Liber Latinus

Latin in translation

Asiatic Speaking Style

A few weeks ago I posted this passage from Petronius’ Satyricon. In it, the character Ganymedes makes reference to an ‘Asiatic’ speaking style, which hardly makes sense without some context and explanation. The relevant sentences are these:

In curia autem quomoda singulos vel pilabat tractabat, nec schemas loquebatur sed derectum. Cum ageret porro in foro, sic illius vox crescebat tanquam tuba. Nec sudavit unquam nec expuit, puto eum nescio quid Asiadis habuisse.

Oh, but how he used to hammer them in the Senate-house, every single one, and never with extravagant figures of speech, always straightforward. Then whenever he used to speak in the forum, how his voice would swell just like a trumpet! Never any sweating or spitting—I guess he had a touch of the Asiatic speaking style.

In Ganymedes’ nostalgia about his friend and orator Safinius, it is not entirely clear what characterises the ‘Asiatic style’, a concept which briefly became relevant during the Golden Age of Latin after being imported from Greek oratory. The style consists of a development from, and is mentioned in contradistinction to, the ‘Attic style’, and is named after the Hellenestic-period orators from Asia Minor with whom it is associated. The Attic style was known for being narrower, more austere, more technical, and more traditional; the newer Asiatic style exhibited more wordplay, emotion, and rhythm. Although we have essentially no examples of the true Asiatic style, the Attic-Asiatic dichotomy in Greek rhetoric was used to describe and assess Latin orators.

The chief Latin sources on these contrasting styles are Cicero’s De Oratore (55) and Orator ad Brutum (46). The following passage from Orator may hint at what Petronius means when he says that Safinius’ voice would ‘swell like a trumpet’, quite apart from volume:

Apud alios autem et Asiaticos maxime numero servientes inculcata reperias inania quaedam verba quasi complementa numerorum…Tertium est, in quo fuerunt fratres illi Asiaticorum rhetorum principes Hierocles et Menecles minime mea sententia contemnendi. Etsi enim a forma veritatis et ab Atticorum regula absunt, tamen hoc vitium compensant vel facultate vel copia. Sed apud eos varietas non erat, quod omnia fere concludebantur uno modo.[1]

Among others, especially the Asiatics, one would, being entirely a slave to rhythm, find whatever words can be stuffed into the empty parts of the sentence as if to fill up the metre…A third fault in composition is to be found in the speeches of those leaders of the Asiatic style, the brothers Hierocles and Menecles, who are by no means contemptible in my view. For although they stray from true form and from the structures of Atticism, nevertheless they compensate this vice by the richness and fertility of their language. But there is no variety in either of them, and they finish all their sentences in nearly the same way.

The passage evinces the fact that ‘Cicero sich niemals zu einer runden Verurteilung der Asianer herbeigelassen.’[2] But Cicero, himself labelled an Asiatic speaker, had every reason to criticise the style: as a contender for the title of ‘Roman Demosthenes’, the second-best orator in history, he had an Attic standard to live up to. One can detect a certain irony in Cicero’s condemnation of concludebantur uno modo when he himself was notorious for ending sentences with esse videatur, so much so that it became a caricature.

The esse videatur ending bears directly on the distinction between the Attic and Asiatic styles. The Asiatic style was associated with the use of a prose rhythm, especially the end of clauses and sentences (clausulae); this is what Cicero alludes to in the excerpt above. The principle of quantitative rhythm operates here in much the same way as metre does in Latin poetry, although orators preferred not to use verse patterns. An effective rhythm could provoke spontaneous applause.[3] The esse videatur ending is a resolved version of (– ∪ – ǀ – ×), giving Cicero an Asiatic flavour not only with respect to his unus modus but also his cadence.

This prose rhythm, then, is perhaps a part of Ganymedes’ trumpet simile: the patterns of a clausula’s cadence in speech of the Asiatic style would have a certain melody about it. And indeed Cicero’s rhythm ‘seems to have become a standard which many authors followed more or less consciously’.[4] In a broader sense, Silver Latin would suggest that there was an ‘Asian victory in the west’[5] and that the Atticist style fell out of favour. We can therefore hardly be surprised that a Silver Age orator such as Safinius (albeit fictional) would be employing such a style.

[1] Cic. Orat. LXIX/230-1
[2] Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, U. v. 1900 ‘Asianismus und Atticismus’ Hermes 1-52, 3
[3] Cic. Or. 214
[4] Powell, J. G. F. 2012 ‘Latin Prose-Rhythm’, in Hornblower, A., Spwaforth, A. and Eidinow, E. (eds.) Oxford Classical Dictionary (4th ed.) 1224
[5] Winterbottom, M. 2012 ‘Asianism and Atticism’ in Hornblower, A., Spwaforth, A. and Eidinow, E. (eds.) Oxford Classical Dictionary (4th ed.) 184

Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.692-733

“Praebuimus longis” Pentheus “ambagibus aures”
inquit “ut ira mora vires absumere posset.
Praecipitem famuli rapite hunc cruciataque diris
corpora tormentis Stygiae demittite nocti.”
Protinus abstractus solidis Tyrrhenus Acoetes
clauditur in tectis; et dum crudelia iussae
instrumenta necis ferrumque ignesque parantur,
sponte sua patuisse fores lapsasque lacertis
sponte sua fama est nullo solvente catenas.

Perstat Echionides. Nec iam iubet ire, sed ipse
vadit, ubi electus facienda ad sacra Cithaeron
cantibus et clara bacchantum voce sonabat.
Ut fremit acer equus, cum bellicus aere canoro
signa dedit tubicen, pugnaeque adsumit amorem,
Penthea sic ictus longis ululatibus aether
movit, et audito clamore recanduit ira.

Monte fere medio est, cingentibus ultima silvis,
purus ab arboribus, spectabilis undique campus.
Hic oculis illum cernentem sacra profanis
prima videt, prima est insano concita cursu,
prima suum misso violavit Penthea thyrso
mater. “Io, geminae” clamavit “adeste sorores!
ille aper, in nostris errat qui maximus agris,
ille mihi feriendus aper.” Ruit omnis in unum
turba furens; cunctae coeunt trepidumque sequuntur,
iam trepidum, iam verba minus violenta loquentem,
iam se damnantem, iam se peccasse fatentem.

Saucius ille tamen “fer opem, matertera” dixit
“Autonoe! moveant animos Actaeonis umbrae.”
Illa, quis Actaeon, nescit dextramque precantis
abstulit: Inoo lacerata est altera raptu.
Non habet infelix quae matri bracchia tendat,
trunca sed ostendens deiectis vulnera membris
“adspice, mater!” ait. Visis ululavit Agaue
collaque iactavit movitque per aera crinem
avulsumque caput digitis complexa cruentis
clamat “io comites, opus haec victoria nostrum est!”
Non citius frondes autumni frigore tactas
iamque male haerentes alta rapit arbore ventus,
quam sunt membra viri manibus direpta nefandis.
Talibus exemplis monitae nova sacra frequentant
turaque dant sanctasque colunt Ismenides aras.

Then Pentheus said: “We have lent our ears to these rambling stories, such that anger can take away its strength by delay. Snatch this man right away, slaves, and send him down to the Stygian night after racking his body with terrible torture!” At once, Acoetes the Tyrian was dragged out and shut away in a dungeon. And while they were preparing the cruel instruments of death, the sword and the fire, as instructed, all by themselves, the doors opened up; and all by themselves, the chains, so they say, fell away from the prisoner’s arms, without anyone unfettering them.

Pentheus persists, and does not order anyone to go, but he himself proceeds himself to where Cithaeron, chosen for the performance of sacral rites, was resounding with songs and the bright voices of worshippers. As a keen horse snorts when the trumpeter of war gives the signal with resounding brass, and he takes eagerness for battle, so the air, stung by long cries, stirred Pentheus, and his anger glowed white as he heard the uproar.

In the middle of the wild mountain, bordered by forests, there a plain which is free from trees, in view from every side. Here, as Pentheus was spying on the sacral rites with blasphemous eyes, his mother was the first to see him, the first to be roused onto him in a mad rush, the first to violate her own Pentheus with a hurled staff. “O, twin sisters,” he cried, “come! There is a huge boar, wandering through our fields—that boar I must strike.” The whole raging throng rush upon him alone; from all sides the women mass together to persue the anxious man—anxious now, and now speaking less vehement words, now condemning himself and confessing that he has done wrong.

Wounded, he nonetheless says: “Bring help, aunt Autonoë! May the ghost of Actaeon move your heart.” She does not know who Actaeon is, and tears his right arm from him as he begs her: the other arm is mutilated by Ino’s snatching. The wretched man has no arms to reach out to his mother, but he says “look, mother!” showing the mangled wounds where his limbs were torn away. “Mother, see!” he says. On seeing them, Agave howls and tosses head and shakes her hair and, grasping his head in the bloodied fingers which tear it off, she cries: “O companions, my deed is our victory!” No more quickly than how leaves on lofty trees, touched by autumn cold and now slightly clinging, are snatched by the wind, are the man’s limbs rent by those impious hands.

Warned by such an examples, the Theban women celebrate the new rites and burn incense and keep sacred altars.

Petronius Satyricon 44f

Dixit illa Ganymedes: “narratis quod nec ad caelum nec ad terram pertinet, cum interim nemo curat, quid annona mordet. Non me hercules hodie buccam panis invenire potui. Et quomodo siccitas perseverat. Iam annum esuritio fuit. Aediles male eveniat, qui cum pistoribus colludunt ‘Serva me, servabo te.’ Itaque populus minutus laborat; nam isti maiores maxillae semper Saturnalia agunt. O si haberemus illos leones, quos ego hic inveni, cum primum ex Asia veni. Illud erat vivere. Simila si siligine inferior esset, laruas sic istos percolopabant, ut illis Iupiter iratus esset. Sed memini Safinium: tunc habitabat ad arcum veterem, me puero, piper, non homo. Is quacunque ibat, terram adurebat. Sed rectus, sed certus, amicus amico, cum quo audacter posses intenebris micare. In curia autem quomoda singulos vel pilabat tractabat, nec schemas loquebatur sed derectum. Cum ageret porro in foro, sic illius vox crescebat tanquam tuba. Nec sudavit unquam nec expuit, puto eum nescio quid Asiadis habuisse. Et quam benignus resalutare, nomina omnium reddere, tanquam unus de nobis. Itaque illo tempore annona pro luto erat, Asse panem quem emisses, non potuisses cum altera devorare. Nunc oculum bublum vidi maiorem. Heu heu, quotidie peius. Haec colonia retroversus crescit tanquam coda vituli. Sed quare nos habemus aedilem trium cauniarum, qui sibi mavult assem quam vitam nostram? Itaque domi gaudet, plus in die nummorum accipit, quam alter patrimonium habet. Iam scio, unde acceperit denarios mille aureos. Sed si nos coleos haberemus, non tantum sibi placeret. Nunc populus est domi leones, foras vulpes. Quod ad me attinet, iam pannos meos comedi, et si perseverat haec annona, casulas meas vendam. Quid enim futurum est, si nec dii nec homines huius coloniae miserentur? Ita meos fruniscar, ut ego puto omnia illa a diibus fieri. Nemo enim caelum caelum putat, nemo ieiunium servat, nemo Iovem pili facit, sed omnes opertis oculis bona sua computant. Antea stolatae ibant nudis pedibus in clivum, passis capillis, mentibus puris, et Iovem aquam exorabant. Itaque statim urceatim plovebat: aut tune aut nunquam: et omnes redibant udi tanquam mures. Itaque dii pedes lanatos habent, quia nos religiosi non sumus. Agri iacent—”.

“Oro te” inquit Echion centonarius “melius loquere. ‘Modo sic, modo sic’ inquit rusticus; varium porcum perdiderat. Quod hodie non est, eras erit: sic vita truditur.”

And Ganymedes said: “You go on talking about things that matter not to heaven or earth, and all the while, nobody cares about cost of living pressures! God, I can’t even get a mouthful of bread these days. Oh, and how the drought goes on. There’s been famine for a year now. Damn the politicians, they’re in the pocket of the bakers. ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’, and ordinary folk come off worse. Because the jaws of the upper classes are always holding some carnival. I only wish I had the sort of money I found here when I first come out from Asia! That was the life. If the flour was at all inferior, they beat up those ghosts to put the fear of God in them. I remember Safinius, he used to live by the old arch back when I was a boy. More of a peppercorn than a person, he used to scorch the ground wherever he went! But he was an honest guy, truthful, a good friend. You wouldn’t be afraid to play scissors-paper-rock with him in the dark. Oh, but how he used to hammer them in the Senate-house, every single one, and never with extravagant figures of speech, always straightforward. Then whenever he used to speak in the forum, how his voice would swell just like a trumpet! Never any sweating or spitting—I guess he had a touch of the Asiatic speaking style. And how kindly he would greet you in return and reply to you with your name, rather like one of us would. So at that time the cost of living was dirt-cheap. You could buy a loaf of bread for a dollar, and when you ate it, you couldn’t get through it even together with your better half! Nowadays I see bulls’ eyes bigger than a loaf of bread. My, my, things are just getting worse every day. This town is going downhill like a heifer’s tail! And then why do we have a three-fig aedile who cares more for a penny than our lives? Why, he just sits grinning at home, raking in more money in a day than others get in an inheritance. I happen to know where he got a thousand in gold. If we had balls, he wouldn’t be so pleased with himself. Nowadays people are lions indoors and foxes in public. As for me, I’ve already had to sell all my rags just to feed myself, and if the cost of living stays as it is, I’ll have to sell my little cottages. Whatever will happen if neither gods nor men take pity on this town? As I may be happy with my kids, I think all these things come from the gods. Because nobody believes that heaven is really heaven, nobody observes fasts, nobody cares a trifle for Jupiter, but everyone just sits there counting their own goods. Back in the day, matrons would go up the hill in bare feet, loose hair, pure hearts, and would pray to Jupiter for rain. And what do you know, it starts raining by the bucketful at once, then or never, and they would all come back wet as drowned rats. Well that’s why the gods have stuffed their ears now, we’ve gotten unreligious. And the fields lie barren—”

“Oh please, don’t be so gloomy,” said Echion, the clothes dealer. “There’s ups and there’s downs, as the old peasant said when he sold his spotted pig. What we don’t have today, we’ll have tomorrow: so we trudge through life.”

Aetna 43-64

temptauere (nefas) olim detrudere mundo
sidera captiuique Iouis transferre gigantes
imperium et uicto leges inponere caelo.
his natura sua est aluo tenus: ima per orbes
squameus intortos sinuat uestigia serpens.
construitur magnis ad proelia montibus agger,
Pelion Ossa premit, summus premit Ossan Olympus.
iam coaceruatas nituntur scandere moles,
impius et miles metuentia comminus astra
prouocat, infestus cunctos ad proelia diuos
prouocat admotis per inertia sidera signis.
Iuppiter et caelo metuit dextramque coruscam
armatus flamma remouet caligine mundum.
incursant uasto primum clamore gigantes.
hinc magno tonat ore pater geminantque fauentes
undique discordi sonitum simul agmine uenti;
densa per attonitas rumpuntur fulmina nubes,
atque in bellandum quae cuique potentia diuum
in commune uenit; iam patri dextera Pallas
et Mars laeuus erat, iam cetera turba deorum
stant utrimque tuens; ualidos tum Iuppiter ignis
increpat et uictor proturbat fulmine montes.

The giants — what sacrilege! — once tried to thrust down the stars from the sky,
and to capture Jupiter, transfer his sovereignty,
and to impose their laws on conquered heaven.
Their nature is human, all to the belly; to the bottom, through coils,
a scaly serpent spools spirals of the soles of their feet.
From great mountains, a battle bulwark is heaped;
Ossa presses upon Pelion, Olympus’s summit presses upon Ossa.
They strive now to scale the mounds, heap on heap,
irreverent, challenge the fearful stars to close combat,
deranged, challenge all the gods to pitched battle,
the soldiers moving their battle-standard through ranks of benumbed constellations.
Jupiter fears for heaven,
and takes the sky from sight with fog,
his hand glistering and wielding flame.
The giants begin the assault with a monstrous shout.
Now the father of gods thunders in a deep voice
and all around the warring wind musters,
redoubles the sound at once with its gust.
Thunderbolts flare thick through stricken cloud
and whatever battle-strength any god has,
it comes to them all.
Now at her father’s right was Pallas, Mars at his left;
Now the rest of the gods crowd, standing guard at either side;
Then Jupiter sounds his candescent fire,
the vanquisher kindles lightening at the mountains.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.437–453: non illum Cereris, non illum cura quietis

Non illum Cereris, non illum cura quietis
abstrahere inde potest, sed opaca fusus in herba
spectat inexpleto mendacem lumine formam,
perque oculos perit ipse suos; paulumque levatus
ad circumstantes tendens sua bracchia silvas
“ecquis, io silvae, crudelius” inquit “amavit?
Scitis enim, et multis latebra opportuna fuistis.
Ecquem, cum vestrae tot agantur saecula vitae,
qui sic tabuerit, longo meministis in aevo?
Et placet et video; sed quod videoque placetque,
non tamen invenio: tantus tenet error amantem.
Quoque magis doleam, nec nos mare separat ingens,
nec via nec montes nec clausis moenia portis:
exigua prohibemur aqua. Cupit ipse teneri:
nam quotiens liquidis porreximus oscula lymphis,
hic totiens ad me resupino nititur ore.
Posse putes tangi: minimum est, quod amantibus obstat.
Quisquis es, huc exi! quid me, puer unice, fallis,
quove petitus abis? certe nec forma nec aetas
est mea quam fugias, et amarunt me quoque nymphae.
Spem mihi nescio quam vultu promittis amico,
cumque ego porrexi tibi bracchia, porrigis ultro:
cum risi, adrides; lacrimas quoque saepe notavi
me lacrimante tuas, nutu quoque signa remittis,
et quantum motu formosi suspicor oris,
verba refers aures non pervenientia nostras.

No worry of food or thought can draw him thence, but, stretched out on the shaded grass, he gazes on that false image with insatiable eyes, and through his very own eyes he perishes. Raising himself a little, and stretching his arms to the woods around him, he said: “Did anyone, O woods, love more cruelly than I have? You would know, for you have been a fitting hiding-place for many. Do you remember, in ages past—for you have lived a life of so many centuries—remember anyone who wasted away like this? He pleases me and I see, but what I see and what pleases me, I cannot find: such a delusion holds the beloved. And my sorrow is all the more that there is no mighty ocean which separates us, no long road, no mountain ranges, no city walls with their gates shut; we are just kept apart by a bit of water. He longs to be embraced. For as often as I stretch my lips to the clear waters, he also strives to do the same with his upturned face. You would think he could be touched, so little it is that stands in the way of us lovers. Whoever you are, come out! Why do elude me, you unique boy? Where do you go off to when I try to reach you? Surely you would not flee me on account of my looks or my age; even the nymphs have loved me. You promise me some hope with your friendly expression, and then when I stretch out my arms to you, you stretch out yours; when I laugh, you laugh back; and I have often seen your tears when I am crying; you also return my signs with a nod; and, as I suspect from the movement of your beautiful lips, you answer me with words that do not arrive at my ears.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.95-114: dum spatium victor victi considerat hostis

Dum spatium victor victi considerat hostis,
vox subito audita est; neque erat cognoscere promptum
unde, sed audita est: “Quid, Agenore nate, peremptum
serpentem spectas? et tu spectabere serpens.”
Ille diu pavidus pariter cum mente colorem
perdiderat, gelidoque comae terrore rigebant.
Ecce viri fautrix, superas delapsa per auras,
Pallas adest motaeque iubet supponere terrae
vipereos dentes, populi incrementa futuri.
Paret et, ut presso sulcum patefecit aratro,
spargit humi iussos, mortalia semina, dentes.

Inde (fide maius) glaebae coepere moveri,
primaque de sulcis acies apparuit hastae,
tegmina mox capitum picto nutantia cono,
mox umeri pectusque onerataque bracchia telis
exsistunt, crescitque seges clipeata virorum.
Sic ubi tolluntur festis aulaea theatris,
surgere signa solent primumque ostendere vultus,
cetera paulatim, placidoque educta tenore
tota patent imoque pedes in margine ponunt.

While the conqueror gazed upon the immensity of his conquered enemy, a voice was heard. And he does not know whence it comes, but it is heard: “Why do you look upon the slain serpent, Cadmus? You too will be a serpent to be looked upon.” For a long while he stood there, having lost his colour as much as his composure, and his hairs stand up, frozen with fear. But behold his protector, Pallas, gliding down through the high air; she stands beside him and orders him to sow the serpent’s teeth into the ploughed earth, which would one day grow into a nation. He obeys and, as he opens up the furrows with his sunken plough, he sows in the ground the bidden teeth, a human seed.

Then, unbelievably, the earth begins to move, and first, the points of spears appear from the furrows, and then helmets with coloured plumes and then emerge shoulders and chests and arms laden with weapons, and the crop grows with shield-bearing men. So when the curtain is raised at the theatre on festival days, figures rise up: they show first their faces, and then, little by little, all the rest, and with a gentle pace they are wholly brought forth, and lie open, and they place their feet on the very edge.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.1-25: iamque deus posita fallacis imagine tauri

iamque deus posita fallacis imagine tauri
se confessus erat Dictaeaque rura tenebat,
cum pater ignarus Cadmo perquirere raptam
imperat et poenam, si non invenerit, addit
exilium, facto pius et sceleratus eodem.
orbe pererrato (quis enim deprendere possit
furta Iovis?) profugus patriamque iramque parentis
vitat Agenorides Phoebique oracula supplex
consulit et, quae sit tellus habitanda, requirit.
‘bos tibi’ Phoebus ait ‘solis occurret in arvis,
nullum passa iugum curvique inmunis aratri.
hac duce carpe vias et, qua requieverit herba,
moenia fac condas Boeotiaque illa vocato.’
vix bene Castalio Cadmus descenderat antro,
incustoditam lente videt ire iuvencam
nullum servitii signum cervice gerentem.
subsequitur pressoque legit vestigia gressu
auctoremque viae Phoebum taciturnus adorat.
iam vada Cephisi Panopesque evaserat arva:
bos stetit et tollens speciosam cornibus altis
ad caelum frontem mugitibus inpulit auras
atque ita respiciens comites sua terga sequentis
procubuit teneraque latus submisit in herba.
Cadmus agit grates peregrinaeque oscula terrae
figit et ignotos montes agrosque salutat.

And now the god had lain aside his bull disguise and given himself up, and lived in the Cretan countryside; Cadmus’s father, unaware of this, ordered him to search for the girl, and added the penalty of exile if he not find her — a deed at once dutiful and wicked. Having roamed the globe (for who could find what Jupiter has concealed?), Cadmus as a fugitive evaded both his father’s country and his wrath, and as a supplicant consulted the Phoeban oracle and asked which land is to be settled.

‘A cow will come to meet you in the lone plains,’ Phoebus said, ‘which has never borne yoke, and is free from crooked plough. Wend your way by her guide, and wheresoever she lies to rest upon the grass, see to it you found a city there, and you shall call it Boeotia.’ Scarcely had Cadmus left the Castilian cavern when he saw a young heifer plodding unguarded, bearing no mark of servitude upon her neck. He followed, and tracked her path with checked paces, and silently revered Phoebus for showing the way.

Now that she had passed the fords of Cephisus and the fields of Panope, the cow stood, lifting to the heavens her beautiful head, with tall horns, and filled the air with lowing. And looking back to her partners following her, she kneeled and lowered her flank into the soft grass. Cadmus gave thanks and imprints kisses upon the foreign land, then greeted the unknown mountains and plains.

Public International Law Notes

Here are my notes for Public International Law (LAWS1023, Sydney Law School LLB, Semester 1 2014).

Topic 1: Introduction to PIL

Topic 2: Sources of PIL

Topic 3: Treaties

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties

Topic 4: PIL and Municipal Law

Topic 5: Jurisdiction

Topic 6 Part A: Diplomatic Immunity

Topic 6 Part B: Foreign State Immunity

Topic 6 Part C: Immunity for Heads and Ministers of Foreign States

Topic 7 Part A: State Responsibility

Topic 7 Part B: Mistreatment of Foreign Nationals

Topic 8: Use of Force

Topic 9: Dispute Resolution

Petron. Sat. 42

Ego, inquit, non cotidie lavor; baliscus enim fullo est: aqua dentes habet, et cor nostrum cotidie liquescit.

“I myself do not bathe every day,” Seleucus said. “The bath attendant scours you like a fuller, the water bites, and my heart is melted away.”

Cicero Fam. 7.30: ego vero iam te nec hortor nec rogo


ego vero iam te nec hortor nec rogo ut domum redeas; quin hinc ipse evolare cupio et aliquo pervenire, ‘ubi nec Pelopidarum nomen nec facta audiam.’ incredibile est quam turpiter mihi facere videar, qui his rebus intersim. ne tu videris multo ante providisse quid impenderet, tum cum hinc profugisti. quamquam haec etiam auditu acerba sunt, tamen audire tolerabilius est quam videre. in campo certe non fuisti, cum hora secunda comitiis quaestoriis institutis sella Q. Maximi, quem illi consulem esse dicebant, posita esset; quo mortuo nuntiato sella sublata est. ille autem, qui comitiis tributis esset auspicatus, centuriata habuit, consulem hora septima renuntiavit, qui usque ad K. Ian. esset quae erant futurae mane postridie. ita Caninio consule scito neminem prandisse. nihil tamen eo consule mali factum est; fuit enim mirifica vigilantia, qui suo toto consulatu somnum non viderit.

haec tibi ridicula videntur; non enim ades. quae si videres, lacrimas non teneres. quid, si cetera scribam? sunt enim innumerabilia generis eiusdem; quae quidem ego non ferrem, nisi me in philosophiae portum contulissem et nisi haberem socium studiorum meorum Atticum nostrum. cuius quoniam proprium te esse scribis mancipio et nexo, meum autem usu et fructu, contentus isto sum. id enim est cuiusque proprium, quo quisque fruitur atque utitur. sed haec alias pluribus.

Acilius, qui in Graeciam cum legionibus missus est, maximo meo beneficiost (bis enim est a me iudicio capitis rebus salvis defensus) et est homo non ingratus meque vehementer observat. ad eum de te diligentissime scripsi eamque epistulam cum hac epistula coniunxi. quam ille quo modo acceperit et quid tibi pollicitus sit velim ad me scribas.

Cicero to Curius. Rome, 44 BC.

Well I don’t ask or urge you to come home anymore. I’m longing to fly off, and to arrive someplace “where I can’t hear the name or deeds of Pelopidae“. You wouldn’t believe how disgusting I feel when I meddle in these things. But you saw the writing on the wall, before you escaped.

This is harsh to hear about, but that’s still easier than seeing it happen. You weren’t in the campus for the opening of the comitia for the election of quaestors at seven in the morning. This is when the official chair of Quintus Maximus, who they had declared consul, was set in its place. Then his death was announced and the chair was put away. Then Caesar, despite taking the auspices for the comitia tributa, held a comitia centuriata, and by one o’clock had announced the election of a consul, who would hold office until the morning of the first of January — the next day! So I can inform you that nobody had lunch during the consulship of Caninius. And nothing bad happened in that consulship. In fact the consul was extraordinarily watchful, as he didn’t catch a wink of sleep in the whole consulship.

You probably think this is a joke, but you aren’t here to see it. If you saw it, you wouldn’t be able to contain your tears. What if I told you the rest? Because there are countless examples of this sort of thing. I wouldn’t be able to take it if I hadn’t turned to the refuge of philosophy and if I didn’t have my friend Atticus as a partner in my studies. Since you say he’s yours officially and by ownership, but mine in using and enjoying him. And indeed, what one uses and enjoys is his property. But more on this later.

Acilius, who was sent into Greece with the legions, is very much indebted to me (in fact I successfully defended him twice on capital charges). He isn’t an ungrateful man, and he pays me earnest respect. I have written keenly to him about you, and I’ve attached that letter to this letter. Please write and tell me how he has taken it and what he’s offered to do for you.


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