Cicero, Marcus Tullius

Cicero. The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, Vol. 4. Yonge, Charles Duke, translator. London: Bell, 1856.

However, at last he recollects himself and begins to philosophize.

“If the immortal gods assist me, as I trust that they will, going on my way with proper feelings, I shall live happily; but if another fate awaits me, I have already a foretaste of joy in the certainty of your punishment. For if the Pompeians when defeated are so insolent, you will be sure to experience what they will be when victorious.”

You are very welcome to your foretaste of joy. For you are at war not only with the Pompeians, but with the entire republic. Every one, gods and men, the highest rank, the middle class, the lowest dregs of the people, citizens and foreigners, men and women, free men and slaves, all hate you. We saw this the other day on some false news that came; but we shall soon see it from the way in which true news is received. And if you ponder these things with yourself a little, you will die with more equanimity, and greater comfort.

“Lastly, this is the sum of my opinion and determination; I will bear with the insults offered me by my friends, if they themselves are willing to forget that they have offered them; or if they are prepared to unite with me in avenging Caesar a death.”

Now that they know this resolution of Antonius, do you think that Aulus Hirtius and Caius Pansa, the consuls, can hesitate to pass over to Antonius? to besiege Brutus? to be eager to attack Mutina? Why do I say Hirtius and Pansa? Will Caesar, that young man of singular piety, be able to restrain himself from seeking to avenge the injuries of his father in the blood of Decimus Brutus? Therefore, as soon as they had read his letter, the course which they adopted was to approach nearer to the fortifications. And on this account we ought to consider Caesar a still more admirable young man; and that a still greater kindness of the immortal gods which gave him to the republic, as he has never been misled by the specious use of his father's name; nor by any false idea of piety and affection. He sees clearly that the greatest piety consists in the salvation of one's country. But if it were a contest between parties, the name of which is utterly extinct, then would Antonius and Ventidius be the proper persons to uphold the party of Caesar, rather than in the first place, Caesar, a young man full of the greatest piety and the most affectionate recollection of his parent? and next to him Pansa and Hirtius, who held (if I may use such an expression) the two horns of Caesar, at the time when that deserved to be called a party. But what parties are these, when the one proposes to itself to uphold the authority of the senate, the liberty of the Roman people, and the safety of the republic, while the other fixes its eyes on the slaughter of all good men, and on the partition of the city and of Italy!

Let us come at last to the end.

“I do not believe that ambassadors are coming—”

He knows me well.

“To a place where war exists.”

Especially with the example of Dolabella before our eyes ambassadors, I should think, will have privileges more respected than two consuls against whom he is bearing arms; or than Caesar, whose father's priest he is; or than the consul elect, whom he is attacking; or than Mutina, which he is besieging; or than his country, which he is threatening with fire and sword.

“When they do come I shall see what they demand.

Plagues and tortures seize you! Will any one come to you unless he be a man like Ventidius? We sent men of the very highest character to extinguish the rising conflagration; you rejected them. Shall we now send men when the fire has become so large and has risen to such a height, and when you have left yourself no possible room, not only for peace, but not even for a surrender?

I have read you this letter, O conscript fathers, not because I thought it worth reading, but in order to let you see all his parricidal treasons revealed by his own confessions. Would Marcus Lepidus, that man so richly endowed with all the gifts of virtue and fortune, if he saw this letter, either wish for peace with this man, or even think it possible that peace should be made? “Sooner shall fire and water mingle,” as some poet or other says; sooner shall any thing in the world happen than either the republic become reconciled to the Antonii, or the Antonii to the republic. Those men are monsters, prodigies, portentous pests of the republic. It would be better for this city to be uplifted from its foundations and transported, if such a thing were possible, into other regions, where it should never hear of the actions or the name of the Antonii, than for it to see those men, driven out by the valor of Caesar, and hemmed in by the courage of Brutus, inside these walls. The most desirable thing is victory; the next best thing is to think no disaster too great to bear in defense of the dignity and freedom of one's country. The remaining alternative, I will not call it the third, but the lowest of all, is to undergo the greatest disgrace from a desire of life.

Since, then, this is the case, as to the letters and messages of Marcus Lepidus, that most illustrious man, I agree with Servilius. And I further give my vote, that Magnus Pompeius, the son of Cnaeus, has acted as might have been expected from the affection and zeal of his father and forefathers toward the republic, and from his own previous virtue and industry and loyal principles in promising to the senate and people of Rome his own assistance, and that of those men whom he has with him; and that that conduct of his is grateful and acceptable to the senate and people of Rome, and that it shall tend to his own honor and dignity. This may either be added to the resolution of the senate which is before us, or it may be separated from it and drawn up by itself, so as to let Pompeius be seen to be extolled in a distinct resolution of the senate.