24 May 44 BCE: To Atticus (at Rome) from Cicero (at Arpinum)
The Ides of March no longer delight Cicero
On the 24th, at around the 8th hour, a letter-carrier came from Quintus Fufius, with a little note of some sort, asking me to make up with him—written quite witlessly too, as is usual for him, or maybe it’s just that everything done by someone you don’t like seems witless. I replied in a way I think you will approve of.
The same letter-carrier delivered two letters from you, one dated to the 22nd, and the other to the 23rd. I come to your later and lighter letter first. I applaud the legion. If even Carfulenus does so—‘the rivers run backwards.’You tell me that Antony’s plans are chaotic. I do hope that he acts through the people rather than through the Senate! I believe he will, though. But his whole plan seems to me to be aiming for war, if Decimus Brutus’ province is stolen. Whatever I think of his nerve, this doesn’t seem possible without war. But I don’t wish for war, since the Buthrotians are being taken care of. You laugh? But I regret that it will be accomplished through a senatorial decree, rather than through my own constant attention, effort, and influence.
You write that you don’t know what our friends should do, and that puzzle has worried me for some time already. The consolation of the Ides of March is dull now. For we have acted with the courage of men, but, trust me, the planning of children. The tree has been cut down, but not uprooted—and now see how it puts forth shoots. So let us return, as you often say, to the Tusculan Disputations. We should hide this from Saufeius—I shall never betray you.You write that Brutus as asked you to let him know when I shall be at Tusculum; as I wrote to you before, it will be on the 27th, and truly I hope to see you there as soon as possible. For I think we must go to Lanuvium, and not without a long conversation. But we shall deal with it.
I return to your earlier letter. I pass over that first part, about the Buthrotians; that is fixed deep in my heart, so long as, as you write, there is an opportunity to act. You really do go on about Brutus’ speech, when you urge me again, and in so many words. Would you really have me involve myself when he has written on the subject? No meddling could be more insulting. ‘But,’ you say, ‘what about something Herakleidian?’ I don’t object to that at least, but I must put together an argument, and wait for a more appropriate time for writing. For you can think what you like about me—although I would certainly like you to think the best of me)—if things go the way they seem to be going—you must endure what I am about to say—the Ides of March no longer delight me. For he would never have returned, and fear would not have forced us to confirm his acts.Or (and here I join Saufeius and leave behind the Tusculan Disputations, which you encourage Vestorius to read) I was so high in his favour—may the gods damn him, even dead—that, at my age, seeing that killing the master has not made us free, he was not the master to flee from. I am blushing, trust me, but now I have written it, and shall not erase it.
About Menedemus, I wish it had been true. About the Queen, I wish it is true.We shall talk about the rest in person, and most of all about what our friends should do, as well as what I should do if Antony surrounds the Senate with soldiers.
I feared that if I gave this letter to Fufius’ letter-carrier, he would open it, and so I have sent it by special delivery, since I needed to reply to yours.
Read Ad Atticum 15.4 in Latin here | Check the glossary here
The start of Euripides’ Medea line 410 (ἄνω ποταμῶν ἱερῶν χωροῦσι παγαί), used to express the occurrence of the impossible.
Decimus Brutus was governor of Cisalpine Gaul. Cicero worries that war will break out if Antony tries to take over the province before the end of Decimus Brutus’ term there.
The philosophy of the Tusculan Disputations is Stoic. Saufeius and Atticus were both Epicureans.
‘He’ is Caesar. Cicero thinks he would never have returned from his planned Parthian campaign.
‘The Queen’ is Cleopatra.