Cornelius Nepos : Fragments

Translated by J.C. Rolfe (1929).   Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.



  [1] L   Extract from a letter of Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, from the book of Cornelius Nepos on the Latin Historians.   

 1 You will say that it is glorious to take vengeance on one's enemies. That seems to no one greater and more glorious than it does to me, but only if it can be done without injury to one's country. But inasmuch as that cannot be, long and surely ** shall our enemies not perish but remain as they now are, rather than that our country should be ruined and perish.   

  Another passage from the same letter:   

  2 I would not hesitate to take oath in set terms that except for the murderers of Tiberius Gracchus no enemy has caused me so much annoyance and trouble as you have because of these events - you who ought, as the only survivor of all the children that I have had in the past, to have taken their place and to have seen to it that I had the least possible anxiety in my old age; you, who ought to have wished that all your actions should above all be agreeable to me, and should consider it impious to do anything of great importance contrary to my advice, especially when I have so brief a portion of my life left. Cannot even that brief span aid me in preventing you from opposing me and ruining your country? Finally, where will you make an end ? Will our family ever cease from madness ? Will it ever be possible to observe moderation ? ** Shall we ever cease to insist on causing and suffering trouble ? Shall we ever be ashamed of embroiling and harassing our country ? ** But if any change is impossible, sue for the tribunate after I am dead; do whatever you like, so far as I am concerned, when I shall no longer be aware of it. When I am no more, you will offer funerary sacrifices in my honour, and invoke the god of our family. Are you not ashamed at that time to ask for the prayers of those as gods, whom you abandoned and deserted when they were alive and present with you ? ** May great Jupiter forbid you to persist in that course or to allow such madness to enter your mind. But if you do persist, I fear that through your own fault you may bring such trouble upon your whole life that you can never make peace with yourself.  

  [2] Eulogy of Cicero from the book of Cornelius Nepos on the Latin Historians. **  

  1 You ought not to be unaware that this ** is the only branch of Latin literature that even in my own time cannot be compared with what the Greeks accomplished, and that it was left wholly rude and unfinished by the death of Cicero. For he was the only man who could, or even sought to, give history a worthy utterance, since he highly polished the rude eloquence handed down from our forefathers, and gave Latin philosophy, which before his time was uncouth, the finish of his style. Which leads me to doubt whether his loss brought greater grief to our country or to history.   

  2 Another extract from the same :   

  Bountiful and divine mother Nature, in order to win greater admiration and make a better distribution of her gifts, has chosen neither to give everything to one man, nor, on the contrary, to refuse everything to anyone.   

  [3] Cornelius Nepos wrote as follows to Cicero: **  

  So far am I from thinking that philosophy can teach how to live and is the perfecter of a happy life, that I believe that none have more need of learning how to live than the greater number of those who are engaged in teaching philosophy. In fact, I observe that a great part of those same men who in the schools argue most subtly about moderation and self-restraint pass their lives a prey to all the passions. 

Table of Contents ↑



1.   For multis partibus = multo, see Cic. Epist. i. 2.2, multis partibus plures ; and viii. 9. 3.   

2.   With habentes and praebentes supply molestias from molestiis.  

3.   Miscenda atque perturbanda re publica is ablative of cause; for the contraction cf. Plautus, Bacch. 379.   

4.   The di parentes were the shades of deceased ancestors.   

5.   On the first page of Cod. Guelferbytanus Gudianus, 278, saec. xiii, of Cicero's "Philippics". Apparently formed part of the preface of the book "De Historicis Latinis". 

6.   Namely, history.  

7.   Lactantius, Inst. Div. iii. 15. 10. 


Table of Contents ↑

Attalus' home page   |   16.01.21   |   Any comments?