- Cicero’s Textual Relations: The Gendered Circulation of De finibus
I. How Do You Solve a Problem like Caerellia?
In a pair of letters to Atticus from late June and early July 45 BCE, Cicero complains about what is usually considered to be a decidedly modern problem: the unauthorized circulation of media on a peer-to-peer network. At the start of the first of these letters to Atticus, whom he blames for this ‘leak,’ Cicero writes:
dic mihi, placetne tibi primum edere iniussu meo? hoc ne Hermodorus quidem faciebat, is qui Platonis libros solitus est divulgare, ex quo ‘λόγοισιν ‘Eπμόδωϱος.’ quid illud? rectumne existimas cuiquam <ante quam> Bruto, cui te auctore πϱοσφωνω̃? scripsit enim Balbus ad me se a te quintum de finibus librum descripsisse; in quo non sane multa mutavi, sed tamen quaedam. tu autem commode feceris si reliquos continueris, ne et ἀδιόϱθωτα habeat Balbus et ɛ́̔ωλα Brutus. sed haec hactenus, ne videar πɛϱὶ μιϰϱὰ σπουδάζɛιν. etsi nunc quidem maxima mihi sunt haec. . . . quo modo autem fugit me tibi dicere? mirifice Caerellia studio videlicet philosophiae flagrans describit a tuis: istos ipsos de finibus habet. ego autem tibi confirmo (possum falli ut homo) a meis eam non habere; numquam enim ab oculis meis afuerunt. tantum porro aberat ut binos scriberent, vix singulos confecerunt. tuorum tamen ego nullum delictum arbitror itemque te volo existimare; a me enim praetermissum est ut dicerem me eos exire nondum velle. hui, quam diu de nugis! de re enim nihil habeo quod loquar.(Att. 13.21a.1–2 = 327 SB)
Tell me, in the first place, do you think it right to publish without my consent? Not even Hermodorus used to do that, a man who was accustomed to circulate Plato’s books, from where the phrase comes, “Hermodorus trades in tracts.” What of this: Do you think it appropriate to give a copy of this text to anyone before Brutus, to whom I dedicated it at your suggestion? Balbus wrote me that he had obtained [End Page 21] from you a copy of Book 5 of On Divine Ends. In this book, I didn’t make many changes, to be sure, but nevertheless a few. You, however, will do well if you keep a lid on the other books, lest Balbus has an unrevised copy and Brutus a stale one. But enough about these affairs, lest I seem to make a big deal of small things, although they do appear all-important to me at this moment. . . . How did it escape me to tell you? Caerellia, evidently inflamed wondrously by her passion for philosophy, makes copies from yours; she has On Moral Ends in its entirety. I guarantee this to you—I am human, however, and can be mistaken— that she does not have them from mine. For never were they absent from my eyes; so far from my men having made two copies, they scarcely completed one copy of each book. Nevertheless, I do not think that any wrong was committed by your men and I wish you to think likewise; for I neglected to say that I did not wish these to go public yet. Dear me, how long about nonsense! For I have nothing to say about business.1
De finibus was, at this time, Cicero’s latest philosophical treatise, a five-book examination of the moral philosophies, that is, the ethical ends, of the various ancient schools.2 It remains an important source for the ancient discourse on ethics.3 As for the two people who acquired copies of this treatise before Cicero could present Brutus, the dedicatee, with a copy, our knowledge varies considerably. L. Cornelius Balbus is well known to historians: he was a provincial from Gades in Spain who gained Roman citizenship and rose to great heights in Rome, eventually becoming the first naturalized civis to attain the consulship, which he did in 40 BCE.4 At this point in time, Balbus was, in addition to being Caesar’s chief financial agent along with Oppius, one of the dictator’s most important counselors, even if his actual role is somewhat opaque.5 He was also an amicus of Cicero, who had defended him in 56 BCE from the charge that...