The letters contained in this volume cover a large and important period in Cicero’s life and in the history of Rome. They begin when he was 38 years of age; and at first they are not very numerous. There are only two of that year (68 B.C.), six of the following year, one of the year 66, when he held the praetorship, and two of 65. Then there is a gap in his correspondence. No letters at all survive from the period of his consulship and the Catilinarian conspiracy; and the letters to Atticus do not begin again until two years after that event. Thereafter they are sufficiently frequent to justify Cornelius Nepos’ criticism, that reading them, one has little need of an elaborate history of the period. There are full—almost too full—details, considering the frequent complaints and repetitions, during the year of his banishment (58–57 B.C.), and the correspondence continues unbroken to the year 54. Then after a lapse of two years or more, which Atticus presumably spent in Rome, it begins again in 51, when Cicero was sent to Cilicia as pro-consul, much against his will; and the volume ends with a hint of the trouble that was brewing between Caesar and Pompey, as Cicero was returning to Rome towards the end of the next year.
The letters have been translated in the traditionary order in which they are usually printed. That order, however, is not strictly chronological; and, for the convenience of those who would read them in their historical order, a table arranging them so far as possible in order of date has been drawn up at the end of the volume.