Letter Home Of A Roman

Ancient Rome

Letter Home of a Roman "University" Student, 44 BCE

Gary Edward Forsythe: Assistant Professor of Classical Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago. Author of The Historian L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi and the Roman Annalistic Tradition. Robert A. Guisepi: Author of Ancient Voices

(Re-printed by permission)

"Remember, Roman, that it is for thee to rule the nations. This shall be thy task, to impose the ways of peace, to spare the vanquished, and to tame the proud by war."

[Tappan Introduction] No Roman youth was thought to have completed his education until he had studied with some of the famous Greek teachers, and young men went to Greece as those of today go to a university. The following extract is a translation of a letter written by the son of Cicero while a student in Athens in 44 B.C. to Tiro, his father's man of business.

AFTER I had been anxiously expecting letter-carriers day after day, at length they arrived forty-six days after they left you. Their arrival was most welcome to me: for while I took the greatest possible pleasure in the letter of the kindest and most beloved of fathers, still your most delightful letter put a finishing stroke to my joy. So I no longer repent of having suspended writing for a time, but am rather rejoiced at it; for I have reaped a great reward in your kindness from my pen having been silent. I am therefore exceedingly glad that you have unhesitatingly accepted my excuse. I am sure, dearest Tiro, that the reports about me which reach you answer your best wishes and hopes. I will make them good and will do my best that this belief in me, which day by day be comes more and more in evidence, shall be doubled. Wherefore you may with confidence and assurance fulfill your promise of being the trumpeter of my reputation.

For the errors of my youth have caused me so much remorse and suffering, that not only does my heart shrink from what I did, my very ears abhor the mention of it. And for this anguish and sorrow I know and am assured that you have taken your share. And I don't wonder at it! for while you wished me all success for my sake, you did so also for your own; for I have ever meant you to be my partner in all mygood fortunes. Since, therefore, you have suffered sorrow through me, I will now take care that through me your joy shall be doubled. Let me assure you that my very close attachment to Cratippus is that of a son rather than a pupil: for though I enjoy his lectures, I am also specially charmed with his delightful manners. I spend whole days with him, and often part of the night: for I induce him to dine with me as often as possible. This intimacy having been established, he often drops in upon us unexpectedly while we are at dinner, and laying aside the stiff airs of a philosopher joins in our jests with the greatest possible freedom. He is such a man---so delightful, so distinguished---that you should take pains to make his acquaintance at the earliest possible opportunity. I need hardly mention Bruttius, whom I never allow to leave my side. He is a man of a strict and moral life, as well as being the most delightful company. For in him fun is not divorced from literature and the daily philosophical inquiries which we make in common. I have hired a residence next door to him, and as far as I can with my poor pittance I subsidize his narrow means. Furthermore, I have begun practicing declamation in Greek with Cassius; in Latin I like having my practice with Bruttius. My intimate friends and daily companions are those whom Cratippus brought with him from Mitylene---good scholars, of whom he has the highest opinion. I also see a great deal of Epicrates, the leading man at Athens, and Leonides, and other men of that sort. So now you know how I am going on.

You remark in your letter on the character of Gorgias. The fact is, I found him very useful in my daily practice of declamation; but I subordinated everything to obeying my father's injunctions, for he had written ordering me to give him up at once. I would not shilly-shally about the business, for fear my making a fuss should cause my father to harbor some suspicion. Moreover, it occurred to me that it would be offensive for me to express an opinion on a decision of my father's. However, your interest and advice are welcome and acceptable. Your apology for lack of time I quite accept; for I know how busy you always are. I am very glad that you have bought an estate, and you have my best wishes for the success of your purchase. Don't be surprised at my congratulations coming in at this point in my letter, for it was at the corresponding point in yours that you told me of your purchase. You are a man of property! You must drop your city manners: you have become a Roman country gentleman. How clearly I have your dearest face before my eyes at this moment! For I seem to see you buying things for the farm, talking to your bailiff, saving the seeds at dessert in the corner of your cloak. But as to the matter of money, I am as sorry as you that I was not on the spot to help you. But do not doubt, my dear Tiro, of my assisting you in the future, if fortune does but stand by me; especially as I know that this estate has been purchased for our joint advantage.

As to my commissions about which you are taking trouble---many thanks! But I beg you to send me a secretary at the earliest opportunity---if possible a Greek; for he will save me a great deal of trouble in copying out notes. Above all, take care of your health, that we may have some literary talk together hereafter. I commend Anteros to you.


From: Eva March Tappan, ed., The World's Story: A History of the World in Story, Song and Art, 14 Vols., (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), Vol. IV: Greece and Rome, pp. 402-405

You Might Also Like:

World History related image
Read More

World History

Welcome to our World History section, a vast treasure trove of historical knowledge that takes you on a captivating journey through the annals of human civilization. Our collection spans a wide spectrum of topics, providing an exhaustive resource for history enthusiasts, students, and curious minds ...
Read More

A Complete History Of The European Middle Ages

The Middle Ages Date: 1992 During the decline of the Roman Empire, the migrations of a strong, rude people began to change the life of Europe. They were the German barbarians, or Teutonic tribes, who swept across the Rhine and the Danube into the empire. There they accepted Christianity. The union o...
Read More

A Day In The Life Of A Battle Of Britain Pilot

The following would have been a typical day in the life of a Battle of Britain pilot The sequences are based on the works of different authors with the exception that the names have been changed. This is just to give you an idea as to how a pilot may have spent his day at the height of the battle. ...
Read More

A General Survey Of The Slave Plantation

The American Civil War, Frederick Douglass Edited by: Robert Guisepi 2002 A General Survey of the Slave Plantation by Frederick Douglass It was generally supposed that slavery in the State of Maryland existed in its mildest form, and that it was totally divested of those harsh and terrible peculiari...
Read More

A. P. Hill

The American Civil War, A. P. Hill Edited by: Robert Guisepi 2002 b. Nov. 9, 1825, Culpeper, Va., U.S.d. April 2, 1865, Petersburg, Va. Confederate general during the U.S. Civil War who was particularly active in the fighting around Washington, D.C. His force, called the "Light Division," was cons...
Read More


The American Civil War, Abolition, The Movement Edited by: Robert Guisepi 2002 There can be no doubt that antislavery, or "abolition" as it came to be called, was the nonpareil reform. Abolition was a diverse phenomenon. At one end of its spectrum was William Lloyd Garrison, an "immediatist," who de...
Read More

Abraham Lincoln

The American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln American Civil War history with slideshows, photos, music, major battles like Gettysburg as well as personalities like Lincoln, Grant, Lee and the Black Regiments Edited by: Robert Guisepi 2002 He was an unusual man in many ways. One minute he would wrestle wi...
Read More


European Absolutism And Power Politics Introduction Louis XIV (1643-1715) of France is remembered best as a strong-willed monarch who reportedly once exclaimed to his fawning courtiers, "L'etat, c'est moi" (I am the state). Whether or not he really said these words, Louis has been regarded by histor...
Read More

Absolutism As A System

Absolutism As A System L'Etat, C'Est Moi Date: 1998 Absolutism As A System Unlimited royal authority, as advocated by Bossuet and Hobbes, was the main characteristic of absolutism. It was demonstrated most obviously in political organization but also served to integrate into government most econom...
Read More

Absolutism, Case Against

The Case Against AbsolutismAuthor: Wallbank;Taylor;Bailkey;Jewsbury;Lewis;HackettDate: 1992The Case Against AbsolutismThe Enlightenment's highest achievement was the development of a tightlyorganized philosophy, purportedly based on scientific principles andcontradicting every argument for absolute ...
Read More

Accession Of Solomon

Accession Of Solomon Author: Milman, Henry Hart Accession Of Solomon B.C. 1017 Introduction After many weary years of travail and fighting in the wilderness and the land of Canaan, the Jews had at last founded their kingdom, with Jerusalem as the capital. Saul was proclaimed the first king; afterwa ...
Read More


A History of Ancient Greece The Glory That Was Greece Author: Jewsbury, Lewis Date: 1992 The Acropolis Acropolis (Greek akros,"highest"; polis,"city"), term originally applied to any fortified natural stronghold or citadel in ancient Greece. Primarily a place of refuge, the typical acropolis was con...
Read More

Aegean Civilization

A History of Ancient Greece Author: Robert Guisepi Date: 1998 AEGEAN CIVILIZATION The earliest civilization in Europe appeared on the coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea. This body of water is a branch of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded by the Greek mainland on the west, Asia Minor (now Turkey...
Read More

Aemilius Paulus

AEMILIUS PAULUS by Plutarch Almost all historians agree that the Aemilii were one of the ancient and patrician houses in Rome; and those authors who affirm that king Numa was pupil to Pythagoras, tell us that the first who gave the name to his posterity was Mamercus, the son of Pythagoras, who, for ...
Read More

Africa In The Age Of The Slave Trade

Africa And The Africans In The Age Of The Atlantic Slave Trade Various Authors Edited By: R. A. GuisepiAfrican Societies, Slavery, And The Slave TradeEuropeans in the age of the slave trade sometimes justified enslavementof Africans by pointing out that slavery already existed on that continent.Howe...
Read More