Letter II: ad Atticum 1.2
Rome, the latter part of 65 B.C.
The historical value of this letter springs from the fact that it fixes the date of the birth of Cicero's son (65 B.C.), that it contains the main point in the evidence with reference to Cicero's defense of Catiline against the charge of misappropriation of public money, and accounts for the absence of letters between Cicero and Atticus from 64-62 B.C. inclusive (cf. last sentence).
L. Iulio Caesare C. Marcio Figulo consulibus: the natural meaning would be, in the consulship of, etc., and would make 64 B.C. the date of this letter, but the reference to the approaching trial of Catiline proves that it must have been written in 65 B.C., after the election of the new consuls, as the trial was begun and finished in that year. The brevity and apparent lack of feeling in Cicero's announcement to his most intimate friend of the birth of his son has called forth severe criticisms from his enemies, and apologies from his friends (cf. Abeken, pp.33, 34) quite without reason. Both parties have failed to see the gay humor of the passage which couples this important event in his family life with the most important event in the political world. For an account of the new consuls, cf. Ep. l.
filiolo: for an account of him, see Intr. 54.
scito, let me inform you; a favorite expression borrowed from colloquial Latin, for introducing a bit of news. Cf. the use of habeto and sic habeto, Ep. XXVI.1n.
Terentia: cf. Intr. 52.
abs te [gap in text] ego, not a word from you in so long a time, while I, etc. For abs te, cf. Ep. I.4 n.
hoc tempore [gap in text] cogitamus: it will never be certainly known whether Cicero did defend Catiline in 65 B.C. or not, but this passage certainly indicates such an intention on his part, and there is no satisfactory reason for believing that he did not carry out his purpose. The fact that Cicero believed in Catiline's guilt (cf. Ep. l. 3) would not, perhaps, have deterred him, as he in later years undertook the defense of Vatinius, Gabinius, and C. Antonius, equally notorious men, under still more questionable circumstances, when political considerations, as in this case, made it seem advisable. For the arguments in support of the opposite view, cf. Tyrrell, I. pp. 8-9.
summa accusatoris voluntate: the charge was brought by P. Clodius. The accuser had the right of challenging peremptorily a certain number of jurors, and the phrase quoted above would indicate that Clodius had availed himself of this privilege in rejecting jurors who were likely to vote for a conviction. If this view be correct, Clodius was really acting in the interest of Catiline in bringing the charge, since if Catiline were acquitted, he could not be put on trial again. This method of protecting criminals, called praevaricatio, became commoner in later years (cf. Plin. Epist. 3.9. 33-35). The method to be employed in securing an acquittal for Catiline casts more of a shadow upon Cicero's honor than the fact that he intended to undertake or did undertake the defense.