Antonius wrote a long letter to Hirtius and to Octavius to persuade them that they were acting against their true interests and dignity in combining with the slayers of Julius Caesar against him. But they, instead of answering this letter, sent it to Cicero at Rome. At the same time Lepidus wrote a public letter to the senate to exhort them to measures of peace; and to a reconciliation with Antonius and took no notice of the public honours which had been decreed to him in compliance with Cicero's motion. The senate was much displeased at this. They agreed, however, to a proposal of Servilius—to thank Lepidus for his love of peace, but to desire him to leave that to them, as there could be no peace till Antonius had laid down his arms. But Antonius's friends were encouraged by Lepidus's letter to renew their suggestions of a treaty; which caused Cicero to deliver the following speech to the senate for the purpose of counteracting the influence of their arguments.
From the first beginning, O conscript fathers, of this war which we have undertaken against those impious and wicked citizens, I have been afraid lest the insidious proposals of peace might damp our zeal for the recovery of our liberty. For the name of peace is sweet; and the thing itself not only pleasant but salutary. For a man seems to have no affection either for the private hearths of the citizens, nor for the public laws, nor for the rights of freedom, who is delighted with discord and the slaughter of his fellow-citizens, and with civil war; and such a man I think ought to be erased from the catalogue of men, and exterminated from all human society. Therefore, if Sulla, or Marius, or both of them, or Octavius, or Cinna, or Sulla for the second time, or the other Marius and Carbo, or if any one else has ever wished for civil war, I think that man a citizen born for the detestation of the republic. For why should I speak of the last man who stirred up such a war; a man whose acts, indeed, we defend, while we admit that the author of them was deservedly slain? Nothing, then, is more infamous than such a citizen or such a man; if indeed he deserves to he considered either a citizen or a man, who is desirous of civil war.
But the first thing that we have to consider, O conscript fathers, is whether peace can exist with all men, or whether there be any war incapable of reconciliation, in which any agreement of peace is only a covenant of slavery. Whether Sulla was making peace with Scipio, or whether he was only pretending to do so, there was no reason to despair, if an agreement had been come to, that the city might have been in a tolerable state. If Cinna had been willing to agree with Octavius, the safety of the citizens might still have had an existence in the republic. In the last war, if Pompeius had relaxed somewhat of his dignified firmness, and Caesar a good deal of his ambition, we might have had both a lasting peace, and some considerable remainder of the republic.
But what is the state of things now? Is it possible for there to be peace with Antonius? with Censorinus, and Ventidius, and Trebellius, and Bestia, and Nucula, and Munatius, and Lento, and Saxa? I have just mentioned a few names as a specimen; you yourselves see the countless numbers and savage nature of the rest of the host,. Add, besides the wrecks of Caesar's party, the Barbae Cassii, the Barbatii, the Pollios; add the companions and fellow-gamblers of Antonius, Eutrapelus, and Mela, and Caelius, and Pontius, and Crassicius, and Tiro, and Mustela, and Petissius; I say nothing of the main body, I am only naming the leaders. To these are added the legionaries of the Alauda and the rest of the veterans, the seminary of the judges of the third decury; who, having exhausted their own estates, and squandered all the fruits of Caesar's kindness, have now set their hearts on our fortunes. Oh that trustworthy right hand of Antonius, with which he has murdered many citizens! Oh that regularly ratified and solemn treaty which we made with the Antonii! Surely if Marcus shall attempt to violate it, the conscientious piety of Lucius will call him back from such wickedness. If there is any room allowed these men in this city, there will be no room for the city itself. Place before your eyes, O conscript fathers, the countenances of those men, and especially the countenances of the Antonii. Mark their gait, their look, their face, their arrogance; mark those friends of theirs who walk by their side, who follow them, who precede them. What breath reeking of wine, what insolence, what threatening language do you not think there will be there? Unless, indeed, the mere fact of peace is to soften, them, and unless you expect that, especially when they come into this assembly, they will salute every one of us kindly, and address us courteously.
Do you not recollect, in the name of the immortal gods! what resolutions you have given utterance to against those men? You have repealed the acts of Marcus Antonius; you have taken down his laws; you have voted that they were carried by violence, and with a disregard of the auspices; you have called out the levies throughout all Italy; you have pronounced that colleague and ally of all wickedness a public enemy. What peace can there be with this man? Even if he were a foreign enemy, still, after such actions as have taken place, it would be scarcely possible, by any means whatever, to have peace. Though seas and mountains, and vast regions lay between you, still you would hate such a man without seeing him. But these men will stick to your eyes, and when they can, to your very throats; for what fences will be strong enough for us to restrain savage beasts?—Oh, but the result of war is uncertain. It is at all events in the power of brave men, such as you ought to be, to display your valour (for certainly brave men can do that), and not to fear the caprice of fortune.
But since it is not only courage but wisdom also which is expected from this order (although these qualities appear scarcely possible to be separated, still let us separate them here), courage bids us fight, inflames our just hatred, urges us to the conflict, summons us to danger. What says wisdom? She uses more cautious counsels, she is provident for the future, she is in every respect more on the defensive. What then does she think? for we must obey her, and we are bound to consider that the best thing which is arranged in the most prudent manner. If she enjoins me to think nothing of more consequence than my life, not to fight at the risk of my life, but to avoid all danger, I will then ask her whether I am also to become a slave when I have obeyed all these injunction? If she says, yes; I for one will not listen to that Wisdom, however learned she may be; but if the answer is, Preserve your life and your safety, Preserve your fortune, “Preserve your estate, still, however, considering all these things of less value than liberty; therefore enjoy these things if you can do so consistently with the freedom of the republic, and do not abandon liberty for them, but sacrifice them for liberty, as proofs of the injury you have sustained;”—then I shall think that I really am listening to the voice of Wisdom, and I will obey her as a god. Therefore, if when we have received those men we can still be free, let us subdue our hatred to them, and endure peace; but if there can be no tranquillity while those men are in safety, then let us rejoice that an opportunity of fighting them is put in our power. For so, either (these men being conquered) we shall enjoy the republic victorious, or, if we be defeated, (but may Jupiter avert that disaster), we shall live, if not with an actual breath, at all events in the renown of our valor.
But Marcus Lepidus, having been a second time styled Imperator, Pontifex Maximus, a man who deserved excellently well of the republic in the last civil war, exhorts us to peace. No one, O conscript fathers, has greater weight with me than Marcus Lepidus, both on account of his personal virtues, and by reason of the dignity of his family. There are also private reasons which influence me, such as great services he has done me, and some kindnesses which I have done him. But the greatest of his services I consider to be his being of such a disposition as he is toward the republic, which has at all times been dearer to me than my life. For when by his influence he inclined Magnus Pompeius, a most admirable young man, the son of one of the greatest of men, to peace, and without arms released the republic from imminent danger of civil war, by so doing he laid me under as great obligations as it was in the power of any man to do. Therefore I proposed to decree to him the most ample honors that were in my power, in which you agreed with me; nor have I ceased both to think and speak in the highest terms of him. The republic has Marcus Lepidus bound to it by many pledges. He is a man of the highest rank, of the greatest honors; he has the most honorable priesthood, and has received numberless distinctions in the city. There are monuments of himself, and of his brother, and of his ancestors; he has a most excellent wife, children such as any man might desire, an ample family estate, untainted with the blood of his fellow-citizens. No citizen has been injured by him; many have been delivered from misery by his kindness and pity. Such a man and such a citizen may indeed err in his opinion, but it is quite impossible for him in inclination to be unfriendly to the republic.
Marcus Lepidus is desirous of peace. He does well especially if he can make such a peace as he made lately, owing to which the republic will behold the son of Cnaeus Pompeius, and will receive him in her bosom and embrace; and will think, that not he alone, but that she also is restored to herself with him. This was the reason why you decreed to him a statue in the rostra with an honorable inscription, and why you voted him a triumph in his absence. For although he had performed great exploits in war, and such as well deserved a triumph, still for that he might not have had that given to him which was not given to Lucius Aemilius, nor to Aemilianus Scipio, nor to the former Africanus, nor to Marius, nor to Pompeius, who had the conduct of greater wars than he had, but because he had put an end to a civil war in perfect silence, the first moment that it was in his power, on that account you conferred on him the greatest honors.
Do you think, then, O Marcus Lepidus, that the Antonii will be to the republic such citizens as she will find Pompeius? In the one there is modesty gravity, moderation, integrity; in them (and when I speak of them I do not mean to omit one of that band of pirates) there is lust and wickedness and savage audacity capable of every crime I entreat of you, O conscript fathers which of you fails to see this which Fortune herself, who is called blind, sees? For, saving the acts of Caesar, which we maintain for the sake of harmony, his own house will be open to Pompeius and he will redeem it for the same sum for which Antonius bought it. Yes, I say the son of Cnaeus Pompeius will buy back his house. O melancholy circumstance! But these things have been already lamented long and bitterly enough. You have voted a sum of money to Cnaeus Pompeius, equal to that which his conquering enemy had appropriated to himself of his father's property in the distribution of his booty. But I claim permission to manage this distribution myself, as due to my connection and intimacy with his father. He will buy back the villas, the houses, and some of the estates in the city which Antonius is in possession of. For, as for the silver plate, the garments, the furniture, and the wine which that glutton has made away with, those things he will lose without forfeiting his equanimity. The Alban and Firmian villas he will recover from Dolabella; the Tusculan villa he will also recover from Antonius. And these Ansers who are joining in the attack on Mutina and in the blockade of Decimus Brutus will be driven from his Falernian villa. There are many others, perhaps, who will be made to disgorge their plunder, but their names escape my memory. I say, too, that those men who are not in the number of our enemies, will be made to restore the possessions of Pompeius to his son for the price at which they bought them. It was the act of a sufficiently rash man, not to say an audacious one, to touch a single particle of that property; but who will have the face to endeavor to retain it, when its most illustrious owner is restored to his country? Will not that man restore his plunder, who, enfolding the patrimony of his master in his embrace, clinging to the treasure like a dragon, the slave of Pompeius, the freedman of Caesar, has seized upon his estates in the Lucanian district? And as for those seven hundred millions of sesterces which you, O conscript fathers, promised to the young man, they will be recovered in such a manner that the son of Cnaeus Pompeius will appear to have been established by you in his patrimony. This is what the senate must do; the Roman people will do the rest with respect to that family which was at one time one of the most honorable it ever saw. In the first place, it will invest him with his father's honor as an augur, for which rank I will nominate him and promote his election, in order that I may restore to the son what I received from the father. Which of these men will the Roman people most willingly sanction as the augur of the all powerful and all great Jupiter, whose interpreters and messengers we have been appointed,—Pompeius or Antonius? It seems indeed, to me, that Fortune has managed this by the divine aid of the immortal gods, that, leaving the acts of Caesar firmly ratified, the son of Cnaeus Pompeius might still be able to recover the dignities and fortunes of his father.
And I think, O conscript fathers, that we ought not to pass over that fact either in silence,—that those illustrious men who are acting as ambassadors, Lucius Paullus, Quintus Thermus, and Caius Fannius, whose inclinations toward the republic you are thoroughly acquainted with, and also with the constancy and firmness of that favorable inclination, report that they turned aside to Marseilles for the purpose of conferring with Pompeius, and that they found him in a disposition very much inclined to go with his troops to Mutina, if he had not been afraid of offending the minds of the veterans. But he is a true son of that father who did quite as many things wisely as he did bravely. Therefore you perceive that his courage was quite ready, and that prudence was not wanting to him.
And this, too, is what Marcus Lepidus ought to take care of,—not to appear to act in any respect with more arrogance than suits his character. For if he alarms us with his army he is forgetting that that army belongs to the senate, and to the Roman people, and to the whole republic, not to himself. “But he has the power to use it as if it were his own.” What then? Does it become virtuous men to do every thing which it is in their power to do? Suppose it to be a base thing? Suppose it to be a mischievous thing? Suppose it be absolutely unlawful to do it?
But what can be more base, or more shameful, or more utterly unbecoming, than to lead an army against the senate, against one's fellow-citizens, against one's country? Or what can deserve greater blame than doing that which is unlawful. But it is not lawful for any one to lead an army against his country? if indeed we say that that is lawful which is permitted by the laws or by the usages and established principles of our ancestors. For it does not follow that whatever a man has power to do is lawful for him to do; nor, if he is not hindered, is he on that account permitted to do so. For to you, O Lepidus, as to your ancestors, your country has given an army to be employed in her cause. With this army you are to repel the enemy, you are to extend the boundaries of the empire, you are to obey the senate and people of Rome, if by any chance they direct you to some other object.
If these are your thoughts, then are you really Marcus Lepidus the Pontifex Maximus, the great-grandson of Marcus Lepidus, Pontifex Maximus, if you judge that every thing is lawful for men to do that they have power to do, then beware lest you seem to prefer acting on precedents set by those who have no connection with you, and these, too, modern precedents, to being guided by the ancient examples in your own family. But if you interpose your authority without having recourse to arms, in that case indeed I praise you more; but beware lest this thing itself be quite unnecessary. For although there is all the authority in you that there ought to be in a man of the highest rank, still the senate itself does not despise itself; nor was it ever more wise, more firm, more courageous. We are all hurried on with the most eager zeal to recover our freedom. Such a general ardor on the part of the senate and people of Rome can not be extinguished by the authority of any one: we hate a man who would extinguish it; we are angry with him, and resist him; our arms can not be wrested from our hands; we are deaf to all signals for retreat, to all recall from the combat. We hope for the happiest success; we will prefer enduring the bitterest disaster to being slaves. Caesar has collected an invincible army. Two perfectly brave consuls are present with their forces. The various and considerable reinforcements of Lucius Plancus, consul elect, are not wanting. The contest is for the safety of Decimus Brutus. One furious gladiator, with a band of most infamous robbers, is waging war against his country, against our household gods, against our altars and our hearths, against four consuls. Shall we yield to him? Shall we listen to the conditions which he proposes? Shall we believe it possible for peace to be made with him?
But there is danger of our being overwhelmed. I have no fear that the man who can not enjoy his own most abundant fortunes, unless all the good men are saved, will betray his own safety. It is nature which first makes good citizens, and then fortune assists them. For it is for the advantage of all good men that the republic should be safe; but that advantage appears more clearly in the case of those who are fortunate. Who is mere fortunate than Lentulus, as I said before, and who is more sensible! The Roman people saw his sorrow and his tears at the Lupercal festival. They saw how miserable, how overwhelmed he was when Antonius placed a diadem on Caesar's head and preferred being his slave to being his colleague. And even if he had been able to abstain from his other crimes and wickednesses, still on account of that one single action I should think him worthy of all punishment. For even if he himself was calculated to be a slave, why should he impose a master on us? And if his childhood had borne the lusts of those men who were tyrants over him, was he on that account to prepare a master and a tyrant to lord it over our children! Therefore since that man was slain, he himself has behaved to all others in the same manner as he wished him to behave to us.
For in what country of barbarians was there ever so foul and cruel a tyrant as Antonius, escorted by the arms of barbarians, has proved in this city? When Caesar was exercising the supreme power, we used to come into the senate, if not with freedom, at all events with safety. But under this arch-pirate (for why should I say tyrant?) these benches were occupied by Itureans. On a sudden he hastened to Brundusium, in order to come against this city from thence with a regular army. He deluged Suessa, a most beautiful town, now of municipal citizens, formerly of most honorable colonists, with the blood of the bravest soldiers. At Brundusium he massacred the chosen centurions of the Martial legion in the lap of his wife, who was not only most avaricious but also most cruel. After that with what fury, with what eagerness did he hurry on to the city, that is to say, to the slaughter of every virtuous man! But at that time the immortal gods brought to us a protector whom we had never seen nor expected.
For the incredible and godlike virtue of Caesar checked the cruel and frantic onslaught of that robber, whom then that madman believed that he was injuring with his edicts, ignorant that all the charges which he was falsely alleging against that most righteous young man, were all very appropriate to the recollections of his own childhood. He entered the city, with what an escort, or rather with what a troop! when on the right hand and on the left, amid the groans of the Roman people, he was threatening the owners of property, taking notes of the houses, and openly promising to divide the city among his followers. He returned to his soldiers; then came that mischievous assembly at Tibur. From thence he hurried to the city; the senate was convened at the Capitol. A decree with the authority of the consuls was prepared for proscribing the young man; when all on a sudden (for he was aware that the Martial legion had encamped at Alba) news is brought him of the proceedings of the fourth legion.
Alarmed at that, he abandoned his intention of submitting a motion to the senate respecting Caesar. He departed not by the regular roads, but by the by-lanes, in the robe of a general; and on that very self-same day he trumped up a countless number of resolutions of the senate; all of which he published even before they were drawn up. From thence it was not a journey, but a race and flight into Gaul. He thought that Caesar was pursuing him with the fourth legion, with the Martial legion, with the veterans, whose very name he could not endure for fright. Then, as he was making his way into Gaul, Decimus Brutus opposed him; who preferred being himself surrounded by the waves of the whole war, to allowing him either to retreat or advance; and who put Mutina on him as a sort of bridle to his exultation. And when he had blockaded that city with his works and fortifications, and when the dignity of a most flourishing colony, and the majesty of a consul elect, were both insufficient to deter him from his parricidal treason, then (I call you, and the Roman people, and all the gods who preside over this city, to witness), against my will, and in spite of my resistance and remonstrance, three ambassadors of consular rank were sent to that robber, to that leader of gladiators, Marcus Antonius.
Who ever was such a barbarian? Who was ever so savage? so brutal? He would not listen to them; he gave them no answer; and he not only despised and showed that he considered of no importance those men who were with him, but still more us, by whom these men had been sent. And afterward what wickedness, or what crime was there which that traitor abstained from? He blockaded your colonists, and the army of the Roman people, and your general, and your consul elect. He lays waste the lands of a nation of most excellent citizens. Like a most inhuman enemy he threatens all virtuous men with crosses and tortures.
Now what peace, O Marcus Lepidus, can exist with this man? when it does not seem that there is even any punishment which the Roman people can think adequate to his crimes?
But if any one has hitherto been able to doubt the fact, that there can be nothing whatever in common between this order and the Roman people and that most detestable beast, let him at least cease to entertain such a doubt, when he becomes acquainted with this letter which I have just received, it having been sent to me by Hirtius the consul. While I read it, and while I briefly discuss each paragraph, I beg, O conscript fathers, that you will listen to me most attentively, as you have hitherto done.
“Antonius to Hirtius and Caesar.”
He does not call himself imperator, nor Hirtius consul, nor Caesar propraetor. This is cunningly done enough. He preferred laying aside a title to which he had no right himself, to giving them their proper style.
“When I heard of the death of Caius Trebonius, I was not more rejoiced than grieved.”
Take notice why he says he rejoiced, why he says that he was grieved; and then you will be more easily able to decide the question of peace.
“It was a matter of proper rejoicing that a wicked man had paid the penalty due to the bones and ashes of a most illustrious man, and that the divine power of the gods had shown itself before the end of the current year, by showing the chastisement of that parricide already inflicted in some cases, and impending in others.”
O you Spartacus! for what name is more fit for you? you whose abominable wickedness is such as to make even Catiline seem tolerable. Have you dared to write that it is a matter of rejoicing that Trebonius has suffered punishment? that Trebonius was wicked? What was his crime, except that on the ides of March he withdrew you from the destruction which you had deserved? Come; you rejoice at this; let us see what it is that excites your indignation.
“That Dolabella should at this time have been pronounced a public enemy because he has slain an assassin; and that the son of a buffoon should appear dearer to the Roman people than Caius Caesar, the father of his country, are circumstances to be lamented.”
Why should you be sad because Dolabella has been pronounced a public enemy? Why? Are you not aware that you yourself—by the fact of an enlistment having taken place all over Italy, and of the consuls being sent forth to war, and of Caesar having received great honors, and of the garb of war having been assumed—have also been pronounced an enemy? And what reason is there, O you wicked man, for lamenting that Dolabella has been declared an enemy by the senate? a body which you indeed think of no consequence at all; but you make it your main object in waging war utterly to destroy the senate, and to make all the rest of those who are either virtuous or wealthy follow the fate of the highest order of all. But he calls him the son of a buffoon. As if that noble Roman knight the father of Trebonius were unknown to us. And does he venture to look down on any one because of the meanness of his birth, when he has himself children by Fadia?
“But it is the bitterest thing of all that you, O Aulus. Hirtius, who have been distinguished by Caesar's kindness, and who have been left by him in a condition which you yourself marvel at. ---”
I can not indeed deny that Aulus Hirtius was distinguished by Caesar, but such distinctions are only of value when conferred on virtue and industry. But you, who can not deny that you also were distinguished by Caesar, what would you have been if he had not showered so many kindnesses on you? Where would your own good qualities have borne you? Where would your birth have conducted you? You would have spent the whole period of your manhood in brothels, and cook-shops and in gambling and drinking, as you used to do when you were always burying your brains and your beard in the laps of actresses.
“And you too, O boy—”
He calls him a boy whom he has not only experienced and shall again experience to be a man, but one of the bravest of men. It is indeed the name appropriate to his age; but he is the last man in the world who ought to use it, when it is his own madness that has opened to this boy the path to glory.
“You who owe every thing to his name—”
He does indeed owe every thing, and nobly is he paying it. For if he was the father of his country, as you call him (I will see hereafter what my opinion of that matter is, why is not this youth still more truly our father, to whom it certainly is owing that we are now enjoying life, saved out of your most guilty hands?
“Are taking pains to have Dolabella legally condemned.”
A base action, truly! by which the authority of this most honorable order is defended against the insanity of a most in' human gladiator.
“And to effect the release of this poisoner from blockade.” Do you dare to call that man a poisoner who has found a remedy against your own poisoning tricks? and whom you are besieging in such a manner, O you new Hannibal (or if there was ever any abler general than he), as to blockade yourself, and to be unable to extricate yourself from your present position, should you be ever so desirous to do so? Suppose you retreat; they will all pursue you from all sides. Suppose you stay where you are; you will be caught. You are very right, certainly, to call him a poisoner, by whom you see that your present disastrous condition has been brought about.
“In order that Cassius and Brutus may become as powerful as possible.”
Would you suppose that he is speaking of Censorinus, or of Ventidius, or of the Antonii themselves? But why should they be unwilling that those men should become powerful, who are not only most excellent and nobly born men, but who are also united with them in the defense of the republic?
“In fact, you look upon the existing circumstances as you did on the former ones.”
What can he mean?
“You used to call the camp of Pompeius the senate.”
Should we rather call your camp the senate? In which you are the only man of consular rank, you whose whole consulship is effaced from every monument and register; and two praetors, who are afraid that they will lose something by us,—a groundless fear. For we are maintaining all the grants made by Caesar; and men of praetorian rank, Philadelphus Annius, and that innocent Gallius; and men of aedilitian rank, he on whom I have spent so much of my lungs and voice, Bestia, and that patron of good faith and cheater of his creditors, Trebellius, and that bankrupt and ruined man Quintus Caelius, and that support of the friends of Antonius Cotyla Varius, whom Antonius for his amusement caused at a banquet to be flogged with thongs by the public slaves: Men of septemviral rank, Lento and Nucula, and then that delight and darling of the Roman people, Lucius Antonius. And for tribunes, first of all two tribunes elect, Tullus Hostilius, who was so full of his privileges as to write up his name on the gate of Rome; and who, when he found himself unable to betray his general, deserted him. The other tribune elect is a man of the name of Viscius; I know nothing about him; but I hear that he is (as they say) a bold robber; who, however, they say was once a bathing-man at Pisaurum, and a very good hand at mixing the water. Then there are others too, of tribunitian rank: in the first place, Titus Plancus; a man who, if he had had any affection for the senate, would never have burned the senate-house. Having been condemned for which wickedness, he returned to that city by force of arms from which he was driven by the power of the law. But, however, this is a case common to him and to many others who are very unlike him. But this is quite true which men are in the habit of saying of this. Plancus in a proverbial way, that it is quite impossible for him to die unless his legs are broken.[*](That is, without being crucified as a slave.) They are broken, and still he lives. But this, like many others, is a service that has been done us by Aquila.
There is also in that camp Decius, descended, as I believe, from the great Decius Mus; accordingly he gained[*](The Latin here is Itaque Caesaris munera rosit,—playing on the name mus, mouse; but Orellius thinks the whole passage corrupt, and indeed there is evident corruption in the text here in many places.) the gifts of Caesar. And so after a long interval the recollection of the Decii is renewed by this illustrious man. And how can I pass over Saxa Decidius, a fellow imported from the most distant nations, in order that we might see that man tribune of the people whom we had never beheld as a citizen? There is also one of the Sasernae; but all of them have such a resemblance to one another, that I may make a mistake as to their first names. Nor must I omit Exitius, the brother of Philadelphus the quaestor; lest, if I were to be silent about that most illustrious young man, I should seem to be envying Antonius. There is also a gentleman of the name of Asinius, a voluntary senator, having been elected by himself. He saw the senate-house open after the death of Caesar, he changed his shoes, and in a moment became a conscript father. Sextus Albedius I do not know, but still I have not fallen in with any one so fond of evil-speaking, as to deny that he is worthy of a place in the senate of Antonius.
I dare say that I have passed over some names; but still I could not refrain from mentioning those who did occur to me. Relying then on this senate, he looks down on the senate which supported Pompeius, in which ten of us were men of consular rank; and if they were all alive now this war would never have arisen at all. Audacity would have succumbed to authority. But what great protection there would have been in the rest may be understood from this, that I, when left alone of all that band, with your assistance crushed and broke the audacity of that triumphant robber.
But if Fortune had not taken from us not only Servius Sulpicius, and before him, his colleague Marcus Marcellus,—what citizens! What men! If the republic had been able to retain the two consuls, men most devoted to their country, who were driven together out of Italy; and Lucius Afranius, that consummate general; and Publius Lentulus, a citizen who displayed his extraordinary virtue on other occasions, and especially in the securing my safe return; and Bibulus, whose constant and firm attachment to the republic has at all times been deservedly praised; and Lucius Domitius, that most excellent citizen; and Appius Claudius, a man equally distinguished for nobleness of birth and for attachment to the state; and Publius Scipio, a most illustrious man, closely resembling his ancestors. Certainly with these men of consular rank,[*](He means Lucius Aemilius Paullus, and Caius Claudius Marcellus, who were consuls the year after Servius Sulpicius and Marcus Claudius Marcellus, A.U.C. 704.) the senate which supported Pompeius was not to be despised.
Which, then, was more just, which was more advantageous for the republic, that Cnaeus Pompeius, or that Antonius the brother who bought all Pompeius's property, should live? And then what men of praetorian rank were with us! the chief of whom was Marcus Cato, being indeed the chief man of any nation in the world for virtue. Why need I speak of the other most illustrious men? you know them all. I am more afraid lest you should think me tedious for enumerating so many, than ungrateful for passing over any one. And what men of aedilitian rank! and of tribunitian rank! and of quaestorian rank! Why need I make a long story of it? so great was the dignity of the senators of our party, so great too were their numbers, that those men have need of some very valid excuse who did not join that camp. Now listen to the rest of the letter.
“You have the defeated Cicero for your general.”
I am the more glad to hear that word “general,” because he certainly uses it against his will; for as for his saying “defeated,” I do not mind that; for it is my fate that I can neither be victorious nor defeated without the republic being so at the same time.
“You are fortifying Macedonia with armies.”
Yes, indeed, and we have wrested one from your brother, who does not in the least degenerate from you.
“You have entrusted Africa to Varus, who has been twice taken prisoner.”
Here he thinks that he is making out a case against his own brother Lucius.
“You have sent Capius into Syria.”
Do you not see then, O Antonius, that the whole would is open to our party, but that you have no spot, out of your own fortifications, where you can set your foot?
“You have allowed Casca to discharge the office of tribune.” What then? Were we to remove a man, as if he had been Marallus[*](These two were tribunes of the people, who had been dispossessed of their offices by Julius Caesar.) or Caesetius, to whom we own it, that this and many other things like this can never happen for the future? “You have taken away from the Luperci the revenues which Julius Caesar assigned to them.”
Does he dare to make mention of the Luperci? Does her not shudder at the recollection of that day on which, smelling of wine, reeking with perfumes, and naked, he dared to exhort the indignant Roman people to embrace slavery?
“You, by a resolution of the senate, have removed the colonies of the veterans which had been legally settled.”
Have we removed them, or have we rather ratified a law which was passed in the comitia centuriata? See, rather, whether it is not you who have ruined these veterans (those at least who are ruined), and settled them in a place from which they themselves now feel that they shall never he able to make their escape.
“You are promising to restore to the people of Marseilles what has been taken from them by the laws of war.”
I am not going to discuss the laws of war. It is a discussion far more easy to begin than necessary. But take notice of this, O conscript fathers, what a born enemy to the republic Antonius is, who is so violent in his hatred of that city which he knows to have been at all times most firmly attached to this republic.
“[Do you not know] that no one of the party of Pompeius, who is still alive, can, by the Hirtian law, possess any rank?”
What, I should like to know, is the object of now making mention of the Hirtian law?—a law of which I believe the framer himself repents no less than those against whom it was passed. According to my opinion, it is utterly wrong to call it a law at all; and, even if it be a law, we ought not to think it a law of Hirtius.
“You have furnished Brutus with money belonging to Apuleius.”
Well? Suppose the republic had furnished that excellent man with all its treasures and resources, what good man would have disapproved of it? For without money he could not have supported an army, nor without an army could he have taken your brother prisoner.
“You have praised the execution of Paetus and Menedemus, men who had been presented with the freedom of the city, and who were united by ties of hospitality to Caesar.”
We do not praise what we have never even heard of; we were very likely, in such a state of confusion and such a critical period of the republic, to busy our minds about two worthless Greeklings!
“You took no notice of Theopompus having been stripped, and driven out by Trebonius, and compelled to flee to Alexandria.”
The senate has indeed been very guilty! We have taken no notice of that great man Theopompus! Why, who on earth knows or cares where he is, or what he is doing; or, indeed, whether he is alive or dead?
“You endure the sight of Sergius. Galba in your camp, armed with the same dagger with which he slew Caesar.”
I shall make you no reply at all about Galba; a most gallant and courageous citizen. He will meet you face to face; and he being present, and that dagger which you reproach him with, shall give you your answer.
“You have enlisted my soldiers, and many veterans, under the pretense of intending the destruction of those men who slew Caesar; and then, when they expected no such step, you have led them on to attack their quaestor, their general, and their former comrades!”
No doubt we deceived them; we humbugged them completely! no doubt the Martial legion, the fourth legion, and the veterans had no idea what was going on! They were not following the authority of the senate, or the liberty of the Roman people.—They were anxious to avenge the death of Caesar, which they all regarded as an act of destiny! No doubt you were the person whom they were anxious to see safe, and happy, and flourishing!
Oh miserable man, not only in fact, but also in the circumstance of not perceiving yourself how miserable you are! But listen to the most serious charge of all. “In fact, what have you not sanctioned,—what have you not done? what would be done if he were to come to life again, by?—”
By whom? For I suppose he means to bring forward some instance of a very wicked man. “Cnaeus Pompeius himself?”
Oh how base must we be, if indeed we have been imitating Cnaeus Pompeius! “Or his son, if he could be at home?”
He soon will be at home, believe me; for in a very few days he will enter on his home, and on his father's villas. “Lastly, you declare that peace can not be made unless I either allow Brutus to quit Mutina, or supply him with corn.”
It is others who say that: I say, that even if you were to do so, there never could be peace between this city and you. “What? is this the opinion of those veteran soldiers, to whom as yet either course is open?”
I do not see that there is any course so open to them, as now to begin and attack that general whom they previously were so zealous and unanimous in defending.[*](There is some difficulty here, Many editors propose to read offenderint, which Orellius thinks would hardly be Latin. He says, “Antonius is here speaking of those veterans who had deserted him indeed, but who, at the time of his writing this letter, had not acted against him.” Therefore, he says it is open to them to become reconciled to him again (wishing to conciliate them, and to alarm his enemies). On the other hand, Cicero replies, Nothing is so open to them now as to do what their duty to the republic requires. That is to say, openly to attack you, whose party they have already abandoned.) “Since you yourselves have sold yourselves for flatteries and poisoned gifts.”
Are those men depraved and corrupted, who have been persuaded to pursue a most detestable enemy with most righteous war? “But you say, you are bringing assistance to troops who are hemmed in. I have no objection to their being saved, and departing wherever you wish, if they only allow that man to be put to death who has deserved it.”
How very kind of him! The soldiers availing themselves of the liberality of Antonius have deserted their general, and have fled in alarm to his enemy; and if it had not been for them, Dolabella, in offering the sacrifice which he did to the shade of his general, would not have been beforehand with Antonius in propitiating the spirit of his colleague by a similar offering.
“You write me word that there has been mention of peace made in the senate, and that five ambassadors of consular rank have been appointed. It is hard to believe that those men, who drove me in haste from the city, when I offered the fairest conditions, and when I was even thinking of relaxing somewhat of them, should now think of acting with moderation or humanity. And it is hardly probable, that those men who have pronounced Dolabella a public enemy for a most righteous action, should bring themselves to spare us who are influenced by the same sentiments as he.”
Does it appear a trifling matter, that he confesses himself a partner with Dolabella in all his atrocities? Do you not see that all these crimes flow from one source? He himself confesses, shrewdly and correctly enough, that those who have pronounced Dolabella a public enemy for a most righteous action (for so it appeal's to Antonius), can not possibly spare him who agrees with Dolabella in opinion.
What can you do with a man who puts on paper and records the fact, that his agreement with Dolabella is so complete, that he would kill Trebonius, and, if he could, Brutus and Cassius too with every circumstance of torture; and inflict the same punishment on us also? Certainly, a man who makes so pious and fair a treaty is a citizen to be taken care of! He also complains that the conditions which he offered, those reasonable and modest conditions, were rejected; namely, that he was to have the farther Gaul,—the province the most suitable of all for renewing and carrying on the war; that the legionaries of the Alauda should be judges in the third decury; that is to say, that there shall be an asylum for all crimes, to the indelible disgrace of the republic; that his own acts should be ratified, his,—when not one trace of his consulship has been allowed to remain! He showed his regard also for the interests of Lucius Antonius, who had been a most equitable surveyor of private and public domains, with Nucula and Lento for his colleagues. “Consider then, both of you, whether it is more becoming and more advantageous for your party, for you to seek to avenge the death of Trebonius, or that of Caesar; and whether it is more reasonable for you and me to meet in battle, in order that the cause of the Pompeians, which has so frequently had its throat cut, may the more easily revive; or to agree together, so as not to be a laughing-stock to our enemies.”
If its throat had been cut, it never could revive. “Which,” says he, “is more becoming.” In this war he talks of what is becoming! “And more advantageous for your party.”—“Parties,” you senseless man, is a suitable expression for the forum, or the senate house. You have declared a wicked war against your country; you are attacking Mutina; you are besieging the consul elect; two consuls are carrying on war against you; and with them, Caesar, the propraetor; all Italy is armed against you; and then do you call yours “a party,” instead of a revolt from the republic? “To seek to avenge the death of Trebonius, or that of Caesar.” We have avenged Trebonius sufficiently by pronouncing Dolabella a public enemy. The death of Caesar is best defended by oblivion and silence. But take notice what his object is.—When he thinks that the death of Caesar ought to be revenged, he is threatening with death, not those only who perpetrated that action, but those also who were not indignant at it.
“Men who will count the destruction of either you or me gain to them. A spectacle which as yet fortune herself has taken care to avoid, unwilling to see two armies which belong to one body fighting, with Cicero acting as master of the show; a fellow who is so far happy that he has cajoled you both with the same compliments as those with which he boasted that he had deceived Caesar.”
He proceeds in his abuse of me, as if he had been very fortunate in all his former reproaches of me; but I will brand him with the most thoroughly deserved marks of infamy, and pillory him for the everlasting recollection of posterity. I a “master of the show of gladiators!” indeed he is not wholly wrong, for I do wish to see the worst party slain, and the best victorious! He writes that “whichever of them are destroyed we shall count as so much gain.” Admirable gain, when, if you, O Antonius, are victorious (may the gods avert such a disaster!) the death of those men who depart from life untortured will be accounted happy! He says that Hirtius and Caesar “have been cajoled by me by the same compliments.” I should like to know what compliment has been as yet paid to Hirtius by me; for still more and greater ones than have been paid him already are due to Caesar. But do you, O Antonius, dare to say that Caesar, the father, was deceived by me! You, it was you, I say, who really slew him at the Lupercal games. Why, O most ungrateful of men, have you abandoned your office of priest to him? But remark now the admirable wisdom and consistency of this great and illustrious man.
“I am quite resolved to brook no insult either to myself or to my friends; nor to desert that party which Pompeius hated, nor to allow the veterans to be removed from their abodes; nor to allow individuals to be dragged out to torture, nor to violate the faith which I pledged to Dolabella.”
I say nothing of the rest of this sentence, “the faith pledged to Dolabella,” to that most holy man, this pious gentleman will by no means violate. What faith? Was it a pledge to murder every virtuous citizen, to partition the city and Italy, to distribute the provinces among, and to hand them over to be plundered by, their followers? For what else was there which could have been ratified by treaty and mutual pledges between Antonius and Dolabella, those foul and parricidal traitors?
“Nor to violate my treaty of alliance with Lepidus, the most conscientious of men.”
You have any alliance with Lepidus or with any (I will not say virtuous citizen, as he is, but with any) man in his senses! Your object is to make Lepidus appear either an impious man, or a madman. But you are doing no good (although it is a hard matter to speak positively of another), especially with a man like Lepidus, whom I will never fear, but I shall hope good things of him unless I am prevented from doing so. Lepidus wished to recall you from your frenzy, not to be the assistant of your insanity. But you seek your friends not only among conscientious men, but among most conscientious men. And you actually, godlike is your piety, invent a new word to express it which has no existence in the Latin language.
“Nor to betray Plancus, the partner of my counsels.)“
Plancus, the partner of your counsels? He, whose ever memorable and divine virtue brings a light to the republic (unless, perhaps, you think that it is as a reinforcement to you that he has come with those most gallant legions, and with a numerous Gallic force of both cavalry and infantry); and who, if before his arrival you have not by your punishment made atonement to the republic for your wickedness, will be chief leader in this war. For although the first succors that arrive are more useful to the republic, yet the last are the more acceptable.