Cicero, Letters to Atticus 1.1.1
It’s the summer of 65 BC. Cicero writes to his best friend Atticus with slightly bitchy comments on his likely fellow-candidates for the consular elections for 63 BC.
nos autem initium prensandi facere cogitabamus eo ipso tempore quo tuum puerum cum his litteris proficisci Cincius dicebat, in campo comitiis tribuniciis a.d. XVI Kal. Sext. competitores qui certi esse videbantur Galba et Antonius et Q. Cornificius. puto te in hoc aut risisse aut ingemuisse; ut frontem ferias, sunt qui etiam Caesonium putent. Aquilium non arbitrabamur, qui denegavit et iuravit morbum et illud suum regnum iudicale opposuit. Catilina, si iudicatum erit meridie non lucere, certus erit competitor.
I’m thinking of making a start on canvassing at that very time when Cincius tells me your boy will be starting out with this letter – in the Campus during the tribunician elections on July 17th. The fellow-candidates who seem certain to stand are Galba, Antonius, and Quintus Cornificius. I think you’ll have either laughed or sighed at that. To make you hit your forehead, there are some who think even Caesonius will stand! I don’t think Aquilius will, since he has disclaimed and forsworn it and offers his ill-health and his judicial position as excuses. As for Catiline, he will surely not be standing unless the court finds that it’s dark at midday!
A passage which is interesting as evidence for the ‘facepalm’ gesture (ut frontem ferias) in ancient Rome. Catiline, who was being prosecuted de rebus repetundis for extortion in his province, did in fact manage to get himself acquitted. And, as it happens, we learn in the next letter to Atticus (1.2.1) that hoc tempore Catilinam, competitorem nostrum, defendere cogitamus (‘At the moment I’m thinking of defending Catiline, my fellow-candidate’).