ad Quintum fratrem II.16 (15)

Commentary by Stephanie Spaulding, revised by J. Bailly

Text:

Scr. Romae exeunte mense Sextili a.u.c. 700.
MARCUS QUINTO FRATRI SALUTEM.


1 Cum a me litteras librari manu acceperis, ne paulum <quidem> me oti habuisse iudicato, cum autem mea, paulum. Sic enim habeto, numquam me a causis et iudiciis districtiorem fuisse, atque id anni tempore gravissimo et caloribus maximis. Sed haec, quoniam tu ita praescribis, ferenda sunt, neque committendum ut aut spei aut cogitationi vestrae ego videar defuisse, praesertim cum, si id difficilius fuerit, tamen ex hoc labore magnam gratiam magnamque dignitatem sim collecturus. Itaque, ut tibi placet, damus operam ne cuius animum offendamus atque ut etiam ab iis ipsis qui nos cum Caesare tam coniunctos dolent diligamur, ab aequis vero aut etiam a propensis in hanc partem vehementer et colamur et amemur.

2 De ambitu cum atrocissime ageretur in senatu multos dies, quod ita erant progressi candidati consulares ut non esset ferendum, in senatu non fui. Statui ad nullam medicinam rei publicae sine magno praesidio accedere.

3 Quo die haec scripsi Drusus erat de praevaricatione a tribunis aerariis absolutus in summa quattuor sententiis, cum senatores et equites damnassent. Ego eodem die post meridiem Vatinium eram defensurus; ea res facilis est. comitia in mensem Septembrem reiecta sunt. Scauri iudicium statim exercebitur, cui nos non deerimus. 'Συνδείπνους' Σοφοκλέους, quamquam a te actam fabellam video esse festive, nullo modo probavi.

4 Venio nunc ad id quod nescio an primum esse debuerit. O iucundas mihi tuas de Britannia litteras! Timebam Oceanum, timebam litus insulae; reliqua non equidem contemno, sed plus habent tamen spei quam timoris magisque sum sollicitatus exspectatione ea quam metu. Te vero  ὑπόθεσιν scribendi egregiam habere video. Quos tu situs, quas naturas rerum et locorum, quos mores, quas gentis, quas pugnas, quem vero ipsum imperatorem habes! Ego te libenter, ut rogas, quibus rebus vis, adiuvabo et tibi versus quos rogas, hoc est Athenas noctuam, mittam.

5 Sed heus tu! Celari videor a te. Quo modo nam, mi frater, de nostris versibus Caesar? Nam primum librum se legisse scripsit ad me ante, et prima sic ut neget se ne Graeca quidem meliora legisse; reliqua ad quendam locum ῥᾳθυμότερα (hoc enim utitur verbo). Dic mihi verum: num aut res eum aut χαρακτήρ non delectat? Nihil est quod vereare. Ego enim ne pilo quidem minus me amabo. Has de re φιλαλήθως et, ut soles [scribere], fraterne.

Commentary

In this letter of 54 BCE, Cicero responds to his brother Quintus, who had written to him from Britain, where he was a legate with Caesar.

Scr.: scripsit or scriptum.
Romae: locative.
exeunte mense Sextili: ablative absolute. Month names are all adjectives in Latin.
a.u.c. 700: = ab urbe condita 700 (54 BCE).
MARCUS QUINTO FRATRI SALUTEM: understand dicit here.

1
Cum ... acceperis: Cum temporal + fut. perf. indicative (A&G 547). The action is future perf. from the writer's point of view.
litteras: plural litterae, "a letter" (that you send): singular littera, "a letter" (of the alphabet).
librari =librarii (SYNCOPE).
manu: "handwriting" (METONYMY).
paulum: adverbial accusative.
ne paulum quidem: ne + X + quidem = "not even X." The <> pointy brackets are a standard way to indicate that a modern editor thought it was indispensible, but there is nonetheless no evidence for that word in the manuscripts.
oti: an alternate form of the genitive of otium; partitive genitive with paulum.
iudicato: "Fut." Imperative Sing. (A&G 449) followed by indirect statement. There is no significant difference between the "future" imperative and the "present" imperative.
habuisse: perf. inf. refers to time prior to main verb.
oti =otii (SYNCOPE): gen. with paulum.
cum autem mea, paulum = cum autem a me litteras mea manu acceperis me paulum otii habuisse iudicato.

habeto: "Fut." Imperative Sing. again followed by indirect statement.
id: emphatic (A&G 298a): "at that."
districtiorem: participles can be made comparative or superlative just like other adjectives.
tempore: abl. of time at which.
caloribus maximis: abl. of manner.

haec ... ferenda sunt: passive periphrastic (A&G 196).
committendum = committendum est: passive periphrastic followed by result clause. Committo = "bring about."
vestrae: Quintus' and Caesar's.
defuisse: perf. inf. referts to time prior to main verb. Desum takes dat.
praesertim cum: cum causal always takes subj.
si...collecturus: this whole conditional is in the cum clause, hence fuerit is amenable to construal either as fut. perf. ind.(which it would be if the conditional si...collecturus sim were not in a cum clause) or as perf. subj. (by attraction: A&G 508.4 and 663). Si here is virtually equivalent to "although" (see OLD si 9), as tamen makes clear: the Loeb text even has etiamsi.
difficilius: the comparative means "quite ..." as well as "more ...."
id: evidently Quintus had proposed something specific (perhaps that is what cogitationi refers to above). Bailey thinks id refers to some proposed honors for Cicero.
sim collecturus: "future" subjunctive of primary sequence (also called "first periphrastic": A&G 195).

ut: "as."
damus ... offendamus ... diligamur ... colamur ... amemur: "we" = Cicero, as often.
ne cuius = ne (ali)cuius.
ne...offendamus: purpose.
ut ... diligamur , ...colamur et amemur: purpose.
qui dolent:  + acc. + inf. construction (nos coniunctos esse): verbs of emotion often take acc. + inf. (cf. English "I am pained that ... ).
aequis: "non-partisans."
hanc partem: "this political party" (namely, the one Cicero is in).

2
de ambitu: This refers to a proposed lex de ambitu concerning bribery and canvassing for public offices. Bailey thinks it was ad hoc and nothing came of it.
cum: concessive cum always takes subj.
ageretur: impersonal.
multos dies: acc. of duration of time.
quod: causal.
ita...ut: the ita prepares for the result clause with ut, as often.
candidati: from candidus, -a, -um "white," because candidates for public office wore a whitened toga.
esset ferendum: second periphrastic (A&G 196) in secondary sequence.
statui + inf.
rei publicae: obj. gen. with medicinam.

3
quo die: ablative of time at which.
scripsi: an "epistolary" past tense: when Quintus reads the letter, the writing will be in the past.
Drusus: (M. Livius Drusus Claudianus) Cicero had defended him against charges of collusive prosecution ("prevarication") in 53.
tribunis aerariis: tribunes in charge of the public treasury.
in summa: "in total."
quattuor sententiis: abl. of means.
cum...damnassent: concessive, secondary sequence.

 
Vatinium: Publius Vatinius, Tribune in 59, Praetor in 55, Consul in 47, was attacked by Cicero in the extant in Vatinium, and subsequently defended by Cicero in 54.
defensurus eram: "first periphrastic" conjugation (A&G 195).
comitia: pl. = "election," sg. comitium, -i = "assembly."

Scauri: Marcus Aemilius: Scaurus, candidate for the consulship in 54, was defended by Cicero against charges of extortion (de repetundis) in his provincial office in Sardinia. He was acquitted.
deerimus: desum takes the dat.
'Συνδείπνους' Σοφοκλέους: "Sophocles' 'Banqueters,'" a play the extant fragments of which unfortunately do not help to understand what Cicero means here.
actam fabellam: fabellam agere can mean "to act in a play" or "to write a play." fabellam facere means "to write a play." Quintus may have translated or adapted the play.

4
nescio an primum
esse debuerit: nescio an often means "perhaps." In spite of appearances, it does not introduce indirect questions and take the subjunctive normally (A&G 575d). Hence
debuerit is subj. in a relative clause of characteristic in primary sequence rather than indirect question, as it might appear to be.
litteras: acc. of exclamation.
equidem= ego quidem (although the e- is probably not etymologically related to ego).
habent: subject = reliqua (understand pars vel sim.).
plus spei quam timoris: plus in the singular takes a genitive, unlike English, where "more" is usually an adjective. In the plural, however, plur- is an adjective, however.

ὑπόθεσιν: "topic" is acc. fem. sing., modified by egregiam.
scribendi: genitive gerund dependent on
ÍpÒyesin.
video: is a verb of thinking, and so takes indirect speech.
Quos tu situs, quas naturas..., quos mores...: ASYNDETON.
quem ipsum imperatorem: Caesar himself provided an extraordinary topic.
ut = "as."
quibus rebus vis: the antecedent of quibus is in the relative clause itself (A&G 307b).
hoc est Athenas noctuam: This is a proverb, "(to bring) an owl to Athens." Since Athena's and hence Athens' symbol was an owl, the proverb must mean that Cicero thinks his brother is a perfect fount of verses, and so has no need of Cicero's verses. Cratander (a 16th century editor of Cicero's letters who had access to lost manuscripts) indicates that Cicero's text contained the Greek version of the proverb: γλαῦκ’ εἰς Ἀθήνας.
hoc est: "explaining or elaborating preceding word or phrase" (OLD s.v. 10c) is idiomatic.

5
Watch for understood forms of esse in this section.
Celari: in the active celo can take an "accusative of the person from whom the thing is concealed" (OLD s.v. 5, which should help understand this passive inf.).
mi: vocative of meus.
quo modo ... Caesar?: a verb meaning "react" vel sim. is missing here.
nostris versibus: C. is referring to his de Temporibus suis (so Bailey says). Cicero had written a poem de Consulatu suo, but it was already published at this time. Thus this probably refers to something new, the de Temporibus suis, which was about C's exile and return.
scripsit: + acc.+ inf.
prima: with understood pars (hence feminine prima).
sic: with understood est (primary sequence: hence neget). sic prepares for the result clause ut neget.
legisse: perf. inf. refers to time prior to the verb it depends on, neget.
reliqua: with understood pars est.
ad + acc. "up to."
ῥᾳθυμότερα: Greek for "rather languid." Understand "he thinks" (putat vel sim.).
utitur: takes abl.

num: expects a negative answer: cf. English, "It's not so, is it?"
res: "subject matter."
χαρακτήρ: "style."
quod vereare: relative clause of result. (nihil) est quod + subj. means "there is (no) reason to ...."
pilo: ablative of degree of difference.
has ... fraterne: understand scribe.
ut: with the indicative, ut usually means "as."
soles: understand scribere (Bailey thinks C. did not actually write scribere and so brackets it).
has de re: has apparently refers to res and
χαρακτήρ: and is the object of the understood verb (scribe vel sim.), while de re ("about the matter") modifies the adverb φιλαλήθως.
φιλαλήθως: adverb meaning "truth-loving-ly."

Vocabulary

accedo,-ere,-cessi,-cessum to come forward
accedo,-ere,-cessi,-cessum to come forward
accipio, -ere, -cepi, ceptum to receive
adiuvo,-iuvare,-iuvi,-iutum to assist
aequus, -a, -um fair-minded, impartial
aerarium,-i nueter subst. of aerarius,-a,-um, the public treasury
atrox,-ocis. terrible, fierce
calor, -oris heat, warmth
causa,-ae (f.) law suit
celo,-are to hide
cogitatio,-onis (f.) intention, design
colligo, -ere, -legi, -lectus to get, acquire
committo, -mittere, -misi, misum to bring about
coniungo,-ere,-iunxi,-iunctum to unite, hence partic. coniunctus,-a,-um having been joined
consularis,-e consular
damno, -are to condemn, to find guilty
desum + dat. to fall short
diligo,-ere,-lexi,-lectum to esteem
distringo, -ere, -strinxi, -strictum to occupy, to engage
dolo,-ere,dolui to grieve
egregius,-a,-um extraordinary
exerceo,-ere,-ui,-itum to keep at work
habeo to consider, to keep in mind
iudicium,-i (n.) legal trial
iudico, -are to judge
librarius,-i a transcriber of books, a copyist
manus, manus, f. handwriting
medicina, -ae, f., cure, remedy
noctua,-ae (f.) owl
offendo, -fendere,-fendi,-fensum to displease, to offend
operam dare pay attention
otium, -i leisure, free time
pars, partis, f. party, faction
paulum adv. a little bit
pilus,-i (m.) a single hair
praescribo, -ere, -scripsi, -scriptum to write out, to prescribe
praesertim adv. especially
praesidium,-i. support, assistance, backing
praevaricatio,-onis (f.) collusive
probo,-are to approve
propendeo,-pendere,-pendi,-pensum to be inclined, favorable to
quamquam conj. although
quoniam conj. since
statuo, -uere, -ui, -utum to decide

The text of the letter is from from www.thelatinlibrary.com, which took it from The Society of Ancient Languages with the kind permission of its webmaster, Brian M. Kleeman. The text is D. Albert Wesenberg's Teubner edition of 1885.