Friday, February 10, 2012

Cicero and Crassus

I was never a big fan of Cicero in school.  But over the years I've mellowed toward the old pedant.  After all, at least he wasn't utterly amoral like Crassus - I assume you've heard the story about how Crassus would show up at burning apartment buildings with his private fire brigade (there was no public fire department in Rome) and offer to put out the fire, but only after the owners of the burning building and those adjacent to it sold him the properties for a pittance.

Then the other week Ramsey MacMullen pointed out, in his Roman Social Relations, this correspondence from Cicero to his friend Atticus, which the good professor archly characterizes as "one of [Cicero's] most unlovable letters."  It certainly sheds a whole new light on old Chick-Pea:
As to your question about the reason for my having sent for Chrysippus - two of my shops have fallen down and the rest are cracking.  So not only the tenants but the very mice have migrated.  Other people call this a misfortune, I don't call it even a nuisance.  Oh Socrates and Socratic philosophers, I shall never be able to thank you enough! Good heavens, how paltry such things are in my eyes!  But after all I am adopting a plan of building on the suggestion and advice of Vestorius, which will convert this loss into a gain.

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