Latin Reading Club (10) - Cicero, Letters to Atticus 4.1.4-5


Cicero describes his return from exile

Nunc etsi omnia aut scripta esse a tuis arbitror aut etiam nuntiis ac rumore perlata, tamen ea scibam brevi quae te puto potissimum ex meis litteris velle cognoscere.

Pr. Nonas Sextilis Dyrrachio sum profectus, ipso illo die quo lex est lata de nobis. Brundisium veni Nonis Sextilibus. Ibi mihi Tulliola mea fuit praesto natali suo ipso die, qui (casu) idem natalis erat et Brundisinae coloniae et tuae vicinae Salutis. Quae res animadversa a multitudine summa Brundisiorum, gratulatione celebrata est. Ante diem III Idus Sextilis cognovi (quom Brundisi essem) litteris Quinti, mirifico studio omnium aetatum atque ordinum, incredibili concursu Italiae, legem comitiis centuriatis esse perlatam.

Inde a Brundisinis honestissime ornatus, iter ita feci ut undique ad me cum gratulatione legati convenerint. Ad urbem ita veni ut nemo ullius ordinis homo nomenclatori notus fuerit qui mihi obviam non venerit (praeter eos inimicos quibus id ipsum--se inimicos esse--non liceret aut dissimulare aut negare. Cum venissem ad portam Capenam, gradus templorum ab infima plebe completi erant. A qua plausu maximo, cum esset mihi gratulatio significata, similis et frequentia et plausus me usque ad Capitolinum celebravit; in foroque et in ipso Capitolio miranda multitudo fuit.

Linked text from perseus (start at [4])
English Translation (start at "For the present")

arbitror - main verb; the surrounding words are part of an accusative w. infinitive clause following this verb. Cicero has a fondness for this construction.
a tuis - construe with nuntiis
potissimum - "chiefly"
Pr. Nonas Sextilis - "The day before the Nones of August" (the month was known as Sextilis until Augustus named it after himself). The Nones fell on the 5th, so this is Aug. 4th.
Dyrrachio - A port town then in Greece (in modern times it is the Albanian city of Durres) and a launching point to cross the Adriatic. Abl. of separation.
Tulliola - Cicero's daughter Tullia; the ola added to the end of her name is called a diminutive. Similar to adding -ito or -ita to a name in Spanish, it is a term of endearment. We know from his letters that Cicero adored his daughter.
Salutis - This is understood to be the Temple of Salus on the Quirinal hill, which must have been founded on this same day and been near Atticus' house in Rome.
Ante diem III Idus Sextilis - August 11th; the manuscripts have VI here, but this would place the arrival of Quintus' letter on Aug. 8th, and four days seems too quick for a letter to arrive from Rome by foot.
quom - archaic form of cum
Brundisi - locative
omnium aetatum atque ordinum - "of all generations and classes"; These words reflect the social divisions at Rome.

iter...feci - "I started my journey"
ut - Throughout this paragraph, take this word to introduce clauses of result, not purpose.
nomenclatori notus - "known to a name-caller"; the nomenclator was a special slave often used by politicians to remind them of important people's names, family, etc. Think of them as a primitive Blackberry or Rolodex.
mihi obviam - "to meet me"
quibus...non liceret...dissimulare aut negare - Characteristic clause, but this is the main point of the parenthetical remark. liceret - "it is allowed" is an impersonal verb that takes the dative of the person granted permission and the infinitive of the act allowed.
portam Capenam - the entrance to Rome along the via Appia.
ab infima plebe - "by the lowly plebs". This is in all manuscripts, but some commentators--unhappy that Cicero would disparage his fellow Romans even while they were congratulating him--emend this to ab infimo plebe - "from the lowest (step of the temples) by the plebs", borrowing gradu from earlier in the sentence.
in foro - The forum lies near the SE foot of the Capitoline hill, so he must pass thru it (probably via the via sacra) to reach the state buildings.

Habete ludum!


O homo modestus!

Vir orare in foro poterat, vel in Senatu, ac multis bene scribere; sed propter suam immodestiam ridiculam, et suos mores pragmaticos in causa, et in rebus publicis, sine principio, se non amare possum.

Erat, in breve, jurisconsultus et "politicus".


Erat, in breve, jurisconsultus et "politicus".
Cicero's letters are fascinating because whoever decided to publish them thought it would be best to lay all the cards on the table. So we see his faults very clearly, in particular the vanity expressed in the above passage. He can't help but add that dig about his enemies being powerless to deny the love of the people.

Without his letters the orations and essays would be our only window into Cicero's mind, and it would be easy then to paint him as an austere statesman. The letters make him far more human for me, and while they do reveal the flaws of a politician, I wonder if any pbulic figure who had his personal correspondence published in full would fare any better.

I think saying he was sine principio is a bit much; he failed to appreciate how broken the Republic was, but he remained committed to it not for personal gain but because he truly believed it was in the best interests of Rome. The same cannot be said for other men of the era; Caesar's compassion for the populus was an exception among dictators or would-be dictators, and as the state fell prey to men like Clodius and Marc Antony, Cicero recognized the danger and did what he could to avert the inevitable. Brutus may have been the "noblest Roman of all"--since he was the only one of the conspirators who did it strictly for love of country, albeiit in vain--but I'd rank Cicero a close second.