Two Letters on the Loss of a Daughter

Marcus Tullius Cicero

trans. Charlie Kerrigan (TCD)

IV.5 – Scr. Athenis c. med. m. Mart. an. 45

SERVIUS CICERONI S.

[1] Posteaquam mihi renuntiatum est de obitu Tulliae, filiae tuae, sane quam pro eo, ac debui, graviter molesteque tuli communemque eam calamitatem existimavi, qui, si istic affuissem, neque tibi defuissem coramque meum dolorem tibi declarassem. Etsi genus hoc consolationis mi‹se›rum atque acerbum est, propterea quia, per quos ea confieri debet propinquos ac familiares, ii ipsi pari molestia afficiuntur neque sine lacrimis multis id conari possunt, uti magis ipsi videantur aliorum consolatione indigere quam aliis posse suum officium praestare. Tamen, quae in praesentia in mentem mihi venerunt, decrevi brevi ad te perscribere, non quo ea te fugere existimem, sed quod forsitan dolore impeditus minus ea perspicias.

[2] Quid est, quod tanto opere te commoveat tuus dolor intestinus? Cogita, quem ad modum adhuc fortuna nobiscum egerit; ea nobis erepta esse, quae hominibus non minus quam liberi cara esse debent, patriam, honestatem, dignitatem, honores omnis. Hoc uno incommodo addito quid ad dolorem adiungi potuit? aut qui non in illis rebus exercitatus animus callere iam debet atque omnia minoris existimare?

[3] An illius vicem, credo, doles. Quoties in eam cogitationem necesse est et tu veneris et nos saepe incidimus, hisce temporibus non pessime cum iis esse actum, quibus sine dolore licitum est mortem cum vita commutare? Quid autem fuit, quod illam hoc tempore ad vivendum magno opere invitare posset? quae res, quae spes, quod animi solacium? Ut cum aliquo adolescente primario coniuncta aetatem gereret? licitum est tibi, credo, pro tua dignitate ex hac iuventute generum deligere, cuius fidei liberos tuos te tuto committere putares. An ut ea liberos ex sese pareret, quos cum florentis videret laetaretur? qui rem a parente traditam per se tenere possent, honores ordinatim petituri essent, in re publica, in amicorum negotiis libertate sua ‹us›uri? quid horum fuit, quod non priusquam datum est, ademptum sit? At vero malum est liberos amittere. Malum, nisi hoc peius est, haec sufferre et perpeti.

[4] Quae res mihi non mediocrem consolationem attulerit, volo tibi commemorare, si forte eadem res tibi dolorem minuere possit. Ex Asia rediens cum ab Aegina Megaram versus navigarem, coepi regiones circumcirca prospicere: post me erat Aegina, ante me Megara, dextra Piraeeus, sinistra Corinthus, quae oppida quodam tempore florentissima fuerunt, nunc prostrata et diruta ante oculos iacent. Coepi egomet mecum sic cogitare: “hem! nos homunculi indignamur, si quis nostrum interiit aut occisus est, quorum vita brevior esse debet, cum uno loco tot oppidum cadavera proiecta iacent? Visne tu te, Servi, cohibere et meminisse hominem te esse natum?” Crede mihi, cogitatione ea non mediocriter sum confirmatus. Hoc idem, si tibi videtur, fac ante oculos tibi proponas: modo uno tempore tot viri clarissimi interierunt, de imperio populi Romani tanta deminutio facta est, omnes provinciae conquassatae sunt; in unius mulierculae animula si iactura facta est, tanto opere commoveris? quae si hoc tempore non diem suum obisset, paucis post annis tamen ei moriendum fuit, quoniam homo nata fuerat.

[5] Etiam tu ab hisce rebus animum ac cogitationem tuam avoca atque ea potius reminiscere, quae digna tua persona sunt: illam, quamdiu ei opus fuerit, vixisse, una cum re publica fuisse, te, patrem suum, praetorem, consulem, augurem vidisse, adulescentibus primariis nuptam fuisse, omnibus bonis prope perfunctam esse; cum res publica occideret, vita excessisse: quid est, quod tu aut illa cum fortuna hoc nomine queri possitis?

Denique noli te oblivisci Ciceronem esse et eum, qui aliis consueris praecipere et dare consilium, neque imitari malos medicos, qui in alienis morbis profitentur tenere se medicinae scientiam, ipsi se curare non possunt, sed potius, quae aliis praecipere soles, ea tute tibi subiice atque apud animum propone.

[6] Nullus dolor est, quem non longinquitas temporis minuat ac molliat: hoc te exspectare tempus tibi turpe est ac non ei rei sapientia tua te occurrere. Quod si qui etiam inferis sensus est, qui illius in te amor fuit pietasque in omnis suos, hoc certe illa te facere non vult. Da hoc illi mortuae, da ceteris amicis ac familiaribus, qui tuo dolore maerent, da patriae, ut, si qua in re opus sit, opera et consilio tuo uti possit. Denique, quoniam in eam fortunam devenimus, ut etiam huic rei nobis serviendum sit, noli committere, ut quisquam te putet non tam filiam quam rei publicae tempora et aliorum victoriam lugere.

Plura me ad te de hac re scribere pudet, ne videar prudentiae tuae diffidere; quare, si hoc unum proposuero, finem faciam scribendi: vidimus aliquotiens secundam pulcherrime te ferre fortunam magnamque ex ea re te laudem apisci; fac aliquando intellegamus adversam quoque te aeque ferre posse neque id maius, quam debeat, tibi onus videri, ne ex omnibus virtutibus haec una tibi videatur deesse.

Quod ad me attinet, cum te tranquilliorem animo esse cognoro, de iis rebus, quae hic geruntur, quemadmodumque se provincia habeat, certiorem faciam.

Vale.

 

IV. 6 – Scr. in Attici Nomentano med. m. Apr. an. 45

M. CICERO S. D. SER. SULPICIO.

[1] Ego vero, Servi, vellem, ut scribis, in meo gravissimo casu affuisses; quantum enim praesens me adiuvare potueris et consolando et prope aeque dolendo, facile ex eo intellego, quod litteris lectis aliquantum acquievi, nam et ea scripsisti, quae levare luctum possent, et in me consolando non mediocrem ipse animi dolorem adhibuisti. Servius tamen tuus omnibus officiis, quae illi tempori tribui potuerunt, declaravit et quanti ipse me faceret et quam suum talem erga me animum tibi gratum putaret fore; cuius officia iucundiora scilicet saepe mihi fuerunt, numquam tamen gratiora.

Me autem non oratio tua solum et societas paene aegritudinis, sed etiam auctoritas consolatur; turpe enim esse existimo me non ita ferre casum meum, ut tu, tali sapientia praeditus, ferendum putas; sed opprimor interdum et vix resisto dolori, quod ea me solacia deficiunt, quae ceteris, quorum mihi exempla propono, simili in fortuna non defuerunt: nam et Q. Maximus, qui filium consularem, clarum virum et magnis rebus gestis, amisit, et L. Paullus, qui duo septem diebus, et vester Gallus et M. Cato, qui summo ingenio, summa virtute filium perdidit, iis temporibus fuerunt, ut eorum luctum ipsorum dignitas consolaretur ea, quam ex re publica consequebantur.

[2] mihi autem amissis ornamentis iis, quae ipse commemoras quaeque eram maximis laboribus adeptus, unum manebat illud solatium quod ereptum est: non amicorum negotiis, non rei publicae procuratione impediebantur cogitationes meae, nihil in foro agere libebat, aspicere curiam non poteram, existimabam, id quod erat, omnes me et industriae meae fructus et fortunae perdidisse: sed, cum cogitarem haec mihi tecum et cum quibusdam esse communia, et cum frangerem iam ipse me et cogerem illa ferre toleranter, habebam, quo confugerem, ubi conquiescerem, cuius in sermone et suavitate omnis curas doloresque deponerem.

Nunc autem hoc tam gravi vulnere etiam illa, quae consanuisse videbantur, recrudescunt; non enim, ut tum me a re publica maestum domus excipiebat, quae levaret, sic nunc domo maerens ad rem publicam confugere possum, ut in eius bonis acquiescam. Itaque et domo absum et foro, quod nec eum dolorem, quem ad re publica capio, domus iam consolari potest nec domesticum res publica.

[3] Quo magis te exspecto teque videre quam primum cupio. maior mihi ‹le›vatio [mihi] afferri nulla potest quam coniunctio consuetudinis sermonumque nostrorum—; quamquam sperabam tuum adventum (sic enim audiebam) appropinquare. Ego autem cum multis de causis te exopto quam primum videre, tum etiam, ut ante commentemur inter nos, qua ratione nobis traducendum sit hoc tempus, quod est totum ad unius voluntatem accommodandum et prudentis et liberalis et, ut perspexisse videor, nec a me alieni et tibi amicissimi; quod cum ita sit, magnae tamen est deliberationis, quae ratio sit ineunda nobis non agendi aliquid, sed illius concessu et beneficio quiescendi.

Vale.

4.5 – Written at Athens, mid-March, 45BC

Servius sends Cicero greeting.

[1] After I learnt of the death of Tullia, your daughter, I was, as you might expect, deeply and gravely affected. I considered it to be our shared tragedy, and if I had been with you I would not have hesitated to declare my grief in person. Yet such consolation is paltry and wretched, because those who should be on hand to offer it – relatives and friends – are themselves just as stricken, and find many tears in their attempts. All in all those expected to console are often much in need of consolation themselves. Nevertheless, I decided to write you briefly my present thoughts, not because I think you shirk you own duties, but rather that with some perspective your burden may be lightened.

[2] How is it that your deep grief afflicts you so violently? Think how Fortune has taken from us those things which men should hold no less dear than children – country, reputation, office, every honour. What extra sadness can this one added trial bring? Shouldn’t you reconcile yourself to such things and so consider everything the less?

[3] But you grieve for her sake, I know. How often when pondering this have you reached the same conclusion we reached, that, in times like these, how lucky were they who were allowed painlessly exchange life with death! What, after all, did she have to make her life happy at this time? What belongings or hopes or personal comfort? That she may have lived on a while married to one of the young men of today? You could have, I trust, picked some son-in-law from the modern generation worthy of your standing, and let her go with peace of mind. She may even have borne children and delighted in them as they grew to uphold their family tradition, seek the usual offices, and act with liberty in politics and among friends. Which of these was not taken away as soon as it was given? But it is truly awful to lose a child, except that this is worse: to suffer such things and have to carry on.

[4] I want to tell you something which brought me no small consolation, if perhaps it might be able to lessen your grief. On my return from Asia I was sailing from Aegina towards Megara, and I began to survey the surrounding landscape. Behind me was Aegina, before me Megara; Piraeus to my right, Corinth my left. At one time these had been the most thriving towns imaginable, and they now lay ruined and abandoned before my eyes. I began to think to myself ‘Ah! We mortals baulk if one of us dies or is killed, yet how short our lives seem to be, when faced with so many ghost towns in a single place! Shouldn’t you, Servius, stop and remember that you are born a man and will die?’ Believe me, I was quite steadied by this thought. Place, if you want, the same scene before your eyes. At a time when so many illustrious men have died, the Roman empire so weakened, all the provinces in turmoil: are you still so affected by the loss of one poor girl? If she had not died now she would have a few short years hence, such is the price of mortal birth.

[5] Now summon your thoughts away from such matters and remember things worthy of the character you hold. She lived, as long as she needed to, and together with the Republic. She saw you, her father, become praetor, consul, and augur. She married young men of the highest status and enjoyed almost everything there is to enjoy. When the Republic fell, she gave up her life.

Do not forget, moreover, that you are Cicero, a man accustomed to instructing and advising others. Do imitate the bad doctor, who pronounces cures for his patients’ ills and yet cannot look after himself: subject yourself to the same advice you give others and clear your mind.

[6] There is no grief which time does not lessen or soften, and it is unbecoming of you to linger like this and not to confront yourself with your own wisdom. If the dead feel anything below, she who loved you and honoured her own surely does not want you to act so. For her sake, for your friends and your household, who grieve with you, and for the country: make sure that your wisdom and service are available if they are needed.

Lastly, since we had fallen into such misfortune that this needs to be said, do not let it happen that someone may think you sorrow less for your daughter and more for the crisis of the Republic and the victory of our adversaries. I hesitate to write you further on this, in case I seem unaware of your own good sense: I will finish up with this last suggestion. So often we have seen how graciously you bear success and praise your receive for it; show us that you can bear the bad times just as well, and that you do not make more of this burden that you should, in case of all virtues you seem to fail in this one. As to how I am doing, I will inform you when I know your mind is steadier, both about affairs here and how the province is now much settled.

Farewell,

Servius

 

4.6 – Written at Atticus’ villa, near Nomentum, mid-April 45 BC 

Cicero sends Servius greeting.

[1] Yes indeed, Servius, I wish you had been with me, as you write, at this dark time. I gleaned some comfort from your letter, but it only made me realize how much I could have done with you here, as someone to console and share almost equally in this sorrow. For your words were well-chosen to relieve mourning, and you drew on your own past distress in consoling me. Your son Servius has rendered me every possible service at the present time, and in doing so has shown both his esteem for me and how much he believes you would approve of such kindness. You can guess that oftentimes his attention has been more welcome to me, but never more appreciated.

I was comforted not only by your words and your empathy, but by your counsel too. I judge it shameful ofme that I cannot bear my trial as you, in your wisdom, advise it should be borne. But I am overwhelmed and sometimes can barely contain my sorrow, because I lack those comforts which others, whom I picture before me now, did not in their own misfortune. Quintus Maximus lost his son, a consul and an outstanding man with many achievements behind him; Lucius Paulus lost two sons in a single week; your own Galus and Marcus Cato too, who lost a son of great ability and virtue: at such times their own standing offered some consolation.

[2] As for me, I had lost all those honours you recall – honours I laboured hard to attain – but now the one comfort which always remained has been snatched away. Friends’ concerns and affairs of state did nothing to waylay my thoughts; legal cases held no appeal and I couldn’t face appearing in the Senate: I thought that, as things stood then, all the fruits of my industriousness and good fortune had withered away. And yet when I think of those troubles we have been forced to endure and bear tolerantly, then I had her to go to. I could rest and lay aside all my cares and troubles in her conversation and her sweetness.

Now, however, that grave wound I thought healed has flared up again. For back then home took me in when politics burdened me, and now, when home is so oppressive, I cannot escape into politics and find relief. So I stay away from home and the forum, because neither can comfort me from the sorrow of the other.

[3] All the more reason why I look for you and want to see you as soon as possible. Nothing would relieve me more than to see you again and talk as we used to; I had hoped that your return (and so I hear) is not too far off. Another reason for this desire is so we might reflect together, as before, about how to deal with the current crisis, which requires the accommodation of everything to the will of one man. He seems savvy and generous to my mind – no enemy of mine and a great friend of yours. However things turn out, we need to plan how to achieve our goals not by being proactive but by waiting for his concession and goodwill at a quieter time.

Farewell.