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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Cicero’s Vacillation in the Civil War
By Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.)
BEING in extreme agitation about these great and terrible events, and having no means of discussing matters with you in person, I want at any rate to avail myself of your judgment. Now the question about which I am in doubt is simply this: If Pompeius should fly from Italy (which I suspect he will do), how do you think I ought to act? To make it easier for you to advise me, I will briefly set forth the arguments that occur to me on both sides of the question.  1
  The obligations that Pompeius laid me under in the matter of my restoration, my own intimacy with him, and also my patriotism, incline me to think that I ought to make my decision as his decision, or in other words, my fortunes as his fortunes. There is this reason also: If I stay behind and desert my post among that band of true and illustrious patriots, I must perforce fall completely under the yoke of one man. Now although he frequently takes occasion to show himself friendly to me—indeed, as you well know, anticipating this storm that is now hanging over our heads, I took good care that he should be so long ago—still I have to consider two different questions: first, how far can I trust him; and secondly,—assuming it to be absolutely certain that he is friendly disposed to me,—would it show the brave man or the honest citizen to remain in a city where one has filled the highest offices of peace and war, achieved immortal deeds, and been crowned with the honors of her most dignified priesthood, only to become an empty name and undergo some risk, attended also very likely with considerable disgrace, should Pompeius ever again grasp the helm? So much for this side; see now what may be said on the other.  2
  Pompeius has in our cause done nothing wisely, nothing strongly; nothing, I may add, that has not been contrary to my opinion and advice. I pass over those old complaints, that it was he who himself nourished this enemy of the republic, gave him his honors, put the sword into his hand—that it was he who advised him to force laws through by violence, trampling on the warnings of religion—that it was he who made the addition of Transalpine Gaul, he who is his son-in-law, he who as Augur allowed the adoption of Clodius; who showed more activity in recalling me than in preventing my exile; who took it on him to extend Cæsar’s term of government; who supported all his proceedings while he was away; that he too even in his third consulship, after he had begun to pose as a defender of the constitution, actually exerted himself to get the ten tribunes to propose that absence should not invalidate the election; nay more, he expressly sanctioned this by one of his own acts, and opposed the consul Marcus Marcellus, who proposed that the tenure of the Gallic provinces should come to an end on the 1st of March—but anyhow, to pass over all this, what could be more discreditable, what more blundering, than this evacuation of the city, or I had better say, this ignominious flight? What terms ought not to have been accepted sooner than abandon our country? The terms were bad? That I allow; but is anything worse than this? But he will win back the constitution? When? What preparations have been made to warrant such a hope? Have we not lost all Picenum? have we not left open the road to the capital? have we not abandoned the whole of our treasure, public and private, to the foe? In a word, there is no common cause, no strength, no centre, to draw such people together as might yet care to show fight for the Republic. Apulia has been chosen—the most thinly populated part of Italy, and the most remote from the line of movement of this war: it would seem that in despair they were looking for flight, with some easy access to the coast. I took the charge of Capua much against my will—not that I would evade that duty, but in a cause which evoked no sympathy from any class as a whole, nor any openly even from individuals (there was some of course among the good citizens, but as languid as usual), and where I saw for myself that the mass of the people, and all the lowest stratum, were more and more inclined to the other side, many even longing for a revolution, I told him to his face I would undertake to do nothing without forces and without money. Consequently I have had no responsibility at all, because I saw from the very first that nothing was really intended but flight. Say that I now follow this; then whither? Not with him; I had already set out to join him when I found that Cæsar was in those parts, so that I could not safely reach Luceria. I must sail by the western sea, in the depth of winter, not knowing where to steer for. And again, what about being with my brother, or leaving him and taking my son? How then must I act, since either alternative will involve the greatest difficulty, the greatest mental anxiety? And then, too, what a raid he will make on me and my fortunes when I am out of the way—fiercer than on other people, because he will think perhaps that in outrages on me he holds a means of popularity. Again, these fetters, remember,—I mean these laurels on my attendants’ staves,—how inconvenient it is to take them out of Italy! What place indeed will be safe for me, supposing I now find the sea calm enough, before I have actually joined him? though where that will be and how to get there, I have no notion.  3
  On the other hand, say that I stop where I am and find some place on this side of the water, then my conduct will precisely resemble that of Philippus, or Lucius Flaccus, or Quintus Mucius under Cinna’s reign of terror. And however this decision ended for the last-named, yet still he at any rate used to say that he saw what really did happen would occur, but that it was his deliberate choice in preference to marching sword in hand against the homes of the very city that gave him birth. With Thrasybulus it was otherwise, and perhaps better; but still there is a sound basis for the policy and sentiments of Mucius; as there is also for this [which Philippus did]: to wait for your opportunity when you must, just as much as not to lose your opportunity when it is given. But even in this case, those staves again of my attendants still involve some awkwardness; for say that his feelings are friendly to me (I am not sure that this is so, but let us assume it), then he will offer me a triumph. I fear that to decline may be perilous—[to accept] an offense with all good citizens. Ah, you exclaim, what a difficult, what an insoluble problem! Yet the solution must be found; for what can one do? And lest you should have formed the idea that I am rather inclined towards staying because I have argued more on that side of the question, it is quite possible, as is so frequently the case in debates, that one side has more words, the other more worth. Therefore I should be glad if when you give me your opinion you would look upon me as making up my mind quite dispassionately on a most important question. I have a ship both at Caieta and at Brundisium.  4
  But lo and behold, while I am writing you these very lines by night in my house at Cales, in come the couriers, and here is a letter to say that Cæsar is before Corfinium, and that in Corfinium is Domitius, with an army resolute and even eager for battle. I do not think our chief will go so far as to be guilty of abandoning Domitius, though it is true he had already sent Scipio on before with two cohorts to Brundisium, and written a dispatch to the consuls ordering that the legion enrolled by Faustus should go under the command of one consul to Sicily: but it is a scandal that Domitius should be left to his fate when he is imploring him for help. There is some hope, not in my opinion a very good one, but strong in these parts, that there has been a battle in the Pyrenees between Afranius and Trebonius; that Trebonius has been beaten off; that your friend Fabius also has come over to us with all his troops; and to crown it all, that Afranius is advancing with a strong force. If this be so, we shall perhaps make a stand in Italy. As for me, since Cæsar’s route is uncertain—he is expected about equally by way of Capua and of Luceria—I have sent Lepta to Pompeius with a letter, while I myself, for fear of falling in with him anywhere, have started again for Formiæ. I thought it best to let you know this, and am writing with more composure than I have written of late; not inserting any opinion of my own, but trying to elicit yours.  5

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