought to give preference over Bassus; if it did, I should be the first to advise and exhort you to take a good look round, and consider long and carefully on whom your choice should fall. But as it is--yet no, I do not wish to boast about my friend, I will merely say that he is a young man well deserving of adoption by you as a son in the old-fashioned way. For prudent men, like yourself, ought to receive as children from the State children such as we are accustomed to hope that Nature will bestow upon us. When you are consul it will become you to have as quaestor a man whose father was praetor, and whose relatives are of consular rank, especially as he, although still young, is in his turn already in their judgment an honour to them and their family. So I hope you will grant my request and take my advice.
Above all, pardon me if you think I am acting prematurely, first, because in a State where to get a thing done depends on the earliness of the application, those who wait for the proper time find the fruit not only ripe but plucked, and, secondly, when one is anxious to get a favour it is very pleasant to enjoy in advance the certainty of obtaining it. Give Bassus the opportunity of respecting you even now as consul, and do you entertain a friendly regard for him as your quaestor, and let us who are devoted to both of you have the enjoyment of this double satisfaction. For while our regard for you and Bassus is such that we shall use all our resources, energy, and influence to obtain the advancement of Bassus, no matter to what consul he is assigned as quaestor--as well as the advancement of any quaestor that may be allotted to you--it would be immensely gratifying to us if we could at one and the same time prove our friendship and advance your interests as consul by helping the cause of our young friend, and if you of all people, whose wishes the Senate is so ready to gratify, and in whose recommendations they place such implicit trust, were to stand forth as the seconder of my desires. Farewell.
4.16.--TO VALERIUS PAULINUS.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, on my account, on your own, and on that of the public. The student still has his meed of recompense. Just recently, when I had to speak in the Court of the Hundred, I could find no way in except by crossing the tribunal and passing through the judges, all the other places were so crowded and thronged. Moreover, a certain young man of fashion who had his tunic torn to pieces--as often happens in a crowd--kept his ground for seven long hours with only his toga thrown round him. For my speech lasted all that time; and though it cost me a great effort, the results were more than worth it. Let us therefore prosecute our studies, and not allow the idleness of other people to be an excuse for laziness on our part. We can still find an audience and readers, provided only that our compositions are worth hearing, and worth the paper they are written on. Farewell.
4.17.--TO ASINIUS GALLUS.
You recommend and press me to take up the case of Corellia, in her absence, against Caius Caecilius, the consul-designate. I thank you for the recommendation, but I am a little hurt at your pressing me; it was right of you to recommend me to do so, and so inform me of the case, but I needed no pressing to do what it would have been scandalous for me to leave undone. Am I the man to hesitate a second about protecting the rights of a daughter of Corellius? It is true that I am not only an acquaintance, but also a close friend of him whom you ask me to oppose. Moreover, he is a man of position and the office for which he has been chosen is a great one, one indeed for which I cannot but feel all the greater respect, inasmuch as I recently held it myself. It is natural that a man should desire the dignities to which he has himself attained to be held in the very highest esteem.
However, all those considerations seem unimportant and trifling when I consider that I am about to champion the daughter of Corellius. I picture to myself that worthy gentleman, a man second to none in our age for gravity, uprightness of life, and quickness of judgment. I began to love him because I admired him so much, and the better I learned to know him the more my admiration grew--a result that rarely happens. Yes, and I knew his character thoroughly; he had no secrets from me, I knew him in his sportive and serious moods, in his moments both of sorrow and joy. I was but a young man, yet, young as I was, he held me in honour, and I will make bold to say that he paid me the respect he would have paid to one of his own years. When I sought advancement, it was he who canvassed and spoke for me; when I entered upon an office he introduced me and stood by my side; in all administrative work he gave me counsel and kept me straight; in short, in all my public duties, despite his weakness and his years, he showed himself to have the energy and fire of youth. How he helped to build up my reputation at home and in public, and even with the Emperor himself! For when it so happened that the conversation in the presence of the Emperor Nerva turned upon the subject of the promising young men of the day, and several speakers sang my praises, Corellius kept silence for a little while--a fact which added material weight to his remarks--and then he said in that grave manner you knew so well, "I must be careful how I praise Secundus, for he never does anything without taking my advice." The words were a tribute such as it would have been unreasonable for me to ask for or expect, for they amounted to this, that I never acted except in the most prudent manner, since I invariably acted on the advice of a man of his consummate prudence.
Nay, even on his deathbed he said to his daughter, as she is never tired of repeating, "I have procured for you a multitude of friends, and, even had I lived longer, I could hardly have got you more, but best of all I have won you the friendship of Secundus and Cornutus." When I think of those words, I feel that it is my duty to work hard, that I may not seem to have fallen short in any particular of the confidence reposed in me by such an excellent judge of men. So I will take up Corellia's case without loss of time, nor will I mind giving offence to others by the course I adopt. Yet I think that I shall not only be excused, but receive the praises even of him who, as you say, is bringing this new action against Corellia, possibly because she is a woman, if during the hearing I explain my motives, more fully and amply than I can in the narrow limits of a letter, either in order to justify or even to win approval of my conduct. Farewell.
4.18.--TO ARRIUS ANTONINUS.
How can I better prove to you how greatly I admire your Greek epigrams than by the fact that I have tried to imitate some of them and turn them into Latin? I grant they have lost in the translation, and this is due in the first place to the poorness of my wits, and in the second place-- and even more--to what Lucretius calls the poverty of our native tongue. But if these verses, writ in Latin and by me, seem to you to possess any grace, you may guess how charming the originals are which were written in Greek and by you. Farewell.
4.19.--TO CALPURNIA HISPULLA.
As you yourself are a model of the family virtues, as you returned the affection of your brother, who was the best of men and devoted to you, and as you love his daughter as though she were your own child, and show her not only the affection of an aunt but even that of the father she has lost, I feel sure you will be delighted to know that she is proving herself worthy of her father, worthy of you, and worthy of her grandfather. She has a sharp wit, she is wonderfully economical, and she loves me--which is a guarantee of her purity. Moreover, owing to her fondness for me she has developed a taste for study. She collects all my speeches, she reads them, and learns them by heart. When I am about to plead, what anxiety she shows; when the pleading is over, how pleased she is! She has relays of people to bring her news as to the reception I get, the applause I excite, and the verdicts I win from the judges. Whenever I recite, she sits near me screened from the audience by a curtain, and her ears greedily drink in what people say to my credit. She even sings my verses and sets them to music, though she has no master to teach her but love, which is the best instructor of all. Hence I feel perfectly assured that our mutual happiness will be lasting, and will continue to grow day by day. For she loves in me not my youth nor my person--both of which are subject to gradual decay and age--but my reputation. Nor would other feelings become one who had been brought up at your knee, who had been trained by your precepts, who had seen in your house nothing that was not pure and honourable, and, in short, had been taught to love me at your recommendation. For as you loved and venerated my mother as a daughter, so even when I was a boy you used to shape my character, and encourage me, and prophesy that I should develop into the man that my wife now believes me to be. Consequently my wife and I try to see who can thank you best, I because you have given her to me, and she because you gave me to her, as though you chose us the one for the other. Farewell.
You know my opinion of your volumes singly, for I have written to tell you as I finished each one; now let me give my broad view of the whole work. It is beautifully written, with power, incisiveness, loftiness, and variety of treatment, in elegant, pure language, with plenty of metaphor, while it is comprehensive and covers an amount of ground that does you great credit. You have been carried far by the sweeping sails of your genius and your resentment, both of which have been a great help to you; for your genius has lent a lofty magnificence to your resentment, which in turn has added power and sharpness to your genius. Farewell.
4.21.--TO VELIUS CEREALIS.
What a terribly sad fate has overtaken those two sisters, the Helvidiae! Both to have given birth to daughters, and both to have died in childbirth! I am very, very sorry, yet I keep my grief within bounds. What seems to me so lamentable is that two honourable ladies should in the very spring-time of life have been carried off at the moment of becoming mothers. I am grieved for the infants who are left motherless at their birth; I am grieved for their excellent husbands, and grieved also on my own account. For even now I retain the warmest affection for their dead father, as I have shown in my pleading and my books. Now but one of his three children is alive, and only one remains to support a house which a little time ago had so many props to sustain it. But my grief will be greatly relieved should Fortune preserve him at least to robust and vigorous health, and make him as good a man as his father and grandfather were before him. I am the more anxious for his health and character now that he is the only one left. You know the tenderness of my mind where my affections are engaged and how nervous I am, so you must not be surprised if I show most anxiety on behalf of those of whom I have formed the greatest hopes. Farewell.
4.22.--TO SEMPRONIUS RUFUS.
I have been called in by our excellent Emperor to take part and advise upon the following case. Under the will of a certain person, it has been the custom at Vienne to hold a gymnastic contest. Trebonius Rufus, a man of high principle and a personal friend of mine, in his capacity of duumvir, discontinued and abolished the custom, and it was objected that he had no legal authority to do so. He pleaded his case not only with eloquence but to good effect, and what lent force to his pleading was that he spoke with discretion and dignity, as a Roman and a good citizen should, in a matter that concerned himself. When the opinion of the Council was taken, Junius Mauricus, who stands second to none for strength of will and devotion to truth, was against restoring the contest to the people of Vienne, and he added, "I wish the games could be abolished at Rome as well." That is a bold consistent line, you will say. So it is, but that is no new thing with Mauricus. He spoke just as frankly before the Emperor Nerva. Nerva was dining with a few friends; Veiento was sitting next to him and was leaning on his shoulder--I need say no more after mentioning the man's name. The conversation turned upon Catullus Messalinus, who was blind, and had that curse to bear in addition to his savage disposition. He was void of fear, shame, and pity, and on that account Domitian often used him as a tool for the destruction of the best men in the State, just as though he were a dart urging on its blind and sightless course. All at table were speaking of this man's villainy and bloody counsels, when the Emperor himself said: "I wonder what his fate would be if he were alive to-day," to which Mauricus replied, "He would be dining with us." I have made a long digression, but willingly. The Council resolved that the contest should be abolished, because it had corrupted the morals of Vienne, just as our contests have corrupted the whole world. For the vices of Vienne go no further than their own walls, but ours spread far and wide. As in the body corporal, so in the body of the State, the most dangerous diseases are those that spread from the head. Farewell.
4.23.--TO POMPONIUS BASSUS.
I have been delighted to hear from our mutual friends that you map out and bear your retirement in a way that is worthy of your ripe wisdom, that you live in a charming spot, that you take exercise on both sea and land, that you have plenty of good conversation, that you read a great deal and listen to others reading, and that, though your stock of knowledge is vast, you yet add thereto every day. That is just the way a man should spend his later years after filling the highest magistracies, after commanding armies, and devoting himself wholly to the service of the State for as long as it became him to do so. For we owe our early and middle manhood to our country, our last years are due to ourselves--as indeed the laws direct which enforce retirement when we reach a certain age. When will that appointed time come to me? When shall I attain the age at which I may honourably retire and imitate the example of beautiful and perfect peace that you set me? When shall I be able to enjoy calm retreat without people calling it not peaceful tranquillity but laziness and sloth? Farewell.
4.24.--TO FABIUS VALENS.
Just recently, after pleading before the Centumviri in the fourfold Court, I happened to remember that in my younger days I had also pleaded in the same court. My thoughts, as usual, began to take a wider range, and I commenced to recall to my memory those whom I had worked with in this court and in that. I found I was the only one left who had practised in both, so sweeping were the changes effected by the slenderness of human life and the fickleness of fortune. Some of those who used to plead in my young days are dead, others are in exile; age and ill health have convinced others that their speaking days are over; some are enjoying of their own free will the pleasures of retirement, or are in command of armies, or have been withdrawn from civil employments by becoming the personal friends of the Emperor. Even in my own case how many changes I have gone through! I first owed my promotion to my literary studies; then they brought me into danger, and then again won me still further advancement. My friendships with worthy citizens likewise first helped me, then stood in my way, and now again they assist me. If you count the years, the time seems but short; but count the changes and the ups and downs, and it seems an age. This may be taken by us as a lesson never to despair of anything, and never to impose a blind trust in anything, when we see so many vicissitudes brought about by this inconstant world of ours. I deem it a mark of friendship on my part to make you the confidant of my thoughts, and to admonish you by the precepts and examples with which I admonish myself. That is the raison d'etre of this letter. Farewell.
4.25.--TO MESSIUS MAXIMUS.
I wrote and told you that there was a danger of the ballot leading to abuses. Events have confirmed my view. At the last election a number of flippant jests were written on some of the voting cards and even obscenities, while on one of them were found, not the names of the candidates, but those of the voters. The Senate was furious, and loudly called upon the offended Emperor to punish the writer. But the guilty person was not discovered and lay close, and he possibly was one of those who professed the greatest indignation. Yet what conduct may we not consider him capable of at home when he plays such disgraceful jokes in a matter of such importance and at such a serious moment, and yet in the Senate is an incisive, courteous, and pretty speaker? However, people of no principle are encouraged to act in this shameful way when they feel they can safely say, "Who will find me out?" Such a man asks for a voting card, takes a pen in his hand, bends his head, has no fear of any one, and holds himself cheap. That is the origin of scurrilities only worthy of the stage and the platform. But where can one turn, and where is one to look for a cure? On every hand the evils are more powerful than the remedies. Yet "all these things will be seen to by one above us," whose daily working hours are lengthened and whose labours are considerably increased by this lumpish, yet unbridled, perversity.
You ask me to be sure to look over and correct my speeches, which you have taken the greatest pains to get together. I will with pleasure, for what duty is there that I ought to be better pleased to undertake, especially as it is you who ask me? When a man of your weight, scholarship, and learning, and, above all, one who is never idle for a moment, and is about to be governor of an important province, sets such store on having my writings to take with him on his travels, surely I ought to do my best to prevent this part of his luggage from appearing useless in his eyes. So I will do what I can, first, to make those companions of your voyage as agreeable as possible, and, secondly, to enable you to find on your return others that you may like to add to their number. Believe me, the fact that you read what I write is no small incentive to me to produce new works. Farewell.
4.27.--TO POMPEIUS FALCO.
This is the third day that I have been attending the recitals of Sentius Augurinus, which I have not only enjoyed immensely, but admired as well. He calls his work "Poetical Pieces." Many are airy trifles; many deal with noble themes, and they abound in wit, tenderness, sweetness, and sting. Unless it is that my affection for him, or the fact that he has lavished praises upon me, warps my judgment, I must say that for some years past there have been no such finished poems of their class produced. Augurinus took as his theme the fact that I occasionally amuse myself with writing verses. I will enable you to act the critic of my criticism if I can recall the second line of the piece. I remember the others, and now I think I have them all.
"I sing songs in trifling measures, which Catullus, Calvus, and the poets of old have employed before me. But what matters that to me? Pliny alone I count my senior. When he quits the Forum, his taste is for light verses; he seeks an object for his love, and thinks that he is loved in return. What a man is Pliny, worth how many Catos! Go now, you who love, and love no more."
You see how smart, how apposite, how clear-cut the verses are, and I can promise you that the whole book is equally good. I will send you a copy as soon as it is published. Meanwhile, give the young man your regard and congratulate the age on producing such genius, which he enhances by the beauty of his morals. He passes his time with Spurinna and Antoninus; he is related to the one, and shares the same house with the other. You may guess from this that he is a youth of finished parts, when he is thus loved by men of their years and worth. For the old adage is wonderfully true, "You may tell a man by the company he keeps." Farewell.
4.28.--TO VIBIUS SEVERUS.
Herennius Severus, a man of great learning, is anxious to place in his library portraits of your fellow-townsmen, Cornelius Nepos and Titus Catius, and he asks me to get them copied and painted if there are any such portraits in their native place, as there probably are. I am laying this commission upon you rather than on any one else, first, because you are always kind enough to grant any favour I ask; secondly, because I know your reverence for literary studies and your love of literary men; and, lastly, because you love and reverence your native place, and entertain the same feelings for those who have helped to make its name famous. So I beg you to find as careful a painter as you can, for while it is hard to paint a portrait from an original, it is far more difficult to make a good imitation of an imitation. Moreover, please do not let the painter you choose make any variations from his copy, even though they are for the better. Farewell.
4.29.--TO ROMATIUS FIRMUS.
Do be careful, my dear friend, and the next time there is business afoot, see to it that you come into court, whatever happens. It is no good your putting your confidence in me and so continuing your slumber; if you stay away, you will have to smart for it. For look you, Licinius Nepos, who is making a sharp and resolute praetor, has levied a fine even on a senator. The latter pleaded his cause in the Senate, but he did so in the form of suing for forgiveness. The fine was remitted, yet he had an uneasy time; he had to ask for pardon, and he was obliged to sue for forgiveness. You will say, "Oh, but all praetors are not so strict." Don't make any mistake! For though it is only a strict praetor who would make or revive such a precedent, when once it has been made or revived even the most lenient officials can put it into execution. Farewell.
4.30.--TO LICINIUS SURA.
I have brought you as a present from my native district a problem which is fully worthy even of your profound learning. A spring rises in the mountain-side; it flows down a rocky course, and is caught in a little artificial banqueting house. After the water has been retained there for a time it falls into the Larian lake. There is a wonderful phenomenon connected with it, for thrice every day it rises and falls with fixed regularity of volume. Close by it you may recline and take a meal, and drink from the spring itself, for the water is very cool, and meanwhile it ebbs and flows at regular and stated intervals. If you place a ring or anything else on a dry spot by the edge, the water gradually rises to it and at last covers it, and then just as gradually recedes and leaves it bare; while if you watch it for any length of time, you may see both processes twice or thrice repeated. Is there any unseen air which first distends and then tightens the orifice and mouth of the spring, resisting its onset and yielding at its withdrawal? We observe something of this sort in jars and other similar vessels which have not a direct and free opening, for these, when held either perpendicularly or aslant, pour out their contents with a sort of gulp, as though there were some obstruction to a free passage. Or is this spring like the ocean, and is its volume enlarged and lessened alternately by the same laws that govern the ebb and flow of the tide? Or again, just as rivers on their way to the sea are driven back on themselves by contrary winds and the opposing tide, is there anything that can drive back the outflow of this spring? Or is there some latent reservoir which diminishes and retards the flow while it is gradually collecting the water that has been drained off, and increases and quickens the flow when the process of collection is complete? Or is there some curiously hidden and unseen balance which, when emptied, raises and thrusts forth the spring, and, when filled, checks and stifles its flow? Please investigate the causes which bring about this wonderful result, for you have the ability to do so; it is more than enough for me if I have described the phenomenon with accuracy. Farewell.
5.1.--TO ANNIUS SEVERUS.
I have come in for a legacy, inconsiderable in amount, yet more gratifying than even the handsomest one could be. Why so? I will tell you. Pomponia Galla, who had disinherited her son Asudius Curianus, had left me her heir and had given me as co-heirs Sertorius Severus, a man of praetorian rank, and other Roman knights of distinction. Curianus begged me to make my portion over to him, and so strengthen his position with the court by declaring in his favour beforehand, promising at the same time to make the amount good to me by a secret compact. My answer was that my character did not allow me to act in one way before the world and in another in private, and I further urged that it would not be a proper thing to make over sums of money to a wealthy and childless man. In short, my argument was that I should not benefit him by making over the amount, but that I should benefit him if I renounced my legacy, and that this I was perfectly willing to do, if he could satisfy me that he had been unjustly disinherited. His reply to this was to ask me to investigate the case judicially. After some hesitation I said, "I will, for I do not see why I should appear less honourable in my own eyes than I do in yours. But remember even now that I shall not hesitate to pronounce in favour of your mother if I feel honourably bound to do so." "Do as you will," he replied, "for what you will is sure to be just and right."
I called in to assist me two of the most thoroughly honourable men that the State could boast of possessing, Corellius and Frontinus. With these by my side I sat in my private room. Curianus then laid his case before us; I replied briefly, for there was no one else present to defend the motives of the deceased. Then I withdrew, and, in accordance with the views of Corellius and Frontinus, I said, "Curianus, we think that your mother had just grounds for resentment against you." Subsequently, he lodged an appeal before the centumvirs against the other heirs but not against me. The day for the hearing approached, and my co-heirs were disposed to agree to a compromise and come to terms, not because they doubted their legal position, but owing to the troubled state of the times. They were afraid that what had happened to many others might happen to them, and that they might leave the Centumvirs' Court with some capital charge against them. Moreover, there were some among their number who were open to the charge of having been friends of Gratilla and Rusticus, so they begged me to speak with Curianus. We met in the Temple of Concord, and I addressed him there in the following terms: "If your mother had left you heir to a fourth of her estate, could you complain? But what if she had left you heir to the whole, and yet had so encumbered it with legacies that not more than a fourth of the whole remained? I think you ought to be satisfied if, after being disinherited by your mother, you receive a fourth from her heirs, and this sum I will myself increase. You know that you did not lodge any appeal against me, that two years have passed, and that I have established my title to my share. But in order that my co-heirs may find you more tractable, and that you may lose nothing by the consideration you have shown me, I offer you of my own free will the amount that I have received."
I have reaped the reward not only of my scrupulously fair dealing, but also of my reputation. Curianus left me a legacy, and, unless I flatter myself unduly, he has given signal distinction to the honest course of action I pursued. I have written to tell you this because it is my custom to discuss with you any matters which give me pain or pleasure, as freely as though I were talking to myself. Besides, I thought it would be unkind to defraud you, who have such a great regard for me, of the pleasure which I have received therefrom. For I am not such a perfect philosopher as to think it makes no difference whether I receive or not the approbation of others--which is itself a kind of reward--when I think that I have acted in an honourable manner. Farewell.
5.2.--TO CALPURNIUS FLACCUS.
I received the very fine sea-carp which you sent me. The weather is so stormy that I cannot return you like for like, either from the market here at Laurentinum or from the sea. So all you will get is a barren letter, which frankly makes no return and does not even imitate Diomede's clever device in exchanging gifts. But your kindness is such that you will excuse me all the more readily because I confess in my letter that I do not deserve it. Farewell.
5.3.--TO TITIUS ARISTO.
While I gratefully acknowledge your many acts of kindness to me, I must especially thank you for not concealing from me the fact that my verses have formed the subject of many long discussions at your house, that such discussions have been lengthened owing to the different views expressed, and that some people, while finding no fault with the writings themselves, blamed me in a perfectly friendly and candid way for having written on such themes and for having read them in public. Well, in order to aggravate my misdeeds, here is my reply to them: "Yes, I do occasionally compose verses which are far from being couched in a serious vein. I don't deny it. I also listen to comedies, and attend the performances of mimes. I read lyrics, and I understand the poems of Sotades. Moreover, I now and then laugh, jest, and amuse myself; in short, to sum up in a word every kind of harmless recreation, I may say 'I am a man.'"
Nor does it annoy me that people should form such opinions about my character, when it is plain that those who are surprised that I should compose such poems are unaware that the most learned of men and the gravest and purest livers have regularly done the same thing. But I feel sure that I shall easily obtain permission from those who know the character and calibre of the authors in whose footsteps I am treading, to stray in company with men whom it is an honour to follow, not only in their serious but in their lightest moods. I will not mention the names of those still living for fear of seeming to flatter, but is a person like myself to be afraid that it will be unbecoming for him to do what well became Marcus Tullius, Caius Calvus, Asinius Pollio, Marcus Messalla, Quintus Hortensius, M. Brutus, Lucius Sulla, Quintus Catulus, Quintus Scaevola, Servius Sulpicius, Varro, Torquatus--or rather the Torquati,--Caius Memmius, Lentulus, Gaetulicus, Annaeus Seneca, Lucan, and, last of all, Verginius Rufus? If the names of these private individuals are not enough, I may add those of the divine Julius, Augustus and Nerva, and that of Tiberius Caesar. I pass by the name of Nero, though I am aware that a practice does not become any the worse because it is sometimes followed by men of bad character, while a practice usually followed by men of good character retains its honesty. Among the latter class of men one must give a pre-eminent place to Publius Vergilius, Cornelius Nepos, and to Attius and Ennius, who should perhaps come first. These men were not senators, but purity of character is the same in all ranks.
But, you say, I recite my compositions and I cannot be sure that they did. Granted, but they may have been content with their own judgment, whereas I am too modest to think that any composition of mine is sufficiently perfect when it has no other approbation but my own.
Consequently, these are the reasons why I recite in public, first, because a man who recites becomes a keener critic of his own writings out of deference to his audience, and, secondly, because, where he is in doubt, he can decide by referring the point to his auditors. Moreover, he constantly meets with criticism from many quarters, and even if it is not openly expressed, he can tell what each person thinks by watching the expression and eyes of his hearers, or by a nod, a motion of the hand, a murmur, or dead silence. All these things are tolerably clear indications which enable one to distinguish judgment from complaisance. And so, if any one who was present at my reading takes the trouble to look through the same compositions, he will find that I have either altered or omitted certain passages, in compliance perhaps with his judgment, though he never uttered a word to me. But I am arguing on this point as though I invited the whole populace to my reading room and not merely a few friends to my private chamber, while the possession of a large circle of friends has been a source of pride to many men and a reproach to none. Farewell.
5.4.--TO JULIUS VALERIANUS.
The incident is trifling in itself, but it is leading up to important consequences. Sollers, a man of praetorian rank, asked permission of the Senate to establish a market on his property. The delegates of the people of Vicetia opposed it: Tuscilius Nominatus appeared as their counsel, and the hearing was postponed. At a later meeting of the Senate, the Vicetini entered without their counsel and said that they had been tricked,--I cannot say whether it was merely a hasty expression, or whether they really thought they had been. When they were asked by the praetor Nepos whom they had instructed to appear for them, they said, "We have the same counsel as before." To the question whether on the previous occasion he had appeared for them gratuitously, they said they had given him6000 sesterces, and on being asked whether they paid him a further fee, they replied, "Yes, a thousand denarii." Nepos demanded that Nominatus should be called, and matters went no further on that day. But, I fancy, the case has gone to much greater lengths than that, for it often happens that a mere touch is sufficient to set things in commotion, and then they spread far and wide. I have made you prick up your ears, so now you will have to ask in your very nicest manner for me to tell you the rest of the story, unless you decide to come to Rome for the sequel, and prefer to see it for yourself rather than read about it. Farewell.
5.5.--TO NONIUS MAXIMUS.
I have been told that Caius Fannius is dead, and the news has greatly upset me, in the first place, because I loved him for his taste and learning, and, secondly, because I used to avail myself of his judgment. He was naturally keen-witted; experience had sharpened his acumen, and he could detect the truth without hesitation. I am troubled, too, owing to the circumstances in which he died, for he has died without revoking an old will which contains no mention of those for whom he had the greatest affection, and is in favour of those with whom he has been on bad terms. However, this might have been got over--what is most serious is that he has left unfinished his finest work. Although his time was taken up with his profession as a pleader, he was engaged in writing the lives of those who were put to death or banished by Nero. He had already finished three books, in an unadorned, accurate style and in the Latin language. They are something between narrative and history, and the eagerness which people displayed to read them made him all the more desirous to finish the remaining volumes.
It always seems to me hard and untimely when people die who are engaged upon some immortal work. For those who are devoted to their pleasures and live a sort of day-to-day existence exhaust every day the reasons why they should go on living, whereas when people think of posterity and keep alive their memory by their works, their death, come as it may, is always sudden, inasmuch as it cuts short something that is still unfinished. However, Caius Fannius had had for a long time a presentiment of what was to befall him. He dreamt in the quiet of the night that he was lying on his bed dressed for study and that he had a writing desk before him, as was his wont. Then he thought that Nero came to him, sat down on the couch, and after producing the first volume which Fannius had written about his crimes, turned over the pages to the end. He did the same with the second and third volumes, and then departed. Fannius was much alarmed, and interpreted the dream to mean that he would leave off writing just where Nero had left off reading, and so the event proved.
When I think of it I feel grieved to think how many wakeful hours and how much labour Fannius toiled through in vain. I see before me my own mortality and my own writings. Nor do I doubt that you have the same thought and anxiety for the work which is still on your hands. Let us do our best, therefore, while life lasts, that death may find as few works of ours as possible for him to destroy. Farewell.
5.6.--TO DOMITIUS APOLLINARIS.
I was charmed with the kind consideration which led you, when you heard that I was about to visit my Tuscan villa in the summer, to advise me not to do so during the season that you consider the district unhealthy. Undoubtedly, the region along the coast of Tuscany is trying and dangerous to the health, but my property lies well back from the sea; indeed, it is just under the Apennines, which are the healthiest of our mountain ranges. However, that you may not have the slightest anxiety on my account, let me tell you all about the climatic conditions, the lie of the land, and the charms of my villa. It will be as pleasant reading for you as it is pleasant writing for me.
In winter the air is cold and frosty: myrtles, olives and all other trees which require constant warmth for them to do well, the climate rejects and spurns, though it allows laurel to grow, and even brings it to a luxuriant leaf. Occasionally, however, it kills it, but that does not happen more frequently than in the neighbourhood of Rome. In summer, the heat is marvellously tempered: there is always a breath of air stirring, and breezes are more common than winds. Hence the number of old people to be found there: you find the grandfathers and great- grandfathers of the young people still living; you are constantly hearing old stories and tales of the past, so that, when you set foot there, you may fancy that you have been born in another century.
The contour of the district is most beautiful. Picture to yourself an immense amphitheatre, such as only Nature can create, with a wide- spreading plain ringed with hills, and the summits of the hills themselves covered with tall and ancient forests. There is plentiful and varied hunting to be had. Down the mountain slopes there are stretches of underwoods, and among these are rich, deep-soiled hillocks- -where if you look for a stone you will have hard work to find one-- which are just as fertile as the most level plains, and ripen just as rich harvests, though later in the season. Below these, along the whole hillsides, stretch the vineyards which present an unbroken line far and wide, on the borders and lowest level of which comes a fringe of trees. Then you reach the meadows and the fields--fields which only the most powerful oxen and the stoutest ploughs can turn. The soil is so tough and composed of such thick clods that when it is first broken up it has to be furrowed nine times before it is subdued. The meadows are jewelled with flowers, and produce trefoil and other herbs, always tender and soft, and looking as though they were always fresh. For all parts are well nourished by never-failing streams, and even where there is most water there are no swamps, for the declivity of the land drains off into the Tiber all the moisture that it receives and cannot itself absorb.
The Tiber runs through the middle of the plain; it is navigable for ships, and all the grain is carried down stream to the city, at least in winter and spring. In summer the volume of water dwindles away, leaving but the name of a great river to the dried-up bed, but in the autumn it recovers its flood. You would be delighted if you could obtain a view of the district from the mountain height, for you would think you were looking not so much at earth and fields as at a beautiful landscape picture of wonderful loveliness. Such is the variety, such the arrangement of the scene, that wherever the eyes fall they are sure to be refreshed.
My villa, though it lies at the foot of the hill, enjoys as fine a prospect as though it stood on the summit; the ascent is so gentle and easy, and the gradient so unnoticeable, that you find yourself at the top without feeling that you are ascending. The Apennines lie behind it, but at a considerable distance, and even on a cloudless and still day it gets a breeze from this range, never boisterous and rough, for its strength is broken and lost in the distance it has to travel. Most of the house faces south; in summer it gets the sun from the sixth hour, and in winter considerably earlier, inviting it as it were into the portico, which is broad and long to correspond, and contains a number of apartments and an old-fashioned hall. In front, there is a terrace laid out in different patterns and bounded with an edging of box; then comes a sloping ridge with figures of animals on both sides cut out of the box-trees, while on the level ground stands an acanthus-tree, with leaves so soft that I might almost call them liquid. Round this is a walk bordered by evergreens pressed and trimmed into various shapes; then comes an exercise ground, round like a circus, which surrounds the box-trees that are cut into different forms, and the dwarf shrubs that are kept clipped. Everything is protected by an enclosure, which is hidden and withdrawn from sight by the tiers of box-trees. Beyond is a meadow, as well worth seeing for its natural charm as the features just described are for their artificial beauty, and beyond that there stretches an expanse of fields and a number of other meadows and thickets.
At the head of the portico there runs out the dining-room, from the doors of which can be seen the end of the terrace with the meadow and a good expanse of country beyond it, while from the windows the view on the one hand commands one side of the terrace and the part of the villa which juts out, and on the other the grove and foliage of the adjoining riding-school. Almost opposite to the middle of the portico is a summer-house standing back a little, with a small open space in the middle shaded by four plane-trees. Among them is a marble fountain, from which the water plays upon and lightly sprinkles the roots of the plane-trees and the grass plot beneath them. In this summer-house there is a bed-chamber which excludes all light, noise, and sound, and adjoining it is a dining-room for my friends, which faces upon the small court and the other portico, and commands the view enjoyed by the latter. There is another bed-chamber, which is leafy and shaded by the nearest plane-tree and built of marble up to the balcony; above is a picture of a tree with birds perched in the branches equally beautiful with the marble. Here there is a small fountain with a basin around the latter, and the water runs into it from a number of small pipes, which produce a most agreeable sound. In the corner of the portico is a spacious bed-chamber leading out of the dining-room, some of its windows looking out upon the terrace, others upon the meadow, while the windows in front face the fish-pond which lies just beneath them, and is pleasant both to eye and ear, as the water falls from a considerable elevation and glistens white as it is caught in the marble basin. This bed-chamber is beautifully warm even in winter, for it is flooded with an abundance of sunshine.
The heating chamber for the bath adjoins it, and on a cloudy day we turn in steam to take the place of the sun's warmth. Next comes a roomy and cheerful undressing room for the bath, from which you pass into a cool chamber containing a large and shady swimming bath. If you prefer more room or warmer water to swim in, there is a pond in the court with a well adjoining it, from which you can make the water colder when you are tired of the warm. Adjoining the cold bath is one of medium warmth, for the sun shines lavishly upon it, but not so much as upon the hot bath which is built farther out. There are three sets of steps leading to it, two exposed to the sun, and the third out of the sun though quite as light. Above the dressing-room is a ball court where various kinds of exercise can be taken, and a number of games can be played at once. Not far from the bath-room is a staircase leading to a covered passage, at the head of which are three rooms, one looking out upon the courtyard with the four plane-trees, the second upon the meadow, and the third upon the vineyards, so each therefore enjoys a different view. At the end of the passage is a bed-chamber constructed out of the passage itself, which looks out upon the riding-course, the vineyards, and the mountains. Connected with it is another bed-chamber open to the sun, and especially so in winter time. Leading out of this is an apartment which adjoins the riding-course of the villa.
Such is the appearance and the use to which the front of my house is put. At the side is a raised covered gallery, which seems not so much to look out upon the vineyards as to touch them; in the middle is a dining-room which gets the invigorating breezes from the valleys of the Apennines, while at the other side, through the spacious windows and the folding doors, you seem to be close upon the vineyards again with the gallery between. On the side of the room where there are no windows is a private winding staircase by which the servants bring up the requisites for a meal. At the end of the gallery is a bed-chamber, and the gallery itself affords as pleasant a prospect therefrom as the vineyards. Underneath runs a sort of subterranean gallery, which in summer time remains perfectly cool, and as it has sufficient air within it, it neither admits any from without nor needs any. Next to both these galleries the portico commences where the dining-room ends, and this is cold before mid-day, and summery when the sun has reached his zenith. This gives the approach to two apartments, one of which contains four beds and the other three, and they are bathed in sunshine or steeped in shadow, according to the position of the sun.
But though the arrangements of the house itself are charming, they are far and away surpassed by the riding-course. It is quite open in the centre, and the moment you enter your eye ranges over the whole of it. Around its borders are plane-trees clothed with ivy, and so while the foliage at the top belongs to the trees themselves, that on the lower parts belongs to the ivy, which creeps along the trunk and branches, and spreading across to the neighbouring trees, joins them together. Between the plane-trees are box shrubs, and on the farther side of the shrubs is a ring of laurels which mingle their shade with that of the plane-trees. At the far end, the straight boundary of the riding-course is curved into semicircular form, which quite changes its appearance. It is enclosed and covered with cypress-trees, the deeper shade of which makes it darker and gloomier than at the sides, but the inner circles-- for there are more than one--are quite open to the sunshine. Even roses grow there, and the warmth of the sun is delightful as a change from the cool of the shade. When you come to the end of these various winding alleys, the boundary again runs straight, or should I say boundaries, for there are a number of paths with box shrubs between them. In places there are grass plots intervening, in others box shrubs, which are trimmed to a great variety of patterns, some of them being cut into letters forming my name as owner and that of the gardener. Here and there are small pyramids and apple-trees, and now and then in the midst of all this graceful artificial work you suddenly come upon what looks like a real bit of the country planted there. The intervening space is beautified on both sides with dwarf plane-trees; beyond these is the acanthus-tree that is supple and flexible to the hand, and there are more boxwood figures and names.
At the upper end is a couch of white marble covered with a vine, the latter being supported by four small pillars of Carystian marble. Jets of water flow from the couch through small pipes and look as if they were forced out by the weight of persons reclining thereon, and the water is caught in a stone cistern and then retained in a graceful marble basin, regulated by pipes out of sight, so that the basin, while always full, never overflows. The heavier dishes and plates are placed at the side of the basin when I dine there, but the lighter ones, formed into the shapes of little boats and birds, float on the surface and travel round and round. Facing this is a fountain which receives back the water it expels, for the water is thrown up to a considerable height and then falls down again, and the pipes that perform the two processes are connected. Directly opposite the couch is a bed-chamber, and each lends a grace to the other. It is formed of glistening marble, and through the projecting folding doors you pass at once among the foliage, while both from the upper and lower windows you look out upon the same green picture. Within is a little cabinet which seems to belong at once to the same and yet another bed-chamber. This contains a bed and it has windows on every side, yet the shade is so thick without that but little light enters, for a wonderfully luxuriant vine has climbed up to the roof and covers the whole building. You can fancy you are in a grove as you lie there, only that you do not feel the rain as you do among trees. Here too a fountain rises and immediately loses itself underground. There are a number of marble chairs placed up and down, which are as restful for persons tired with walking as the bed-chamber itself. Near these chairs are little fountains, and throughout the whole riding- course you hear the murmur of tiny streams carried through pipes, which run wherever you please to direct them. These are used to water the shrubs, sometimes in one part, sometimes in another, and at other times all are watered together.
I should long since have been afraid of boring you, had I not set out in this letter to take you with me round every corner of my estate. For I am not at all apprehensive that you will find it tedious to read about a place which certainly would not tire you to look at, especially as you can get a little rest whenever you desire, and can sit down, so to speak, by laying down the letter. Moreover, I have been indulging my affection for the place, for I am greatly attached to anything that is mainly the work of my own hands or that some one else has begun and I have taken up. In short--for there is no reason is there? why I should not be frank with you, whether my judgments are sound or unsound--I consider that it is the first duty of a writer to select the title of his work and constantly ask himself what he has begun to write about. He may be sure that so long as he keeps to his subject-matter he will not be tedious, but that he will bore his readers to distraction if he starts dragging in extraneous matter to make weight. Observe the length with which Homer describes the arms of Achilles, and Virgil the arms of Aeneas--yet in both cases the description seems short, because the author only carries out what he intended to. Observe how Aratus hunts up and brings together even the tiniest stars--yet he does not exceed due limits. For his description is not an excursus, but the end and aim of the whole work. It is the same with myself, if I may compare my lowly efforts with their great ones. I have been trying to give you a bird's eye view of the whole of my villa, and if I have introduced no extraneous matter and have never wandered off my subject, it is not the letter containing the description which is to be considered of excessive size, but rather the villa which has been described.
However, let me get back to the point I started from, lest I give you an opportunity of justly condemning me by my own law, by not pursuing this digression any farther. I have explained to you why I prefer my Tuscan house to my other places at Tusculum, Tibur and Praeneste. For in addition to all the beauties I have described above, my repose here is more profound and more comfortable, and therefore all the freer from anxiety. There is no necessity to don the toga, no neighbour ever calls to drag me out; everything is placid and quiet; and this peace adds to the healthiness of the place, by giving it, so to speak, a purer sky and a more liquid air. I enjoy better health both in mind and body here than anywhere else, for I exercise the former by study and the latter by hunting. Besides, there is no place where my household keep in better trim, and up to the present I have not lost a single one of all whom I brought with me. I hope Heaven will forgive the boast, and that the gods will continue my happiness to me and preserve this place in all its beauty. Farewell.
It is beyond question that a community cannot be appointed heir and cannot take a share of an inheritance before the general distribution of the estate. None the less, Saturninus, who left us his heirs, bequeathed a fourth share to our community of Comum, and then, in lieu of that fourth share, assigned them permission to take400,000 sesterces before the division of the estate. As a matter of strict law, this is null and void, but if you only look at the intentions of the deceased, it is quite sound and valid. I don't know what the lawyers will think of what I am going to say, but to me the wishes of the deceased seem worthy of more consideration than the letter of the law, especially as regards the sum which he wished to go to our common birthplace. Moreover, I, who gave1,600,000 sesterces our of my own money to my native place, am not the man to refuse it a little more than a third part of400,000 sesterces which have come to me by a lucky windfall. I know that you too will not refuse to fall in with my views, as your affection for the same community is that of a thoroughly loyal citizen. I shall be glad, therefore, if at the next meeting of the decurions, you will lay before them the state of the law, and I hope you will do so briefly and modestly. Then add that we make them an offer of the400,000 sesterces, in accordance with the wishes of Saturninus. But be sure to point out that the munificence and generosity are his, and that all we are doing is to obey his wishes. I have refrained from writing in a public manner on this business, firstly, because I knew very well that our friendship was such, and that your judgment was so ripe, that you could and ought to act for me as well as for yourself, and then again I was afraid that I might not preserve in a letter that exact mean which you will have no difficulty in preserving in a speech. For a man's expression, his gestures, and even the tones of his voice help to indicate the precise meaning of his words, while a letter, which is deprived of all these advantages, is exposed to the malignity of those who put upon it what interpretation they choose. Farewell.
5.8.--TO TITINIUS CAPITO.
You urge me to write history, nor are you the first to do so. Many others have often given me the same advice, and I am quite willing to follow it, not because I feel confident that I should succeed in so doing--for it would be presumption to think so until one had tried--but because it seems to me a very proper thing not to let people be forgotten whose fame ought never to die, and to perpetuate the glories of others together with one's own. Personally, I confess that there is nothing on which I have set my heart so much as to win a lasting reputation, and the ambition is a worthy one for any man, especially for one who is not conscious of having committed any wrong and has no cause to fear being remembered by posterity. Hence it is that both day and night I scheme to find a way "to raise myself above the ordinary dull level": my ambition goes no farther than that, for it is quite beyond my dreams "that my victorious name should pass from mouth to mouth." "And yet--!"--but I am quite satisfied with the fame which history alone seems to promise me. For one reaps but a small reward from oratory and poetry, unless our eloquence is really first-class, while history seems to charm people in whatever style it is written. For men are naturally curious; they are delighted even by the baldest relation of facts, and so we see them carried away even by little stories and anecdotes.
Again, there is a precedent in my own family which impels me towards writing history. My uncle, who was also my father by adoption, was a historian of the most scrupulous type, and I find all wise men agree that one can do nothing better than follow in the footsteps of one's ancestors, provided that they have gone in the right path themselves. Why, then, do I hesitate? For this reason, that I have delivered a number of pleadings of serious importance, and it is my intention to revise them carefully--though my hopes of fame from them are only slight--lest, in spite of all the trouble they have given me, they should perish with me, just for want of receiving the last polishing and additional touches. For if you have a view to what posterity will say, all that is not absolutely finished must be classed as incomplete matter. You will say: "Yes, but you can touch up your pleadings and compose history at the same time." I wish I could, but each is so great a task that I should think I had done very well to have finished either.
I began to plead in the Forum in my nineteenth year, and it is only just now that I begin to see darkly what an orator ought to be. What would happen if I were to take on a new task in addition to this one? Oratory and history have many things in common, but they also differ greatly in the points that seem common to both. There is narrative in both, but of a different type; the humblest, meanest and most common-place subjects suit the one; the other requires research, splendour, and dignity. In the one you may describe the bones, muscles, and nerves of the body, in the other brawny parts and flowing manes. In oratory one wants force, invective, sustained attack; in history the charm is obtained by copiousness and agreeableness, even by sweetness of style. Lastly, the words used, the forms of speech, and the construction of the sentences are different. For, as Thucydides remarks, it makes all the difference whether the composition is to be a possession for all time or a declamation for the moment; oratory has to do with the latter, history with the former.
Hence it is that I do not feel tempted to hopelessly jumble together two dissimilar styles which differ from one another just because of their great importance, and I am afraid I should become bewildered by such a terrible medley and write in the one style just where I ought to be employing the other. For the meantime, therefore, to use the language of the courts, I ask your gracious permission to go on with my pleading. However, do you be good enough even now to consider the period which it would be best for me to tackle. Shall it be a period of ancient history which others have dealt with before me? If so, the materials are all ready to hand, but the putting them together would be a heavy task. On the other hand, if I choose a modern period which has not been dealt with, I shall get but small thanks and am bound to give serious offence. For, besides the fact that the general standard of morality is so lax that there is much more to censure than to praise, you are sure to be called niggardly if you praise and too censorious if you censure, though you may have been lavish of appreciation and scrupulously guarded in reproach. However, these considerations do not stay me, for I have the courage of my convictions. I only beg of you to prepare the way for me in the direction you urge me to take, and choose a subject for me, so that, when I am at length ready to take pen in hand, no other overpowering reason may crop up to make me hesitate and delay my purpose. Farewell.
I had gone down to the basilica of Julius to listen to the speeches of the counsel to whom I had to reply from the last postponement. The judges were in their places; the decemvirs had arrived; the advocates were moving to and fro, and then came a long silence, broken at last by a message from the praetor. The centumvirs were dismissed and the hearing was put off, at which I was glad, for I am never so well prepared that I am not pleased at having extra time given me. The postponement was due to Nepos, the praetor-designate, who hears cases with the most scrupulous attention to legal forms. He had issued a short edict warning both plaintiffs and defendants that he would strictly carry out the decree of the Senate. Attached to the edict was a copy of the decree, which provided "that all persons engaged in any lawsuit are hereby ordered to take an oath before their cases are heard, that they have neither given nor promised any sum to their advocates, nor have entered into any contract to pay them for their advocacy." In these words and other long sentences as well, advocates were forbidden to sell their services and litigants to buy them, although, when a suit is over, the latter are allowed to offer their counsel a sum not exceeding ten thousand sesterces. The praetor, who was presiding over the Court of the Centumviri, was embarrassed by this decree of Nepos and gave us an unexpected holiday, while he made up his mind whether or not he should follow the example set him. Meanwhile, the whole town is discussing the edict of Nepos, some favourably, others adversely. Many people are saying: "Well, we have found a man to set the crooked straight. But have there been no praetors before Nepos, and who is Nepos that he should mend our public morals?" On the other hand, a number of people argue: "He has acted quite rightly. He has mastered the laws before entering office, he has read the decrees of the Senate, he is putting a stop to a disgraceful system of bargaining, and he will not allow a most honourable profession to be bought and sold in a scandalous way." That is how people are talking everywhere, and there will be no majority for one side or the other till it is known how the matter will end. It is very deplorable, but it is the accepted rule that good or bad counsels are approved or condemned according to whether they turn out well or badly. The result is that we find the self-same deed ascribed sometimes to zeal, sometimes to vanity, and even to love of liberty and downright madness. Farewell.
5.10.--TO SUETONIUS TRANQUILLUS.
Do, I beg of you, fulfil the promise I made in my verses when I pledged my word that our common friends should see your compositions. People are asking for them every day, clamouring for them even, and, if you are not careful, you may find yourself served with a writ to publish them. I myself am very slow to make up my mind to publish, but you are far more of a slow-coach than even I am. So either decide at once, or take care that I do not drag those books of yours from you by the lash of my satire, as I have failed to coax them out by my hendecasyllabics. The work is absolutely finished, and if you polish it any more you will only impair it without making it shine the more brightly. Do let me see your name on the title page; do let me hear that the volumes of my friend Tranquillus are being copied, read, and sold. It is only fair, considering the strength of our attachment, that you should afford me the same gratification that I have afforded you. Farewell.
5.11.--TO CALPURNIUS FABATUS.
I have received your letter, from which I gather that you have dedicated a most beautiful portico in the joint names of yourself and your son, and that on the following day you promised a sum of money for the decoration of the gates, so as to signalise the completion of your earlier act of generosity by immediately beginning a new one. I am delighted to hear it, in the first place, on account of the reputation you will secure, of which some part will extend to me, owing to the closeness of our friendship; secondly, because I see that the name of my father-in-law will be perpetuated by these choice works; and, lastly, because our country is in such a flourishing state. Pleasant as it is to see her honoured by any one, it is trebly gratifying when the honour is paid by yourself. It only remains for me to pray Heaven to confirm you in this habit of mind, and bestow upon you long length of years. For I venture to prophesy that, when your latest promise is complete, you will set about something else. When once a man's generosity has been aroused it knows not where to stop, for the more it is practised the more beautiful it becomes in the eyes of the generous. Farewell.
5.12.--TO TERENTIUS SCAURUS.
Before giving a recital of a little speech which I had some thoughts of publishing, I called a few friends to hear it, so as to put me on my mettle, but not many, so that I might get candid criticism. For there are two reasons why I give these recitals, one that I may screw myself up to the proper pitch by their anxiety that I should do myself justice, and the other that they may correct me if I happen to make a mistake and do not notice it because the blunder is my own. I got what I wanted and I found some friends who gave me their advice freely; while I myself noticed certain passages which required correction. I have revised the speech which I am sending you. You will see what the subject is from the title, and the speech itself will explain all other points. It ought now to become so familiar to people as to be understood without any preface. But I trust that you will write and tell me what you think of it as a whole as well as in parts, for I shall be the more careful to suppress it, or the more determined to publish it, according as your critical judgment inclines one way or the other. Farewell.
In compliance with your request--and the promise I made to comply in case you asked me--I will write and tell you the upshot of the demand of Nepos in the matter of Tuscilius Nominatus. Nominatus was brought into the Senate, and he pleaded his own case. There was no one to accuse him, for the legates of the Vicetini, so far from making matters difficult for him, smoothed his path. The substance of his defence was that in his conduct of the case he had failed not in loyalty but in resolution, that he had come down with the intention of pleading and had been seen in the Senate-house, but had been discouraged by what his friends told him in conversation, and so had left the chamber. He had been advised, he said, not to oppose, especially in the Senate, a member of that body who was now fighting hard not so much to get leave to establish a market on his estate, as to maintain his influence, reputation, and position, and he was warned that if he did not give way he would come in for greater ill-will than had been recently shown him. It was true that he had been hissed as he left the chamber on the previous hearing, but only by a few people. He spoke in a very appealing way and shed a number of tears, and, throughout his pleading, he used his undoubted abilities as a speaker to make it seem that he was not so much defending his conduct as asking pardon for it, which was certainly the safest and best course for him to adopt.
He was acquitted on the motion of the consul-designate, Afranius Dexter, whose speech may be summarised as follows. He argued that Nominatus would have done much better if he had gone through with the cause of the Vicetini with the same resolution with which he had undertaken it, but that since his conduct, though blameworthy, was not fraudulent, and he had not been convicted of having committed any crime, he had better be acquitted on the understanding that he should return to the Vicetini the fees he had received from them. All present agreed, with the exception of Fabius Aper, who proposed that Nominatus should be disbarred for the term of five years, and he continued firmly in that opinion though he drew no one over to side with him. He even produced the law under which the meeting of the Senate had been convened, and forced Dexter, who had been the first to propose the resolution opposed to his, to swear that his proposal was for the good of the State. Though this demand was perfectly legal, certain members loudly protested against it, on the ground that Aper seemed to be accusing Dexter of showing undue favour to Nominatus. But before any further speeches were made to the motion, Nigrinus, a tribune of the plebs, read out a learned and weighty remonstrance in which he complained that counsel were bought and sold, that they would sell their clients' cases, that they conspired together to make litigation, and that, instead of being satisfied with fame, they drew large and fixed amounts at the expense of citizens. He recited the heads of various laws, he recalled to their memories certain decrees of the Senate, and at last proposed that, as the laws and the decrees of the Senate were treated as a dead letter, they should petition their excellent Emperor to find a remedy for such a scandal.
A few days elapsed, and then the Emperor issued an edict which was at once moderate and severe. You will be able to read the text of it, for it appears in the official register. Imagine how delighted I am that I have always made a point of refusing for my services as counsel not only to enter into any understanding to receive presents and gifts in any shape, but even friendly acknowledgments! We ought indeed to refrain from doing anything that is not quite honourable, not because it is forbidden, but because we should be ashamed to do it; still it is gratifying to see a custom which you have never allowed yourself to follow publicly forbidden. Very likely--and in fact there is no doubt on the point--I shall reap fewer praises and my reputation will not shine as brightly when all the members of my profession find themselves compelled to behave as I did quite of my own free will. In the meantime I enjoy the pleasure of hearing some of my friends say that I must have foreseen what was coming, while others banter me by declaring that the new edict has been designed to put a stop to my plunder and greed. Farewell.
I had already retired to my township when the news was brought to me that Cornutus Tertullus had accepted the curatorship of the Aemilian Way. I cannot tell you how delighted I am, both for his own sake and for mine. I am pleased for his sake, because, though he is unquestionably entirely void of all ambitious aspirations, he cannot but be gratified at being offered a post without seeking it; and I am pleased on my own account, because I am all the more satisfied with my own employment now that Cornutus has had a position of equal eminence given to him. For it is just as gratifying to be placed on an equality with worthy citizens as to receive a step up in one's official position. And where is there a better man than Cornutus, or a man of more noble life? Where will you find one who follows more closely the ancient pattern in all that is praiseworthy? I know his virtues not by hearsay alone, though he enjoys a richly deserved reputation everywhere, but from a personal experience extending over many years.
We both of us entertain an affectionate regard, and have done for years, for all the worthy persons of both sexes whom our age has produced, and this community of friendships has thrown us together into the most intimate relations. Another link in the chain has been the closeness of our public connection. As you know, he was my colleague as prefect of the Treasury--thus realising, so to speak, my dearest wish--and again he was associated with me in the consulship. It was there that I obtained my clearest insight into the character and real greatness of the man, when I followed his judgment as a magistrate and reverenced him as a parent, while my veneration was inspired not so much by the ripeness of his years as by the ripeness of his general character. Hence it is that I congratulate both him and myself, for public reasons quite as much as for personal ones, in that now at last a virtuous life leads a man not to peril, as it used to do, but to public honours.
I should let my pen run on for ever if I were to give my joy a free course, so I will turn back to tell you how I was engaged when the messenger came and found me. I was with my wife's grandfather and her aunt, and in the company of friends I had long wished to see. I was going the round of the estate, hearing no end of complaints from my tenants, reading over with an unwilling eye and in a cursory fashion the accounts--for I have been consecrating my energies to papers and books of quite a different style--and I had even begun to make preparations for my journey. For I am rather pressed owing to the shortness of my leave, and I am reminded of my own public duties by hearing of those which have been entrusted to Cornutus. I hope that your Campanian villa may spare you about the same time, lest, when I return to town, I should lose a single day of your company. Farewell.
5.15.--TO ARRIUS ANTONINUS.
It is when I try to equal your verses that I most fully appreciate how excellent they are. For just as painters rarely succeed in putting a perfectly beautiful face on their canvas without doing injustice to the original, so, though I slave hard with your verses as my model, I always fall short. Let me urge you then to publish as many as possible, so good that every one will burn to imitate them, and yet no one, or but very few, will succeed in the attempt. Farewell.
I am writing to you in great distress. The younger daughter of your friend Fundanus is dead, and I never saw a girl of a brighter and more lovable disposition, nor one who better deserved length of days or even to live for ever. She had hardly completed her fourteenth year, yet she possessed the prudence of old age and the sedateness of a matron, with the sweetness of a child and the modesty of a maiden. How she used to cling round her father's neck! How tenderly and modestly she embraced us who were her father's friends! Her nurses, her teachers and tutors, how well she loved them, each according to his station! With what application and quickness she used to read, while her amusements were never carried to excess and never overstepped the mark. What resignation, patience and fortitude she showed during her last illness! She obeyed her doctor's orders, she cheered her sister and father, and when her body had lost all its strength, she kept herself alive by the vigour of her mind. This never failed her right up to the end, nor was it broken down by her long illness or by the fear of death, and this has made us miss her all the more severely and made our sorrow all the heavier to bear. What a sad, heart-rending funeral it was! The moment of her death seemed even more cruel than death itself, for she had just been betrothed to a youth of splendid character; the day of the wedding had been decided upon, and we had already been summoned to attend it. Think into what terrible grief our joy was changed! I really cannot tell you in words how acutely I felt it when I heard Fundanus himself, for one sorrow always leads on to other bitter sorrows--giving the order that the money he had intended to lay out upon wedding raiment, pearls and gems, should be spent upon incense, unguents and scents.
He is, it is true, a man of learning and wisdom, who from early years has devoted himself to the deeper studies and the nobler arts, but, at a moment like this, all the philosophy he has ever heard from others or uttered himself is put on one side. All virtues but one are disregarded for the time being--he can only think of parental love. You will forgive and even praise him for this, if you consider the loss he has suffered. For he has lost a daughter who reflected in herself, not only his face and feature, but his character, and one who was the living image of her father in every particular. If you send him a letter in the midst of this rightful grief of his, be careful to use words of solace which will not flay the heart or deal roughly with his sorrow, but which will soothe and ease his pain. The time which has elapsed will make him the more likely to admit your words of consolation, for, just as a raw wound first shrinks from the touch of the doctor's hand, then bears it without flinching and actually welcomes it, so with mental anguish we reject and fly from consolation when the pain is fresh, then after a time we look for it and find relief in its soothing application. Farewell.
I know what an interest you take in the liberal arts, and how delighted you are when young men of rank do anything worthy of their ancestry. That is why I am losing no time to tell you that to-day I made one of the audience of Calpurnius Piso. He was reading his poem on the Legends of the Stars, and it was a learned and very excellent composition. It was written in fluent, graceful, and smooth elegiacs, and rose even to lofty heights as occasion demanded. The style was cleverly varied, in some places it soared, in others it was subdued; passing from the grand to the commonplace, from thinness to richness, and from lively to severe, and in each case with consummate skill. The sweetness of his voice lent it an additional charm, and his modesty made even his voice the sweeter, while his blushes and his nervousness, which were very plain to see, still further set off the reading. I don't know why, but diffidence becomes a man of letters much more than over-confidence. However, to cut the story short,--though I would gladly say more, because such performances are all the more charming when given by a young man, and all the rarer when he is of noble birth,--as soon as the reading was concluded, I embraced the youth with great cordiality, and by showering praises upon him--which are always the best incentive when giving advice--I urged him to go on as he had begun, and hold out to his descendants the light which his own ancestors had held out to him. I congratulated his excellent mother and also his brother, who made one of the audience, and indeed achieved as much reputation for brotherly feeling as his brother Calpurnius did for his eloquence, for while the latter was reading everybody noticed first the nervous look on the brother's face, and then the expression of joy. I pray Heaven that I may often have such news for you, for I am very partial to the age I live in, and I hope that it may not prove barren and worthless. I am really most anxious that our young men of rank should have some other beautiful objects in their houses besides the busts of their ancestors, and it seems to me that the latter tacitly approve and encourage these two young men, and even recognise them as their true descendants, which is in itself a sufficiently high compliment to both. Farewell.
5.18.--TO CALPURNIUS MACER.
As all is well with you, all is well with me. You have your wife with you, and your son; you enjoy your sea-view, your fountains, greenery, estate, and your charming villa. I cannot doubt that the latter is most charming, inasmuch as it was the home of the man who was even happier there than when he became the happiest man on earth. I am staying at my Tuscan house; I hunt and I study, sometimes in turns, sometimes both together, and I cannot as yet tell you whether I find it more difficult to catch anything or to compose anything. Farewell.
I notice how kindly you treat your servants, so I will be quite frank with you, and tell you with what indulgence I treat mine. I always bear in mind that phrase in Homer, "like a father mild," and our own Latin phrase, "father of his family." Even if I had naturally been of a harsher and less genial disposition, the weakness of my freedman Zosimus would melt my harshness, for one has to show him greater kindness just in proportion as he needs it more at his time of life. He is an honest fellow, devoted to his duties and well-educated, but his chief accomplishment and, so to speak, his particular recommendation is his skill in playing comedy, in which he is really admirable. For his delivery is sharp, intelligent, to the point, and even graceful, and he plays the harp much better than is usually expected from a comedian. He is also so clever in reading speeches, history and poetry, that you would fancy he had never studied anything else. I have gone into all this detail to show you how many services this one man can render me, and how pleasant they are. Moreover, I have long entertained a great regard for him, which has been increased by his serious ill-health, for Nature has so arranged it that nothing fires and stimulates our affection so much as the fear of losing the object of it, and I have on more than one occasion been afraid of losing Zosimus.
Some years since, while he was reciting with great earnestness and fire, he spat blood, and I sent him on that account to Egypt, from which country he recently returned with his health restored. Then, after severely taxing his voice for days together, he was warned of his old malady by a slight cough, and once more brought up some blood. So I have decided to send him to the farm which you own at Forum Julii, for I have often heard you say that the air there is healthy, and the milk peculiarly beneficial to complaints of this kind. I should be glad, therefore, if you will write to your people to take him in at the house and give him lodging, and accommodate him with anything he may require at his expense. His needs will be very small, for he is so sparing and abstemious that his frugality leads him to deny himself, not only dainties, but even that which is necessary for his weak health. When he sets out, I will give him sufficient travelling money for one who is going to your part of the country. Farewell.
Within a short time of their impeaching Julius Bassus the Bithynians brought a second action, this time against Rufus Varenus, their proconsul, the very man whom, in their action against Bassus, they had received permission, at their own request, to retain as their advocate. On being brought into the Senate they applied for a commission to be appointed to investigate their charges, and Varenus sought leave to be allowed to bring witnesses from the province in his defence. To this the Bithynians objected, and the matter came to a debate. I acted on behalf of Varenus, and my pleading was not without good results. I am justified in saying this, as my written speech will show whether I spoke well or badly. For in delivering a speech chance has a controlling influence on success or failure. A speech either gains or loses a good deal according to the memory, voice, and gesture of the speaker, and even the time taken in delivery, to say nothing of the popularity or unpopularity of the accused; whereas a written speech profits nothing from these advantages, loses nothing by these disadvantages, and is subject neither to lucky nor unlucky accidents.
Fonteius Magnus, one of the Bithynians, replied to me at great length, but he made very few points. Like most of the Greeks, he mistakes volubility for fulness of treatment, and they pour forth in a single breath a perfect torrent of long-winded and frigid periods. Julius Candidus rather wittily says apropos of this that eloquence is one thing and loquacity another. For there have been only one or two people who can be described as eloquent--not one indeed if Marcus Antonius is to be believed,--but scores of persons possess what Candidus calls loquacity, and loquacity and impudence usually go together. On the following day, Homullus spoke on behalf of Varenus, and delivered a skilful, powerful, and polished speech, while Nigrinus replied with terseness, dignity, and elegance. Acilius Rufus, the consul-designate, proposed that the Commission of Enquiry asked for by the Bithynians should be allowed, and said not a word about the request of Varenus, which was tantamount to proposing that it should be negatived. Cornelius Priscus, the consular, moved that the requests of both the accusers and the accused should be granted, and he carried a majority with him. The point we asked for was not within the four corners of the law and was not quite covered by precedent, but none the less it was entirely reasonable, though why it was reasonable I shall not tell you in this letter, in order to make you ask for a copy of my pleading. For if it be true, as Homer says, that "men always prize the song the most which rings newest in their ears," I must beware lest by allowing myself to go chattering on in this letter I destroy all the charm of novelty in that little speech of mine, which is the main thing it has to commend itself to you. Farewell.
Your letter has aroused in me conflicting emotions, for part of the news it contained made me glad, and part made me sorrowful. I was glad to hear that you were detained in town, for though you say it was much against your will, it was not against mine, especially as you promise that you will give a reading as soon as I arrive. So I thank you for waiting my coming. The bad news was that Julius Valens is lying seriously ill, although even this should not sadden us, if we only think of what is best for him, for it will be much better for him to obtain as speedy a release as possible from a disease which is past all cure. No, the real sad news, or rather heartrending news is that Julius Avitus died on ship-board while returning from his quaestorship, miles away from the brother who was devoted to him, and from his mother and sisters. Those are circumstances which do not affect him now that he is dead, but they did affect him on his death-bed, and they are a great trouble to his surviving relatives, especially as he was a young man of such promise and would have reached the highest offices in the State if only his qualities had had time to ripen. And now he has been cut down in the very flower of manhood! What a keen and enthusiastic student he was, how well read, and what a number of essays he had made in writing! Yet all have perished with him and left no fruit for posterity to reap. But it is useless for me to indulge my sorrow, for if once one gives it free play, even the slightest occasions for grief are magnified into crushing blows. I will write no more, and so check the tears which this letter has made to flow. Farewell.