Marcus Tullius to J. W. Worthy,
Greetings and good health!
I do not wish to be unfair to the graecula. She is clever beyond words, no denying it. You may understand my impatience with her if I remind you that, although she chatters on in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek of course, Parthian, Median, Egyptian (she is said to be the first Ptolemy to master that), Ethiopian, and Trogodyte, all with marvelous fluency so they say, she was unable to receive me in Latin! Or claimed to be unable to do so, so that right here in the city I was compelled to converse in Greek. It is no different with her vaunted drive, energy and ambition: they were not enough to motivate her to cultivate the most important Roman senator. And of her fabled treasure: although her aides had promised a purely literary acknowledgment of my merits, I came and went empty handed.
I will not even touch upon her unfathomable impertinence. She seemed intent upon challenging my own undeserved reputation for caustic humor, while I was at pains to be most gracious, even condescending toward her. Out of kindness, I will pass over this galling personal experience and substitute an example from the last days of the Republic (which I was spared). --Antony's friends, being much concerned about Roman opinion of him, dispatched to Athens one Gaius Geminius as envoy to caution Antony not to risk bringing his hetaera to Italy. Cleopatra seated this distinguished visitor at the far end of their table, commissioned all sorts of practical jokes to be played on him, and forestalled any private audience by calling upon Geminius to state his business there on the spot (Antony being in his cups, of course). When Geminius confessed he was there to say that all might go well in Rome if Cleopatra should now return to Egypt, the harlot laughed, "You have done well, Geminius, to confess the truth without being put to the torture."
This to a citizen of Rome! This to a guest in her house! This to a distinguished statesman! And from a woman! She is, by the way, a beauty in no way, shape, manner, or form. Her figure is anything other than voluptuous, and her face is marred not merely by the inbred Ptolemy hooked nose, but by a strong chin and hard features which detract from the sweetness and gentleness we prize in our women. Caesar, being exactly twice her age when she came to him in Alexandria, was perhaps less vulnerable than that hot bull Antony. I am not a superstitious man, but if this is the famed seductress of those two great Romans--and who knows of how many others--then her means are witchcraft and vile Egyptian potions. For she knows not how to behave like a woman in any of the ways that matter.
Lest you deem my judgment somewhat harsh, I remind you that, having devoted my life to literature and statesmanship, I have acquired a strong bias in favor of the Queen's policy. Am I not the foremost advocate of Greek philosophy and learning among Romans? Have I not struggled for harmony and consensus among all the classes and constituencies of the Republic? Precisely such an integration--she calls it homonoia--is what her defenders claim was her purpose these ten years with Antony in her bed. Then they argue from the cultural and political necessities imposed upon Rome by our eastern provinces. Indeed, from your vantage point their contention may seem to hold. But the wisdom of hindsight is visited, happily, only upon history writers.
Let me tell you what we have seen before our very eyes. Mark Antony, a follower to be sure of Caesar, but after Caesar's demise our best hope for survival of the Republic, comes from the oldest Roman nobility. He may be rough, bluff, boisterous, and blunt, but such is the nature of the warrior. The legions admire his physical prowess and endurance, his ability to reward merit. They will follow him anywhere--or I should say, would have followed him anywhere. But what do they now behold? A fellow who costumes himself after the manner of Greek officialdom in order to go out among the schools and temples, into so-called learned discussions, a reader of papyrus scrolls, an endower of libraries. In Rome he was blamed for carousing, but now his drunkenness is for Dionysiac dancing (Romans do not dance even when inebriated). Oh yes, he is no longer a worshipper of Dionysus, he is Dionysus! And in the East Dionysus is god, not merely of intoxication, but counterpart to their Aphrodite, the wellspring of life itself, in short, Antony is become Osiris to Cleopatra's Isis!
So you see, their chief defense of this so-called Queen of Kings is that she would restore the ancient Ptolemaic Empire and rule it as chief lawgiver from Rome, never mind that Roman virtue must, with Rome, be sacrificed to her grand and noble end.
With best wishes,
M. Tullius Cicero
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