Quaeret aliquis fortasse, ‘tantumne igitur laborem, tantas inimicitias tot hominum suscepturus es?’ non studio quidem hercule ullo neque voluntate; sed non idem licet mihi quod iis qui nobili genere nati sunt, quibus omnia populi Romani beneficia dormientibus deferuntur; longe alia mihi lege in hac civitate et condicione vivendum est. venit mihi in mentem M. Catonis, hominis sapientissimi et vigilantissimi; qui cum se virtute non genere populo Romano commendari putaret, cum ipse sui generis initium ac nominis ab se gigni et propagari vellet, hominum potentissimorum suscepit inimicitias, et maximis laboribus suis usque ad summam senectutem summa cum gloria vixit. postea Q. Pompeius, humili atque obscuro loco natus, nonne plurimis inimicitiis maximisque suis periculis ac laboribus amplissimos honores est adeptus? modo C. Fimbriam, C. Marium, C. Caelium vidimus non mediocribus inimicitiis ac laboribus contendere ut ad istos honores pervenirent ad quos vos per ludum et per neglegentiam pervenistis. haec eadem est nostrae rationis regio et via, horum nos hominum sectam atque instituta persequimur. videmus quanta sit in invidia quantoque in odio apud quosdam nobilis homines novorum hominum virtus et industria; si tantulum oculos deiecerimus, praesto esse insidias; si ullum locum aperuerimus suspicioni aut crimini, accipiendum statim vulnus esse; semper nobis vigilandum, semper laborandum videmus. inimicitiae sunt, subeantur; labor, suscipiatur; etenim tacitae magis et occultae inimicitiae timendae sunt quam indictae atque apertae. hominum nobilium non fere quisquam nostrae industriae favet; nullis nostris officiis benivolentiam illorum adlicere possumus; quasi natura et genere diiuncti sint, ita dissident a nobis animo ac voluntate. quare quid habent eorum inimicitiae periculi, quorum animos iam ante habueris inimicos et invidos quam ullas inimicitias susceperis?
(Cicero, Verr. 2.5.180-182)
“Do you really mean,” I may be asked, “to enter upon so formidable a task, and to procure yourself so many bitter enemies?” Not with any eagerness, to be sure, nor of my own free will. But I have not the same privileges as men of noble birth, who sit still and see the honours our nation bestows laid at their feet; the present conditions of political life oblige me to behave far otherwise. I am reminded of that wise and clear-sighted man Marcus Cato. Believing that his merit, though not his birth, was gaining him his countrymen’s approval, and hoping to become the founder and promoter of a famous family of his own, he readily incurred the enmity of powerful persons, and at the price of immense exertions lived to be a very old and a very famous man. After him Quintus Pompeius, a man of obscure and humble origin, made many enemies, and underwent heavy toils and grave dangers, before he reached the highest position in the state. In more recent times we have seen Fimbria and Marius and Caelius contending with formidable enmities and heavy labours in order to attain the high offices which you, gentlemen, have attained by a life of indolence and indifference. For persons like myself, our lives must be planned to follow the same path and take the same direction; we belong to the school, and copy the methods, of the men I speak of. We are aware with what jealousy, with what dislike, the merit and energy of “new men” are regarded by certain of the “nobles”; that we have only to shut our eyes for a moment to find ourselves caught in some trap; that if we leave them the smallest opening for any suspicion or charge of misconduct, we have to suffer for it at once; that we must never relax our vigilance, and never take a holiday. We have enemies—let us face them; tasks to perform—let us shoulder them; not forgetting that an open and declared enemy is less formidable than one who hides himself and says nothing. There is hardly one member of the old families who looks kindly on our activity; by no services that we render them can we capture their goodwill; they withhold from us their interest and sympathy as completely as if we and they were different breeds of men. And for this reason there is little to be feared from the enmity of such people, since you have them regarding you with ill-will and jealousy long before you have done anything to make them your enemies. (tr. Leonard Hugh Graham Greenwood)