Letter XXXII: ad familiares 13.1
Athens, between June 25 and July 6, 51 B.C.
Gaius Memmius was praetor in 58 B.C.
, and in 57 B.C.
went out as governor of Bithynia, where the poets Catullus and Helvius Cinna were members of his staff (cf. Cat. 10 and 28, and for a sketch of Memmius as an orator, Cic. Brut. 247.) He belonged at that time to the party of the Optimates, but later he became a democrat, and in 54 B.C.
was supported by Caesar for the consulship, but having made a disgraceful political bargain with the consuls of that year (Att. 4.15.7), was banished. At this time he was living in Athens, and having become the owner of the garden and of the ruins of the house which had belonged to Epicurus, he proposed to pull the house down in order to put up a dwelling of his own. The Epicureans, greatly distressed, applied to Cicero through Atticus to intercede with Memmius in their behalf. Cicero, although not on the best of terms with Memmius, acceded to their request. Nothing is known of the result of his intercession.
As an example of Cicero's skill in handling a delicate subject, this letter may be compared with the one to Lucceius (Ep. XVI II.). The case was beset with difficulties. Memmius had been banished, unjustly as he thought, at the moment when he was suing for the consulship. He was now passing a disappointed life in exile, and was so far estranged from Cicero that he had gone to Mytilene to avoid him. He had been annoyed by the importunity of the Epicureans, for whom at the best he had apparently great contempt, in spite of the fact that Lucretius had dedicated to him the de Rerum Natura, and his selfish nature brooked no interference with his plans. Finally, Patro, the leader of the Epicurean school, was personally distasteful to him.
Cicero's itinerary from Minturnae to Athens was as follows: Cumae, Beneventum, May 11; Venusia, May 14; Tarentum, May 18; Brundisium, May 22; Actium, June 14; Athens, June 25. The longest stop on the way was a halt of three weeks at Brundisium.
non satis, etc.: before Cicero reached Athens.
te [gap in text] visurus essem: Memmius had withdrawn to Mitylene, to avoid meeting Cicero (Att. 5.11.6), because the latter had been unwilling to defend him against the charge of ambitus.
iniuria: although the banishment of Memmius was deserved, technically it was iniuria, because, as Memmius had turned state's evidence, and had brought a charge of ambitus against Cn. Domitius Calvinus (Q. fr. 3.2.3), he might have reasonably expected exemption from punishment.