Cicero, Letters to Quintus

LCL 462: 2-3

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Introduction

Introduction

Marcus Cicero’s only brother, Quintus, was about two years his junior. They grew up together, and when Marcus went on his eastern travels in 79 Quintus accompanied him. Some ten years later he married the sister of Marcus’ closest friend, T. Pomponius Atticus. The marriage, which M. Cicero is said on good authority to have engineered, was a failure, although it lasted nearly a quarter of a century and produced a son. Pomponia was somewhat older than her husband and they made a cantankerous pair from the first.

Following in his elder brother’s wake, Quintus embarked on a political career, although he had no taste for public speaking, and stood successfully for Quaestor, Aedile, and Praetor (the last during Marcus’ Consulship in 63). In 61 he went out to the province of Asia as Proconsul, a post which he held for the exceptional period of three years. It says much for his integrity as a governor that he was genuinely annoyed when the Senate extended his term a second time. His return from Asia in 58 coincided with his brother’s journey into exile. Back in Rome, Quintus was for some time anxious about a threatened prosecution for maladministration in his province, perhaps to be conducted by a nephew of P. Clodius. When nothing came of it, he was able to devote himself wholeheartedly to the

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Introduction

campaign for Marcus’ restoration. On one occasion his efforts nearly cost him his life, when he was left for dead on the scene of a riot.

After Marcus’ return in 57, Quintus remained for nearly two more years in Italy, with a brief interval of overseas employment in 56, when Pompey stationed him in Sardinia to supervise grain supplies. In the spring of 54 he joined Caesar’s staff in Gaul as Legate, where he distinguished himself by a heroic defence of his camp against a rebel tribe. Caesar congratulated him publicly and gives the episode handsome recognition in his Commentaries, qualified however by criticism of a subsequent piece of negligence on Quintus’ part, which nearly led to a disaster. With his later career down to his death in the Proscriptions of 43 we are not here concerned.

Quintus shared his brother’s and brother-in-law’s interest in Hellenic culture and was himself a prolific versifier, whiling away inactive spells in Gaul by translating Sophocles’ plays into Latin. Twenty uninspired hexameters about the signs of the zodiac, taken from an unknown poem, are attributed to him. We also have four short letters from him in the collection Letters to Friends (44, 147, 351, 352) and the tract on electioneering, couched in the form of a letter of advice to his brother on his consular candidature in 64, generally known as Commentariolum Petitionis (A Short Memorandum on Standing for Office). But the authenticity of this last is in serious doubt.

Down to the closing years of their lives the relationship between the brothers remained on the whole close and affectionate, though indications of friction and latent resentments on Quintus’ part are not lacking. For details I must refer to my biography, from which I quote the following

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.marcus_tullius_cicero-letters_to_quintus.2002