<Fronto> Aufidio Victorino genero <salutem>.
<Dei, si haec> meremur, et mihi filium et tibi uxorem, ut recte proveniat, favebunt et familiam nostram liberis ac nepotibus augebunt et eos, qui ex te geniti sunt eruntque, tui similes praestabunt. cum isto quidem sive Victorino nostro sive Frontone cotidianae mihi lites et iurgia intercedunt. cum tu nullam umquam mercedem ullius rei agendae dicendaeve a quoquam postularis, Fronto iste nullum verbum prius neque frequentius congarrit quam “da”: ego contra quod possum, aut chartulas ei aut tabellas porrigo, quarum rerum petitorem eum esse cupio. nonnulla tamen et aviti ingenii signa ostendit. uvarum avidissimus est; primum denique hunc cibum degluttivit, nec cessavit per totos paene dies aut lingua lambere uvam aut labris saviari ac gingivis lacessere ac ludificari. avicularum etiam cupidissimus est; pullis gallinarum, columbarum, passerum oblectatur, quo studio me a prima infantia devinctum fuisse saepe audivi ex eis qui mihi educatores aut magistri fuerunt.
(Fronto, Ep. ad Amicos 1.12)

Fronto sends greetings to his son-in-law Aufidius Victorinus.
If we deserve it, Sir, the gods will show favour to my daughter, your wife; and they will increase our household with children and grandchildren, and will ensure that those who have been and will be born of you will be like you. As far as that little boy who is your Victorinus as well as my Fronto is concerned, not a day goes by without argument and litigation between us. You never ask for a backhander from anyone who anyone for a court appearance or speech; but the one word your little Fronto continually and repeatedly gives mouth to is ‘Give me!’ (da). I hand over whatever I can, writing-paper or tablets; these are the things I would like him to make a habit of asking for. He shows some signs of his grandfather’s character as well: he is particularly greedy for grapes. That was the first solid food he sucked down, and almost for entire days he kept licking at a grape or kissing it with his lips or biting it with his gums or playing with it. He is also particularly keen on little birds: he loves young chicks, pigeons and sparrows. I have often heard from those who were once my own tutors or teachers that right from my earliest childhood, I too was enthralled by these birds… (tr. Jane F. Gardner & Thomas Wiedemann)



Have mi magister gravissime.
nos valemus. ego hodie ab hora nona noctis in secundam diei bene disposito cibo studivi; a secunda in tertiam soleatus libentissime inambulavi ante cubiculum meum. deinde calceatus sagulo sumpto (nam ita adesse nobis indictum erat), abii salutatum dominum meum. ad venationem profecti sumus, fortia facinora fecimus, apros captos esse fando audiimus, nam videndi quidem nulla facultas fuit. clivum tamen satis arduum successimus; inde post meridiem domum recepimus. ego me ad libellos. igitur calceis detractis, vestimentis positis, in lectulo ad duas horas commoratus sum. legi Catonis orationem ‘De Bonis Pulchrae’ et aliam, qua tribuno diem dixit. io, inquis puero tuo, vade quantum potes, de Apollinis bibliotheca has mihi orationes apporta. frustra mittis, nam et
isti libri me secuti sunt. igitur Tiberianus bibliothecarius tibi subigitandus est; aliquid in eam rem insumendum, quod mihi ille, ut ad urbem venero, aequa divisione impertiat. sed ego orationibus his perlectis paululum misere scripsi, quod aut Lymphis aut Vulcano dicarem: ἀληθῶς ἀτυχῶς σήμερον γέγραπταί μοι, venatoris plane aut vindemiatoris studiolum, qui iubilis suis cubiculum meum perstrepunt, causidicali prosum odio
et taedio. quid hoc dixi? immo recte dixi, nam meus quidem magister orator est. ego videor mihi perfrixisse: quod mane soleatus ambulavi an quod male scripsi, non scio. certe homo alioqui pituitosus, hodie tamen multo mucculentior mihi esse videor. itaque oleum in caput infundam et incipiam dormire, nam in lucernam hodie nullam stillam inicere cogito, ita me equitatio et sternutatio defatigavit. valebis mihi, magister carissime et dulcissime, quem ego—ausim dicere—magis quam ipsam Romam desidero.
(Fronto, Ep. ad M. Caesarem et invicem 4.5)

Hail, most reverend master.
We are well. By a satisfactory arrangement of meals I worked from three o’clock a.m. till eight. For the next hour I paced about in slippers most contentedly before my bedroom. Then putting on my boots and donning my cloak—for we had been told to come in that dress—I went off to pay my respects to my Lord. We set out for the chase and did doughty deeds. We did hear say that boars had been bagged, for we were not lucky enough to see any. However, we climbed quite a steep hill; then in the afternoon we came home. I to my books: so taking off my boots and doffing my dress I passed nearly two hours on my couch, reading Cato’s speech On the property of Pulchra, and another in which he impeached a tribune. Ho, you cry to your boy, go as fast as you can and fetch me those speeches from the libraries of Apollo! It is no use your sending, for those volumes, among others, have followed me here. So you must get round the librarian of Tiberius’s library: a little douceur will be necessary, in which he and I can go shares when I come back to town. Well, these speeches read, I wrote a little wretched stuff, fit to be dedicated to the deities of water and fire: truly to-day I have been unlucky in my writing, the lucubration of a sportsman or a vintager, such as those whose catches ring through my bedroom, a noise every whit as hateful and wearisome as that of the law-courts. What is this I have said? Nay, ’tis true, for my master is an orator. I think I must have taken a chill, whether from walking about in slippers in the early morning, or from writing badly, I know not. I only know that, rheumy enough at all times, I seem to be more drivelling than ever to-day. So I will pour the oil on my head and go off to sleep, for not a drop of it do I intend to pour into my lamp to-day, so tired am I with riding and sneezing. Farewell for my sake, dearest and sweetest of masters, whom I would make bold to say I long to see more than Rome itself. (tr. Charles Reginald Haines)



Domino meo.
annum novum faustum tibi et ad omnia, quae recte cupis, prosperum cum tibi tum domino nostro patri tuo et matri et uxori et filiae ceterisque omnibus quos merito diligis, precor. metui ego invalido adhuc corpore turbae et impressioni me committere. si dei iuvabunt, perendie vos vota nuncupantis videbo.
vale, mi domine dulcissime. dominam saluta.
(Fronto, Ep. ad M. Caesarem 5.45)

A happy New Year and a prosperous in all things that you rightly desire to you and our Lord your Father and your mother and your wife and daughter, and to all others who deservedly share your affection—that is my prayer! In my still feeble state of health I was afraid to trust myself to the crowd and crush. I shall see you, please God, the day after to-morrow offering up your vows. Farewell, my most sweet Lord. Greet my Lady. (tr. Charles Reginald Haines)




Multis huiusmodi maeroribus fortuna me per omnem vitam meam exercuit. nam ut alia mea acerba omittam, quinque amisi liberos miserrima quidem condicione temporum meorum, nam quinque omnes unumquemque semper unicum amisi, has orbitatis vices perpessus, ut numquam mihi nisi orbato filius nasceretur. ita semper sine ullo solacio residuo liberos amisi, cum recenti luctu procreavi. verum illos ego luctus toleravi fortius, quibus egomet ipse solus cruciabar. namque meus animus meomet dolori obnixus, oppositus quasi solitario certamine, unus uni par pari resistebat. at non iam ego uni vel soli obsto, dolor enim e dolore acri multiplicatur et cumulum luctuum meorum diutius ferre nequeo; Victorini mei lacrimis tabesco, conliquesco. saepe etiam expostulo cum deis immortalibus et fata iurgio compello.
(Fronto, De Nepote Amisso 2.1-2)

With many sorrows of this kind has Fortune afflicted me all my life long. For, not to mention my other calamities, I have lost five children under the most distressing circumstances possible to myself. For I lost all five separately, in every case an only child, suffering this series of bereavements in such a way that I never had a child born to me except while bereaved of another. So I always lost children without any left to console me and with my grief fresh upon me I begat others.But I bore with more fortitude those woes by which I myself alone was racked. For my mind, struggling with my own grief, matched as in a single combat man to man, equal with equal, made a stout resistance. But no longer do I withstand a single or solitary opponent, for grief upon bitter grief is multiplied and I can no longer bear the consummation of my woes, but as my Victorinus weeps, I waste away, I melt away along with him. Often I even find fault with the immortal Gods and upbraid the Fates with reproaches. (tr. Charles Reginald Haines)

Hat tip to Jeroen Wijnendaele.