Unbearably painful as my circumstances are, the worst cross of all is to find myself in a situation where my advantage lies only in what I have always wished would never happen.
Brundisium, mid-March (?) 47
If there is one person in the world less prone to blarney than I, I think it is you; or if either of us ever flatters a third party, at least we never flatter one another.
Tusculum, May or June 46 (??)
In this lonely place I do not talk to a soul. Early in the day I hide myself in a thick, thorny wood, and don’t emerge till evening. Next to yourself solitude is my best friend. When I am alone all my conversation is with books, but it is interrupted by fits of weeping, against which I struggle as best I can. But so far it is an unequal fight.
Astura, 9 March 45
You summon me to the Forum. What is the Forum to me without the courts and the Senate House, with people crossing my path whom I can’t see without discomposure? You say people demand of me that I be present in Rome and are not willing to let me be absent or only allow it up to a certain point. I can assure you that for long enough I have thought more of your single self than of them all. Nor do I despise myself; I had much rather stand by my own judgement than by that of all the rest of the world. Still I go no farther than the best philosophical authorities allow me. Not content with reading all their writings to that purpose (which in itself was the behaviour of a brave invalid, to take one’s medicine), I have conveyed them into my own, which at any rate was not like a despondent, broken mind. Don’t call me away from these remedies back to your city hurly-burly, or I may relapse.
Astura, 17 March 45
I see from your letters as you no doubt see from mine that we have nothing to say; the same topics every day, and they are just about threadbare. Still I can’t resist sending you a daily letter so as to get your replies.
Astura, 23 March 45
You tell me to go back to my old ways. For a long time it has been my part to mourn our liberties and I did so, but less intensely because I had a source of comfort. Now I simply cannot follow that way of life, and on this matter I do not feel obliged to pay any attention to other people’s opinions. My own conscience counts for more with me than all the world’s talk. As to my literary consolation of myself, I am not dissatisfied with what it achieved. I reduced the outward show of grief; grief itself I could not reduce, and would not if I could.
Astura, 24 March 45
You say you are afraid my popularity and prestige may suffer by my present mourning. I don’t know what people find to criticize or what they expect. Do they want me to stop grieving? How can I? Or not to be prostrate with grief? Was anyone ever less so? While I had the comfort of staying in your house in Rome, whom did I keep out? What visitor had cause to complain? From there I went to Astura. These happy folk who take me to task cannot read as many pages as I have written--how well is immaterial; but the kind of composition was such as nobody sunk in dejection could have managed. I spent a month at the ‘homestead’. Did anyone complain that I refused to meet him or converse with him easily? At this very time I am reading and writing; and my companions find it harder to do nothing than I to work. If anyone wants to know why I am not in Rome, the answer is that it is the vacation. If they ask why I don’t stay in those of my little properties which would be seasonable just now, it is because I would find the crowds disagreeable. So I stay where the owner of a fine property at Baiae used regularly to pass this time of year. When I come back to Rome neither my looks nor my words will give any occasion for censure. The gaiety with which I used to season the sadness of these times of ours is gone for ever, but resolution and fortitude in mind and word will not be wanting.
Astura, 9 May 45
I think I shall conquer my feelings and go from Lanuvium to Tusculum. Either I must keep away from my place there for ever and a day (for my grief will remain unchanged, only less on the surface) or I don’t know what difference it makes whether I go there now or in ten years’ time. And in truth the reminders will be no more poignant than those which harass me day and night. Is literature then no use, you may ask. In this case I’m afraid it actually makes the other way, for without it I should perhaps be harder. In a cultivated mind there is nothing coarse or callous.
Astura, 15 May 45
Your letter about dear Attica gave me a sharp stab, but it also applied the balm. The fact that you consoled yourself in the same letter seemed warrant enough to soothe the distress I felt.
Arpinum, 23 June 45
Indeed? Brutus reports that Caesar has joined the honest men? Good news! But where is he going to find them—unless he hangs himself? As for Brutus, he knows which side his bread is buttered (?).
Tusculum, c. 17 August 45
[W]hile your news about D. Brutus joining his troops, in which I see our best hope, is important and welcome, all the same if there is to be civil war (and there is bound to be if Sextus stays under arms as I am certain he will) I cannot tell what we ought to do. Neutrality, which was possible in Caesar’s war, will not be possible now. Anyone who in the opinion of this party of desperadoes was glad at Caesar’s death (and we all showed our delight without the faintest concealment) will be considered by them as an enemy. This points to large-scale massacre. The alternative is to betake ourselves to Sextus’ camp, or maybe Brutus’; a weary business and unbefitting our age, with no certainty as to the issue of the war—and somehow I might say to you and you to me
‘My child, the works of war are not for thee.
Be thy concern the works of worded joy.’
But this must be left to chance, which counts for more than reason in such matters. Let us look to what ought to rest with ourselves, namely to bear whatever comes with fortitude and philosophy and to remember that we are but men. And let us take much comfort in study and not a little too in the Ides of March.
Puteoli, 26 April 44
However, let bygones be bygones. Let us protect these men by every means our solicitude can devise, and be satisfied, as you recommend, with the Ides of March. That day opened the door of immortality to our heroic friends, but not the door of freedom to the Roman people. Recall your own words. Don’t you remember crying out that all was lost if Caesar received a public burial? And very wise you were. Well, you see the consequences.
You say that on the Kalends of June Antony will bring forward a proposal on provinces, assigning the Gauls to himself and extending tenure for them both. Will a free vote be allowed? If so, I shall be happy to see our freedom restored. If not, what shall I have gained by this change of masters except the joy of gazing on the just death of a tyrant? You say that plundering goes on at the temple of Ops. I saw that for myself at the time. Truly we have been freed by heroes, but we are not free. Theirs then the glory, ours the blame. And you urge me to write history, and list the outrageous crimes of men who still hem us in.
Puteoli, 28 or 29 April 44
You think I am wrong in my view that the free constitution depends on Brutus. Well, this is the way of it: either there will be no constitution at all or it will be preserved by him, or them. You urge me to write a speech and send it to him. My dear fellow, let me give you a general rule on matters in which I have a fair amount of experience. There was never a poet or orator who thought anyone better than himself. This applies even to the bad ones. How much more to one so gifted and erudite as Brutus! I actually made the experiment the other day in connection with the edict. I composed a draft at your request. I liked mine, he preferred his own. Indeed, when, at his own entreaty I might almost say, I addressed to him an essay on the best style of oratory, he wrote not only to me but to you too that he could not agree with my preference. So pray let every man write as best suits himself. ‘Every man his own bride, mine for me. Every man his own love, mine for me.’ Not a very elegant distich. Atilius wrote it, a most clumsy versifier. But I only wish Brutus may have the chance of making a speech. If he can be safe in Rome, we have won the battle. For a leader in a new civil war will have no followers or only such as will easily be put down.
Puteoli, 11 May 44
There is no doubt in my mind that we are moving towards war. That affair was handled with the courage of men and the policy of children. Anyone could see that an heir to the throne was left behind. The folly of it! ‘Strange this to fear and that to set at naught!’ Why even now there is a good deal that might be called incongruous. Think of Pontius’ house near Naples occupied by the Tyrannicide’s mother! I ought to reread the ‘Cato the Elder’ which I dedicated to you. Old age is making me more cantankerous, everything irritates me. But I have had my time. Let the young men worry. Please go on looking after my private affairs.
Puteoli, 11 May 44
As for my pupil, who is dining with me this evening, he is greatly attached to the person in whom our friend Brutus put his knife. And if you want to know (it’s plain as a pikestaff to me), they are scared of peace. Their theme and slogan is a great man has been killed, that the whole state has been plunged into chaos by his death, that all he did will be null and void the moment we cease to be afraid, that clemency was his undoing, but for which nothing of the sort could have happened to him.
Puteoli, 14 May 44
You say you don’t know what our friends ought to do. That perplexity has been worrying me for some time. So there’s no sense any longer consoling ourselves with the Ides of March. We have shown the courage of men and the policy, believe me, of children. The tree has been felled but not uprooted, and you see how it is sprouting.
Arpinum, 24 May 44
And look here! In case you don’t know. Dolabella appointed me to his staff on the 3rd. I was informed of this yesterday evening. You too did not like the idea of a votive commission. It would really have been absurd for me to pay vows after the overthrow of the Republic which I supposedly made for its safety. Besides free commissions have a limit under the lex Julia, or so I believe, and it is not easy to add to that type of commission a licence to come and go as one pleases. This additional advantage I now have. Also it’s agreeable to have the privilege to use as one pleases for five years—though why should I be thinking of five years? I have the feeling that the sands are running out. But absit omen.
Antium (?), c. 7 June 44
L. Antonius is kind enough to write telling me to have no anxiety. That’s one favour then. Perhaps I shall get another if I go to Tusculum! Insufferable creatures!—and yet we suffer them. A Brutus is to blame. Octavian, as I perceived, does not lack intelligence or spirit, and he gave the impression that his attitude towards our heroes would be such as we should wish. But how much faith to put in one of his years and name and heredity and education—that’s a great question. His step-father thinks none at all—I saw him at Astura. Still he is to be encouraged and, if nothing else, kept apart from Antony. If Marcellus is recommending my writings, that’s fine. Octavian seemed to me to be much attached to him. He was not overmuch inclined to trust Pansa and Hirtius. A good disposition, if it lasts.
Astura (?), c. 10 June 44
You go on to ask what I think you should do. It’s difficult to think advise, not being on the spot, but if they are evenly matched I think you should lie low. If on the other hand the thing spreads, and spreads as far as ourselves, we must then make a common decision.
Aquinum, 10 November 44