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Cicero, On Pompey's Command (De Imperio), 27-49

Ingo Gildenhard
Louise Hodgson

4. Commentary

Texte intégral

Fig. 3 Map of the Mediterranean Sea


1At the end of the opening section of the speech (§§ 1-6), Cicero offers his audience a blueprint of the first half (§§ 6-49), outlining the three topics he feels he ought to cover (§ 6):

primum videtur de genere belli, deinde de magnitudine, tum de imperatore deligendo esse dicendum.

[‘I think it best to deal first with the nature of the war, next with its scope, and finally with the general to be chosen’.]

2He then follows his blueprint to the letter. §§ 6-19 focus on the nature of the war (genus belli), §§ 20-26 on its extraordinary scale (magnitudo belli), and §§ 27-49 on the choice of the general. Cicero carefully marks the transitions from the first to the second topic, and then again from the second to the third (§ 20 and § 27):

quoniam de genere belli dixi, nunc de magnitudine pauca dicam (§ 20).

[‘Since I have spoken on the nature of the war, I shall now say a few words on its scope’.]

Satis mihi multa verba fecisse videor, qua re esset hoc bellum genere ipso necessarium, magnitudine periculosum. Restat ut de imperatore ad id bellum deligendo ac tantis rebus praeficiendo dicendum esse videatur (§ 27).

[I think I have covered at sufficient length why this war is both inevitable given its kind and perilous given its immense scope. What remains to be covered is that one ought to speak, it seems, about the general to be chosen for this war and to be put in charge of such important matters.]

3Note how the satis multa at the opening of § 27 harks back to the pauca in § 20. Likewise, just as Cicero mentioned the topic just covered in § 20 (quoniam de genere belli dixi) before introducing the next (nunc de magnitudine pauca dicam), he continues with his careful signposting in § 27: first we get a review of what has been covered in the previous two sections, i.e. the genus and the magnitudo of the war against Mithridates; then we get a reminder of what still remains on the agenda (restat ut...), i.e. the choice of general. The first two items of Cicero’s tripartite structure, i.e. the nature and scope of the war, go together: both concern the war; the last item, in contrast, i.e. the general best suited for the job, is about the required personnel. The design is thus climactic.

4If Cicero did his best to amplify the scope and danger of the war, he plays down any difficulty with choosing the general: there is only one! Given that Pompey lacks a plausible rival, the decision to put him in charge of this vital campaign, so Cicero claims, ought to be a no-brainer. He accordingly does not go on to weigh the relative merits of possible appointees, but offers an epideictic (and apodictic) explication of Pompey’s singular suitability for the job. Consider, though: pretty much every member of Rome’s ruling elite considered himself a competent commander (and would have licked his chops at the prospect of finishing off Mithridates). In this light, Cicero’s assertion that there was no plausible alternative to appointing Pompey as supreme commander was not as uncontroversial or even self-evident as it may seem. Indeed, one could just have left the current commander there – for all the current difficulties, even Cicero admits Lucullus has done a remarkable job.

5A key aspect of his argument in favour of Pompey is the peculiar mixture of Pompey’s alleged excellences. These included not just traditional hallmarks of distinction such as courage, but also ‘ethical’ qualities grounded in his supposed integrity of character. Cicero will draw this distinction (and elaborate on it) in what follows. Here he sets up this vital part of his argument by slyly delimiting the number of possible candidates by means of two allegedly essential attributes of the appointee, one orthodox, the other surprising (at least from a Roman point of view). In his counterfactual wish introduced by utinam, he obliquely specifies that the commander to be put in charge better be both brave (fortis) and upright (innocens). To claim that Pompey was the only brave living Roman aristocrat would have been silly, so the decisive emphasis in the phrase virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam tantam lies squarely on innocentium. As we shall see, it is not least Cicero’s insistence that bravery be combined with integrity of character that dries up the pool of possible candidates to leave exactly one: Pompey.

6A pun that runs through the entire speech reinforces the link between the previous section on the scale of the war and the choice of the general: a war of this particular magnitude (magnitudo) calls for a general who is Magnus.

7Satis mihi multa verba fecisse videor: good judgement of where to conclude one part of a speech and move on to the next belongs to the basic skill set of the able orator: it is never a good idea to abuse the patience of one’s audience. Cicero flags up his apparent restraint at various moments in the speech. Here it comes with the qualifying dative mihi, which reinforces the subjective opinion expressed by videor (‘I seem to myself...’), not least since mihi gains extra emphasis by causing the (minor) hyperbaton satis... multa and by the alliteration mihi multa. The somewhat contrived phrasing allows for the possibility that (part of) the audience held a different opinion on the matter and wished Cicero to continue. He thereby combines explicit self-effacement with implicit self-aggrandizement: he courteously refrains from speaking for his audience but implies that some of those listening may well have wished for him to speak at greater length than he does, spellbound by his eloquence. (We ask you: can one ever get enough of Cicero’s oratory?)

8satis ... multa verba fecisse videor: the adverb satis modifies the adjective multa. The apparent emphasis on ‘quantity of verbiage’ continues the theme of ‘economy of coverage’ from the previous paragraph. See § 26: multa praetereo consulto: ‘I deliberately pass over much’ (with reference to the magnitude of the war that Rome is facing in the East). It is also much in evidence elsewhere in the speech. Already in § 3 Cicero introduces the theme of ‘discursive limits’ (modus in dicendo) when he programmatically announces that a speech on the excellence (virtus) of Pompey could continue without end, such is the abundance of material:

dicendum est enim de Cn. Pompei singulari eximiaque virtute; huius autem orationis difficilius est exitum quam principium invenire. ita mihi non tam copia quam modus in dicendo quaerendus est.

[‘I have to speak about the unique and extraordinary excellence of Gnaeus Pompeius; and on this topic it is more difficult to find closure than to start. I therefore need to seek in my speech not so much full expression as due measure.’]

9The entire speech thereby emerges as an exercise in self-restraint, an attempt to keep verbal diarrhoea within reasonable limits – just like ‘his’ Pompey, Cicero purports to possess the qualities of temperantia and continentia, while ensuring that the job at hand gets done properly. In addition to quantity, his phrasing in § 27 suggests that his treatment of the war has not just been lengthy, but also of sufficiently high quality to address all contingencies: satis... fecisse evokes the composite verb satisfacere, which means ‘to give sufficient attention to a matter’, ‘to treat it to everybody’s satisfaction’.

10qua re esset hoc bellum genere ipso necessarium, magnitudine periculosum: qua re (an ablative of cause, literally: ‘because of which thing’, i.e. ‘why’, which then became a standard adverbial expression) introduces an indirect question (hence the subjunctive). The imperfect subjunctive esset expresses contemporaneity in secondary sequence (after verba fecisse). By pulling esset up front, Cicero causes the emphasis to fall squarely on the noun (bellum) and its attributes (necessarium, periculosum, following each other in asyndeton). The three items are linked by homoioteleuton: bellum... necessarium... periculosum.

11hoc bellum genere ipso necessarium, magnitudine periculosum: genere ipso and magnitudine are ablatives of respect: they specify in what sense/respect the war is inevitable and perilous. Cicero presents the attributes in the form of an asyndetic contrast (necessarium, ... periculosum): the war is unavoidable, yet also very dangerous – potentially a toxic combination. Together, the attributes generate a sense of urgency or even coercion: the war will happen, and it is absolutely vital that it be managed by the most able.

12restat ut de imperatore ad id bellum deligendo ac tantis rebus praeficiendo dicendum esse videatur: after the emphasis on personal judgement in the previous sentence (mihi... videor), Cicero changes tack and continues with a string of impersonal constructions: restat, dicendum esse, videatur. All three verbs lack a clear agent – as do deligendo and praeficiendo. Literally: ‘it remains that it seems right [to whom?] that one [who?] ought to speak about the general to be selected for this particular war [by whom?] and put in charge of such important matters [by whom?].’The vagueness here arguably comes with an undertone of complicit humour: everybody knows the answers to these questions, but Cicero titillates expectations by playing coy.

13De ... dicendum esse: the preposition de goes with dicendum esse (a gerundive of obligation): dicere de = ‘to speak about’. (This sentence offers a nice opportunity to revise the gerundive: it features both a gerundive of obligation, i.e. dicendum esse, and two adjectival uses of the gerundive, i.e. de imperatore deligendo ac tantis rebus praeficiendo.)

14de imperatore ad id bellum deligendo ac tantis rebus praeficiendo: imperatore stands in parallel to bellum in the previous sentence and, like bellum, which is modified by necessarium and periculosum, has two attributes: the gerundives (or passive verbal adjectives) deligendo and praeficiendo, which respectively govern ad id bellum and tantis rebus (a dative). The repetition of bellum here, together with the synonymous phrase tantis rebus, subsumes discussion of the war under the choice of the general, in a climactic design.

15ad ... deligendo: the preposition ad, here indicating purpose, goes with the gerundive deligendo (deligere ad = ‘to choose for’).

16[Extra information:

  • 1 See Wilkinson (1963) 156.

17esse videatur: as one of the student-authors put it, who, incidentally, started Latin from scratch at Cambridge: ‘I think if I were studying this as an AS-level text, and particularly as this is the first set paragraph, I’d quite like a point on the clausula of esse videatur in sentence 2, even if it’s not something that the exam will be looking for. Something along the lines of: “This is a Ciceronian clausula, one of the key methods by which Cicero adapts the formal rules of Greek rhetoric to his Latin prose. Clausulae (etymologically related to claudere = ‘to close’) are regular rhythmic patterns that lead up to a sense break or the end of a sentence, to provide structure and add emphasis; historians such as Livy or Tacitus tend to avoid them, but Cicero often makes an effort to slot them in. The pattern seen here is a cretic, which scans ‘long short long’ (– u –), but with a so-called ‘resolution’ of the second long syllable into two short syllables, i.e. ‘long short short short’ (– u u u), followed by a trochee, which scans long short (– u) (though at the end of a verse/sentence the short syllable is anceps or ‘ambiguous’, i.e. it can be either short or long). Statistically speaking, the cretic + trochee (or + spondee, which scans long long) is one of Cicero’s favourite clausulae.1 And the phrase esse videatur itself occurs so frequently that this formula has come to be known as the ‘esse-videatur type’.”]

18Utinam, Quirites, virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam tantam haberetis, ut haec vobis deliberatio difficilis esset, quemnam potissimum tantis rebus ac tanto bello praeficiendum putaretis!: The main sentence consists of the wish-clause introduced by utinam. Then we have a consecutive ut-clause (set up by tantam) and an indirect question introduced by quemnam. The main verb haberetis is in the imperfect subjunctive: subjunctive, because this is the mood Latin uses to express wishes (the technical term is optative, from opto, -are, -avi, -atum: ‘I express a wish for’, ‘I desire’); imperfect, because Cicero imagines the wish as unrealizable. (For realizable wishes, as the grammar buffs among you will know, Latin uses the present subjunctive for a situation in the present and the perfect subjunctive for a situation in the past; for unrealizable wishes, the imperfect subjunctive for a situation in the present and the pluperfect subjunctive for a situation in the past.)

19Quirites: ‘Quirites’ is how speakers address the citizens of Rome in a public assembly. Etymological explanations of the term vary. Some argue that it means ‘sons of Quirinus’, a god worshipped by the Sabines on the Quirinal Hill (one of the seven hills of Rome). Livy 1.13 reports that the members of the civic community that emerged from the union of Sabines and Romans were called ‘Quirites’, after the Sabine town of Cures. He is followed by Ovid, who at Fasti 2.476-80 moots the further possibility that the name comes from the Sabine word for spear, i.e. curis. Some modern scholars derive Quirites from an older, reconstructed *co-viri-um, meaning ‘assembly of men’. What matters for present purposes is that ‘Quirites is what the Romans called themselves when addressing each other as “citizen men,” without reference to class or rank.’2

20virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam: fortitudo and innocentia are two distinct qualities: the former, courage, refers to prowess on the battlefield; the latter, integrity, refers to good personal or civic ethics. Especially in this particular case, as Cicero goes on to argue, it is absolutely essential that the appointee has both – as Pompey does.

21ut haec vobis deliberatio difficilis esset: a result clause set up by copiam tantam. As with satis mihi multa at the paragraph’s opening, Cicero’s placement of the personal pronoun vobis generates a minor hyperbaton: haec... deliberatio.

22quemnam potissimum tantis rebus ac tanto bello praeficiendum [sc. esse] putaretis!: The interrogative pronoun quemnam (quis + nam) introduces an indirect question (hence the subjunctive) dependent on deliberatio. quemnam has a double function: it is both the accusative object of putaretis and the subject accusative of the indirect statement introduced by putaretis, i.e. quemnam... praeficiendum esse: ‘whom you believe ought to be put in charge of...’. Cicero here repeats the lexicon of the previous sentence: deligendo and praeficiendo return economically in praeficiendum [sc. esse]; id bellum and tantis rebus return chiastically and amplified in tantis rebus and tanto bello. The shift that praeficere undergoes, from passive verbal adjective (praeficiendo) to gerundive of obligation (praeficiendum), mirrors the shift in emphasis from Cicero and speaking (cf. dicendum esse) to the citizens and deciding.

  • 3 Powell (2013) 49.

23Nunc vero – cum sit unus Cn. Pompeius, qui non modo eorum hominum qui nunc sunt gloriam, sed etiam antiquitatis memoriam virtute superarit – quae res est quae cuiusquam animum in hac causa dubium facere possit?: Cicero continues with a rhetorical question (Nunc vero... quae res est quae... possit?), interrupted by a parenthetical cum-clause (cum sit unus... superarit). Such parentheses are a stylistic hallmark of oral discourse.3

24Nunc vero: here introducing a fact or consideration opposed to a previous wish: ‘(But) as it is’: see OLD s.v. nunc 11.

25cum sit unus Cn. Pompeius: the cum here has causal force. unus stands in predicative position to Cn. Pompeius. The meaning here is not ‘one Pompey’ or ‘a single Pompey’, but ‘Pompey alone’, ‘only Pompey’: Cicero categorically excludes alternatives.

26[Extra information:

27The theme of singularity is a constant throughout the speech, but especially in the part under discussion here: Cicero uses unus in §§ 28, 29, 31, 33, 35, 44 (2x), 46, but it occurs throughout the entire speech, according to the principle that unum esse [sc. Pompey], in quo summa sint omnia (§ 13: ‘there is one man who possesses in all respects the highest qualifications’ [sc. for the war against Mithridates]). The attribute singularis has a similar function. It occurs with reference to Pompey’s qualities in §§ 3 (virtus), 10 (virtus), 49 (virtus), 61 (innocentia), and 64 (militaris virtus). If in §§ 27-49 Cicero argues that one single individual is the supreme embodiment of the summus imperator, in the paragraphs that follow he goes on to counter the objection by a group of powerful nobiles that this particular command ought not to be given to one man only. See §§ 51-2: ... ea omnia quae a me adhuc dicta sunt, eidem isti vera esse concedunt, – et necessarium bellum esse et magnum, et in uno Cn. Pompeio summa esse omnia. Quid igitur ait Hortensius? Si uni omnia tribuenda sint, dignissimum esse Pompeium, sed ad unum tamen omnia deferri non oportere: ‘These very same men concede that everything I have said so far is true – namely that the war is inevitable and important and that only Pompey possesses all the necessary qualities to the highest degree. What, then, does Hortensius [one of the powerful nobiles who opposed Manilius’ proposal that Pompey be appointed] say? If the entire command must be given to one, Pompey is the worthiest recipient; but one shouldn’t entrust the entire command to one man only.’]

28qui non modo eorum hominum qui nunc sunt gloriam, sed etiam antiquitatis memoriam virtute superarit: the first qui introduces a relative clause of characteristic (with Cn. Pompeius as antecedent), which explains the subjunctive superarit (see next note for an explication of the form). superarit governs two accusative objects, coordinated by non modo... sed etiam: gloriam and memoriam. Each takes a genitive: eorum hominum [qui nunc sunt] depends on gloriam and antiquitatis on memoriam. virtute, an ablative of instrument or means, stands apo koinou with both accusative objects. By means of his excellence, Pompey surpasses both the glory obtained by any of his contemporaries and the recorded achievement of past generations. The arrangement is climactic and plays on the widespread feeling in Rome that it was difficult to measure up to the standards set in the past. Pompey, however, manages to outshine his contemporaries and to outperform the ancestors.

  • 4 to syncopate = to shorten words by omitting syllables or letters in the middle. It from Greek sun- (...)

29superarit: the syncopated form of supera-ve-rit:4 third person singular perfect subjunctive active. The tense is present perfect (‘has surpassed’) rather than a simply past (‘surpassed’).

30eorum hominum qui nunc sunt gloriam: the formulation picks up on virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam tantam from the previous sentence. Cicero has just claimed that currently there are no viri fortes atque innocentes at Rome fit for the job, except Pompey. It hence comes as no surprise that he should outshine his contemporaries in virtus.

  • 5 For a study of the memorial culture of the Roman republic see Flower (1996).

31memoria antiquitatis: a somewhat contrived synonym for gloria: it refers to the achievements of the Romans of old that entered into the collective memory of their families or clans (gentes) and the res publica at large – in other words, ‘long-term glory’.5 antiquitatis is an objective – rather than subjective – genitive: it is not the ancient times that do the remembering; rather, they are the object of remembrance.

  • 6 See esp. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 2.43: appellata est enim ex viro virtus (‘for the for excell (...)
  • 7 For a recent monograph on the term, see McDonnell (2006), though reviewers have argued that he undu (...)

32virtute: virtus is the second of the four essential hallmarks of the perfect general, as Cicero goes on to remind his audience in the subsequent paragraph: ego enim sic existimo, in summo imperatore quattuor has res inesse oportere, scientiam rei militaris, virtutem, auctoritatem, felicitatem. From an etymological point of view, vir-tus is what distinguishes the vir.6 Originally, virtus seems to have indicated martial prowess above all. But in the course of the Roman assimilation of Greek philosophical thought, the semantics of the term expanded considerably, as virtus became the preferred Latin term to render the Greek arete, which in philosophical discourse also signified ethical qualities.7 In this process it became a generic designation for good qualities more generally. The English ‘virtue’, while deriving from Latin virtus, inevitably carries moral connotations (as in ‘virtue ethics’) and hence does not capture the full semantic range and distinctive emphasis of the Latin term very well. ‘Excellence’ or ‘personal ability/quality’ (virtus) or ‘excellences’ (virtutes) is therefore frequently the better option in translating. (Not all excellences need have a moral dimension.)

33quae res est quae cuiusquam animum in hac causa dubium facere possit?: quae res est sets up a relative clause of characteristic (hence the subjunctive possit): ‘what thing is there of such a kind that it could...’.

34cuiusquam animum: ‘the mind of anyone’ – an elaborate way of saying quemquam (‘anyone’).

35Animum ... dubium facere: facere coordinates the two accusatives with dubium in predicative position: ‘to make the mind hesitant’ (not ‘to make the hesitant mind’).


36Cicero now explicates the reasons for his judgement that Pompey has outperformed both his contemporaries and the Romans of old. To do so, he briefly switches registers: he theorizes. In the first sentence of the paragraph, he defines, in the abstract, his ideal of the consummate military leader or perfect general. His summus imperator has four essential attributes – scientia rei militaris (‘knowledge of military affairs’), virtus (‘overall excellence’), auctoritas (‘commanding prestige’ or ‘authority’), and felicitas (‘divine blessing’). These attributes serve Cicero as blueprint for the rest of §§ 28-49. He treats each one in turn. The first quality in the list, scientia rei militaris, which is also the least complex, receives the briefest coverage: Cicero deals with it in the rest of § 28, before moving on to virtus (§§ 29-42), auctoritas (§§ 43-46), and felicitas (§§ 47-48). (Note the unequal distribution: scientia militaris receives 1 paragraph, virtus 14, auctoritas 4, and felicitas 2: is there a rationale for this?) Throughout, he aims to demonstrate that it is impossible to imagine anyone possessing any of these qualities to a higher degree than Pompey – let alone all four together. Pompey thereby emerges as the living embodiment of the perfect general.

37Ego enim sic existimo, in summo imperatore quattuor has res inesse oportere: scientiam rei militaris, virtutem, auctoritatem, felicitatem: the sic sets up the indirect statement in summo imperatore quattuor has res inesse oportere: see OLD s.v. 4b. One could say in English ‘as follows’, but this would be a bit cumbersome. scientiam rei militaris, virtutem, auctoritatem, felicitatem stand in apposition to quattuor has res. has is thus best translated ‘the following’. res here means something akin to ‘qualities’.

38scientiam rei militaris, virtutem, auctoritatem, felicitatem: an asyndetic list that is arranged climactically. Cicero moves from knowledge based on experience (scientia rei militaris) to innate ability/personal qualities/overall excellence (virtus) to impact on/perception by others in socio-political settings (auctoritas) to endorsement/support from the gods (felicitas). After setting out his ideal, Cicero proceeds to look for it in reality. He does so from here on out by means of a systematic ‘compare and contrast’ that pitches Pompey against an anonymous collective of ‘everyone else’. Accordingly, watch out for comparative forms: they make a frequent appearance! In § 28 alone, there are four: scientior, saepius, plura, and plures – all designed to illustrate Pompey’s unparalleled knowledge of military matters.

39quis igitur hoc homine scientior umquam aut fuit aut esse debuit?

  1. qui

    1. e ludo atque e pueritiae disciplinis bello maximo atque acerrimis hostibus

    2. ad patris exercitum atque in militiae disciplinam profectus est;

  2. qui

    1. extrema pueritia miles in exercitu fuit summi imperatoris,

    2. ineunte adulescentia maximi ipse exercitus imperator;

  3. qui

    1. saepius cum hoste conflixit quam quisquam cum inimico concertavit,

    2. plura bello gessit quam ceteri legerunt,

    3. plures provincias confecit quam alii concupiverunt;

  4. cuius adulescentia ad scientiam rei militaris

    1. non alienis praeceptis sed suis imperiis,

    2. non offensionibus belli sed victoriis,

    3. non stipendiis sed triumphis est erudita.

40Cicero starts by posing a rhetorical question (quis... debuit?) that demands the obvious answer: ‘nobody’. What follows are four climactically arranged sentences, all starting with a connecting relative (qui, qui, qui, cuius) that pick up hoc homine. (i) and (ii) sketch Pompey’s rise from kindergarten to general; (iii) and (iv) step back and compare his overall achievement in (and hence empirical knowledge of) military matters to that of anyone else. The design of (i) and (ii) is essentially bipartite, here flagged up with (a) and (b) (though there is a whiff of a tricolon in (i) as well: see below): they outline Pompey’s progression from puer to miles (i) and from miles to imperator (ii). The basic organizing principle of both (iii) and (iv) is the tricolon, flagged up with (a) (b) (c).

41quis igitur hoc homine scientior umquam aut fuit aut esse debuit?: scientior, which picks up scientiam rei militaris in the previous sentence, is the comparative form, in the nominative masculine singular, of sciens, scientis (‘knowledgeable’). Cicero elides the objective genitive rei militaris that we need to understand with scientior. It can easily be supplied from the previous sentence.

42hoc homine: an ablative of comparison after scientior.

43qui e ludo atque e pueritiae disciplinis bello maximo atque acerrimis hostibus ad patris exercitum atque in militiae disciplinam profectus est: between the subject (the connecting relative pronoun qui = et hic) at the beginning and the verb (profectus est) at the end, Cicero includes three well-balanced phrases that gradually increase in length, each consisting of two elements linked by atque:

(i) e ludo atque e pueritiae disciplinis [from boy...]

(ii) bello maximo atque acerrimis hostibus

(iii) ad patris exercitum atque in militiae disciplinam [... to man]

44(i) and (iii) correlate closely: e ludo sets up ad patris exercitum; e pueritiae disciplinis sets up in militiae disciplinam. (ii) consists of two circumstantial ablatives that specify the historical context in which Pompey made his transition from ‘boy’ to ‘man’.

45e ludo atque e pueritiae disciplinis: the meaning of ludus covers a wide semantic range, from ‘sport, play, recreation’ to ‘show, entertainment, or, in the plural, public games’ to ‘fun, merriment, frivolity’. Here it refers to ‘a place of instruction or training’, more specifically, ‘elementary school’: OLD s.v. 6. disciplinae, in the plural, refers to different ‘branches of study’. In the singular, it means ‘teaching, instruction, training’, but also something more akin to the English derivative ‘discipline’, i.e. ‘orderly conduct based on moral training’ or ‘order maintained in a body of people under command’ (OLD s.v. 4), which is its meaning in the phrase in militiae disciplinam further on in the sentence. pueritia means ‘boyhood’, which in Rome tended to come to an end between the 14th and 17th birthday, with the donning of the so-called toga virilis (‘the toga of manhood’), which marked the beginning of adulescentia (‘adulthood’).

  • 8 Sources include Appian Bellum Civile 1.48.207ff., Velleius Paterculus 2.21.1, Florus 2.6.14.

46bello maximo atque acerrimis hostibus: the ablatives indicate the attendant circumstances in which Pompey made the transition from being a boy at school to serving in the army. The use of two superlatives (maximo, acerrimis) and the chiastic design (noun – adjective – adjective – noun) underscore the severity of the conflict that initiated Pompey into military life. There are two ways to construe the atque: it can be taken to link (i) bello and hostibus (= ‘in a war of great significance and against the most bitter enemies’) or (ii) maximo and acerrimus hostibus, with both phrases being predicative specifications of bello (= ‘a war of great significance and involving the most bitter enemies’). The war in question is the Social War between Rome and her Italian allies in 91-87 BC (with the most intense fighting occurring in 90-89), which ended with Rome granting full citizenship to its ‘allies-turned-enemies-turned-citizens’. The details of the conflict are irrelevant for Cicero’s purposes. His main interest lies in Pompey’s precocious exposure to warfare. But our sources suggest that for once his ‘superlative idiom’ is true to the facts: the fighting was ferocious.8

  • 9 Seager (2002) 194 n. 10.

47ad patris exercitum atque in militiae disciplinam: Pompey went straight from school (ludus) to military service (exercitus) under the command of his father Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo, one of the consuls of 89 BC, most likely as a member of his father’s consilium. Pompey was born on 29 September 106 BC, so he must have been 17 at the time. Cicero, too, earned his military spurs under Strabo. There is no evidence to suggest, however, that he was also part of the consilium or that Cicero and Pompey had ‘any close link’.9

48[Extra information:

  • 10 Badian (2009) 17.

49A consilium is a typically Roman institution: it was in effect a group of esteemed and experienced persons who acted in an advisory capacity, but also included well-connected young men eager to learn the ropes of public affairs; any Roman in a position of power, whether in his role as pater familias or as a magistrate or pro-magistrate of the Roman people, was expected to consult his consilium before making an important or difficult decision. We know of the presence of Pompey filius in the consilium of his father because of an inscription, which provides us with ‘the single surviving list of a commander’s suite’.10 The inscription in question is ILLRP (= Inscriptiones Latinae Liberae Rei Publicae) 515. You can access the full text and a translation (as well as a photo of the inscription) at​pdcs_articles/​rg_sp.pdf. It’s worth checking out, just to get a sense of the sheer size of the consilium.]

50qui extrema pueritia miles in exercitu fuit summi imperatoris, ineunte adulescentia maximi ipse exercitus imperator: Cicero here uses an ablative of time (extrema pueritia) and a temporal ablative absolute (ineunte adulescentia) to underscore both Pompey’s precociousness and his comet-like ascent to the top: at the very end of his boyhood (extrema pueritia), he was already a soldier (miles), yet at the beginning of his adulthood (ineunte adulescentia), he was already a general (imperator). The emphasis on the end of one period in Pompey’s life (pueritia) and the beginning of another (adulescentia) underscores that he rose virtually overnight from common soldier (miles) to commander-in-chief (imperator). In reality, however, several years elapsed between his entry into military life under his father in 89 and 83 BC when he put himself in command of an army that he had raised by his own initiative, relying on family networks, in the turbulent years of civil war between Sulla and the Marians. In fact, Pompey’s comet-like (and unconstitutional) rise to the pinnacle of Rome’s politico-military hierarchy would have been inconceivable without the chaos of suicidal infighting within Rome’s ruling elite. Cicero glosses over the unsavoury enabling conditions of Pompey’s stunning success (and irregular curriculum vitae), choosing instead to focus on the truly extraordinary speed of his ascent to the top. The chiastic arrangement miles in exercitu summi imperatoris maximi... exercitûs imperator enhances the effect: the shifts in case from the genitive summi imperatoris to the nominative ipse... imperator and from the ablative in exercitu to the genitive maximi... exercitûs underscore the transformation of Pompey from military novice to general, with the ipse emphasising that Pompey has become imperator himself. And even though he wasn’t yet the summus imperator that he is at the time of Cicero’s speech, the transference of the superlative from the general under which Pompey served (summi imperatoris) to the army he had under his command at a young age (maximi... exercitûs) prefigures his own attainment of the attribute summus in due course. Cicero may here also be hinting at Pompey’s nickname Magnus (‘the Great’).

51[Extra Information:

52Plutarch records the moment when Pompey was first hailed as imperator – by none other than Sulla. See his Life of Pompey 8.2; the year is 83 BC, after Pompey had won several victories over Sulla’s Marian enemies:

When Pompey learned that Sulla was near, he ordered his officers to have the forces fully armed and in complete array, that they might present a very fine and brilliant appearance to the imperator; for he expected great honours from him, and he received even greater. For when Sulla saw him advancing with an admirable army of young and vigorous soldiers elated and in high spirits because of their successes, he alighted from off his horse, and after being saluted, as was his due, with the title of Imperator, he saluted Pompey in return as Imperator. And yet no one could have expected that a young man, and one who was not yet a senator, would receive from Sulla this title.

  • 11 Plutarch, Life of Pompey 12.3.

53Two years later, after a decisive rout of king Iarbas’ troops in Africa, Pompey’s own soldiers hailed him as imperator – a stepping stone towards his first triumph (for which see below).11]

54summi imperatoris: most likely a complimentary reference to Pompey’s father Strabo (who celebrated a triumph in 89 BC for the siege and sack of Asculum and thus could be said to have earned the attribute summus), rather than Sulla: Pompey didn’t join Sulla’s side until several years later, and Cicero at any rate tries to downplay the Sulla-connection whenever possible.

55qui saepius cum hoste conflixit quam quisquam cum inimico concertavit, plura bello gessit quam ceteri legerunt, plures provincias confecit quam alii concupiverunt: Cicero here identifies three related pairs of (unequal) challenges and asserts that Pompey has mastered the (vastly) more difficult one in each pair more frequently (see the three comparatives saepius, plura, plures, each followed by quam) than anyone else has mastered the one that requires comparatively little effort. The four composite verbs confligere, concertare, conficere, and concupescere endow the sentence with an alliterative beat, further enhanced by the absence of connectives.

56saepius cum hoste conflixit quam quisquam cum inimico concertavit: to begin with, Cicero contrasts the frequency with which Pompey has defeated an enemy of Rome with the frequency with which anyone else has engaged in strife with a personal enemy. Apart from the higher number (saepius), there is a contrast between decisive victories on the battlefield (conflixit) and indecisive encounters in a court of law (concertavit) and one between an outside (military) enemy (hostis) and a personal-political enemy (inimicus).

57plura bello gessit quam ceteri legerunt: the second comparison asserts that the deeds Pompey has performed in war outnumber the military deeds others have read of. We repeat here what we have already pointed out in the Introduction: depending on the reader, it could imply very few military feats indeed; if, on the other hand, the reader Cicero has in mind is someone like himself (who had surely perused all the major Greek and Roman historiographers and most of the minor ones as well: you can see him at it in V. Foppa’s painting on page 6) the praise turns into panegyric hyperbole. The distinction between acquiring knowledge of warfare through military service as compared to reading about it in books also occurs in the speech the historian Sallust (86-c. 35 BC) puts in the mouth of Marius, a homo novus (‘new man’) who held the consulship seven times, in his Bellum Iugurthinum 85.13: Comparate nunc, Quirites, cum illorum superbia me hominem novum. Quae illi audire aut legere solent, eorum partem vidi, alia egomet gessi; quae illi litteris, ea ego militando didici. Nunc vos existimate, facta an dicta pluris sint (‘Compare me now, fellow citizens, a “new man”, with those haughty nobles. What they know from hearsay and reading, I have either seen with my own eyes or done with my own hands. What they have learned from books I have learned by service in the field; think now for yourselves whether words or deeds are worth more’). We are either dealing with a topos or, possibly, with a Sallustian reworking of a Ciceronian idea.

58plures provincias confecit quam alii concupiverunt: provincia can mean ‘province’, in the sense of ‘a territory outside Italy under the direct administration of a governor from Rome’(OLD s.v. 3), but the English derivative is a ‘false friend’ here, where Cicero uses provincia in its original sense of ‘special function or task assigned to a magistrate’(OLD s.v. 1). (The term imperium – see next sentence – underwent a semantic expansion analogous to provincia, from the ‘right to command’ to ‘empire’, i.e. the territory over which one has the right to issue orders.) The theme of Pompey’s qualities and achievements surpassing the wildest dreams of his contemporaries recurs in § 48.

59cuius adulescentia ad scientiam rei militaris non alienis praeceptis sed suis imperiis, non offensionibus belli sed victoriis, non stipendiis sed triumphis est erudita: the subject of the sentence is adulescentia, the verb is est erudita. The principle of praise here is the same as in the previous sentence: Cicero identifies three pairs of (unequal) sources of the scientia rei militaris that Pompey acquired at the outset of his adulthood (praecepta v. imperia; offensiones v. victoriae; stipendia v. triumphi) and argues that his knowledge derives from the superior ones. These – imperia, victoriae, triumphi – constitute the core of aristocratic ambition in republican Rome: military commands (imperia) were meant to result in victories (victoriae) and ideally the victories were of such magnitude that the general in charge could celebrate a triumph (triumphus).

60non alienis praeceptis sed suis imperiis: Pompey knows about warfare not because he was the recipient of instruction by someone else (alienis praeceptis), but because he was holding the right of command over Roman armies himself, and more than once (suis imperiis: note the plural). The contrast is twofold: alienis contrasts with suis, praeceptis with imperiis. Even though the grammatical subject of the sentence is adulescentia, Cicero uses the reflexive pronoun suis, which refers to the understood subject, i.e. Pompey.

61non offensionibus belli sed victoriis: Pompey did not have to learn from his mistakes (offensionibus belli means something akin to the ‘School of Hard Knocks’, i.e. the painful education one gets via life’s trials and tribulations, here specifically military defeats). Cicero implies that he always emerged from battle victoriously. This is not strictly speaking true, or at least not the whole truth: especially in his campaign against Sertorius in Spain, Pompey experienced major setbacks and outright defeats in battle before he gradually gained control of the situation. Cicero brushes over such nuances in panegyrical simplification.

62non stipendiis sed triumphis: the basic meaning of stipendium is the cash payment soldiers received; it is also used metonymically in the sense of ‘season of military service’, ‘campaign’. This is the meaning here: Cicero contrasts mere service in the army with the ultimate of achievement in Roman warfare, the celebration of a triumph.

  • 12 We know that the triumph took place on 12 March, but the year is uncertain: 81, 80, 79 BC are all p (...)

63triumphis: most Roman aristocrats would have been over the moon to be awarded a triumph once. By the time of the pro lege Manilia in 66 BC, Pompey had already triumphed twice: in 81 (?) BC for his victory in Africa over king Iarbas, in the context of the civil war between Sulla and the Marians;12 and in 71 BC for his victory over Sertorius in Spain. He was to celebrate a third triumph in 61 BC, for his victories over the pirates and Mithridates. The highly coveted award of a triumph was supposed to follow strict regulations and was, in theory, reserved for senators who had reached at least the praetorship, which meant (again: at least) the age of 39. At the time of his first triumph, Pompey by contrast was in his twenties (!) and still only an eques (‘knight’) – the first eques to celebrate the ritual, against the initial resistance of Sulla and others. The people, though, took delight in the extraordinary feat. As Plutarch reports in his biography (Life of Pompey 14.6): ‘it was a dazzling honour for him to celebrate a triumph before he was a senator. And this contributed not a little to win him the favour of the multitude; for the people were delighted to have him still classed among the knights after a triumph.’

  • 13 Seager (2002) 28.
  • 14 Cole (2013) 34 n. 50
  • 15 Weinstock (1971) 37. For Lucius Metellus, see Pliny, Natural History 7.139, for Pompey and Alexande (...)

64Pompey ensured that the occasion remained memorable in other ways as well. Here is Plutarch again (Life of Pompey 14.4): ‘When many showed displeasure and indignation at his project, Pompey, we are told, was all the more desirous of annoying them, and tried to ride into the city on a chariot drawn by four elephants; for he had brought many from Africa which he had captured from its kings. But the gate of the city was too narrow, and he therefore gave up the attempt and changed over to his horses.’ Plutarch implies that Pompey and his advisors were ‘geometrically challenged’ when they tried to squeeze the elephants through the gates, and many a modern scholar has followed suit. Seager speaks of an ‘element of farce’ that ‘marred the proceedings’;13 and Cole thinks that ‘unfortunately, Pompey had to alter his grandiose plans when the elephants would not fit through the gate’.14 Surely, however, Pompey and his advisors had sufficient mathematical ability to measure up the backsides of two elephants and the size of a Roman gate. Hence it is much more likely that we are dealing with one of those carefully stage-managed instances of innovative aristocratic self-promotion that formed an essential component of the political culture of the Roman republic. We need to imagine the long triumphal procession grinding to a halt, with everybody watching Pompey attempting the impossible before conceding defeat and switching over from elephants to (conventional) horses – a spectacular and, as Plutarch proves, truly memorable scenario that both signalled his overweening ambition and his ultimate willingness to abide by tradition. The elephants, apart from evoking the African theatre of operation, also marched in the tradition of good old aristocratic emulation (recalling Lucius Metellus (c. 290-221 BC), high pontiff, twice consul, dictator, chief commander of the cavalry, etc., who in his triumphal procession after the First Punic War displayed elephants in Rome for the first time) and reinforced Pompey’s self-fashioning as a Roman equivalent of Alexander the Great and ‘Alexander’s mythical ancestors, Heracles and Dionysus, the divine conquerors of the world.’15

65Quod denique genus esse belli potest, in quo illum non exercuerit fortuna rei publicae?: quod is an interrogative adjective modifying genus; in quo introduces a relative clause of characteristic (hence the perfect subjunctive exercuerit). After tracing Pompey’s rise to military stardom, Cicero here refocuses his discourse on the issue under consideration with another rhetorical question. The phrase genus belli recalls the earlier discussion of the nature (genus) of the war against Mithridates. Cicero stresses that Pompey, in the course of his career, has successfully fought in every conceivable kind (genus) of war, and in doing so did well by the res publica – his appointment under the lex Manilia would thus virtually guarantee another victory.

  • 16 See the Appendix in Clark (2007) 283-86.
  • 17 Clark (2007) 214-15.

66fortuna rei publicae: fortuna should arguably be capitalized (Fortuna) and understood as a divine quality endowed with agency: here the Fortuna of the res publica is said to have taken it upon herself to train Pompey. The Romans dedicated several temples to various manifestations of Fortuna: 293 BC (Fors Fortuna), mid-third-century BC (Tres Fortunae), c. 204-194 BC (Fortuna Primigenia), 180-173 BC (Fortuna Equestris), 101 BC (Fortuna Huiusque Diei), in line with shrines and temples to other divine qualities such as Concordia, Felicitas, Fides, Honos, Libertas, Mens, Ops, Pietas, Salus, Spes, Victoria, or Virtus.16 Cicero frequently features personified divine qualities as agents in his speeches: ‘He describes victoria, for example, as witness and as judge;... fortuna rei publicae is said to be keeping Pompey busy in all kinds of wars [= our passage here]; fortuna populi romani is described as bringing Pompey to Asia [= Man. 45: see below]; and fides is represented leading Cicero himself.’17 The passage here belongs to a wider sequence of references to Pompey’s special relationship to Fortuna or Felicitas: see §§ 45, 48, 49 below.

67Civile, Africanum, Transalpinum, Hispaniense, servile, navale bellum, varia et diversa genera et bellorum et hostium, non solum gesta ab hoc uno, sed etiam confecta, nullam rem esse declarant in usu positam militari, quae huius viri scientiam fugere possit: the sentence has two subjects: bellum (prefaced by the string of attributes Civile, Africanum, Transalpinum, Hispaniense, servile, and navale) and genera (prefaced by the two attributes varia and diversa and governing the genitive phrase et bellorum et hostium). Two perfect passive participles agreeing with genera follow: gesta and confecta. The main verb of the sentence is declarant, which is placed smack in the middle of the indirect statement it introduces: nullam rem is the subject accusative; and the infinitive is either esse (as a complete predicate), which would turn positam into a perfect passive participle agreeing with rem (‘... that there is/exists no thing that falls within the remit of military experience...’) or esse... positam (‘... that no thing falls within the remit of military experience...’). By turning the string of wars in which Pompey participated into eloquent witnesses for his knowledge in military matters, Cicero anticipates the English saying that ‘the facts speak for themselves’.

  • 18 Brown (2003) 94.
  • 19 Brown (2003) 104.

68Nevertheless, the list is a telling piece of evidence for the increasing complexity of warfare in late-republican Rome. As Robert Brown notes: ‘Bellum traditionally signified to the Romans a just war waged against non-allied external foes, whether in Italy or overseas – such at least was the ideal. The era of the Gracchi ushered in a century of internal conflict in which the notion of war became fraught with complications.’18 And he cites our passage as a case in point, not least since Man. 28 is our earliest attestation for the phrase ciuile bellum. He elaborates: ‘Undoubtedly the term was in common use by the 60s but the date of its origin is indeterminable. ... At any rate, the Ciceronian passage attests vividly to the growing complexity of the notion of war. The list presents an odd mixture of abstract and concrete terms. Ciuile refers to the wars of the 80s against Cinna and Carbo. The next three wars – Africanum, Transalpinum, Hispaniense – exhibit the traditional formula [i. e. the geographical specification of a war on foreign/hostile territory]. Bellum seruile... shifts back to political categorization. Bellum nauale, which refers to the campaign against the pirates in 67, formally resembles ciuile and seruile but characterizes the war by mode rather than enemy. Thus three (or four) genera belli: ciuile, seruile, nauale, and perhaps in the case of the bellum Hispaniense, a genus mixtum (a hybrid of civil and foreign war) – none of which, it should be noted, corresponds to the standard type of war fought by the Romans before this era. To classify the complex wars of the late Republic there was a need for expansion and refinement of the traditional terminology.’19

69Civile ... bellum: in the same year the Social War (91-87 BC) ended, Rome tottered into Civil War between Sulla and (initially) Marius and his supporters. A brief timeline is as follows:

87: Marius and the tribune Publius Sulpicius Rufus try to relieve Sulla, who was consul at the time, of his command against Mithridates and transfer it to Marius.
87: Sulla flees the city, only to march on Rome at the head of six legions he commanded in the Social War. He manages to gain control of Rome, declare Marius and several of his supporters public enemies (
hostes) and then leave for the East to wage war against Mithridates as planned.
87: Once Sulla has left the city, renewed fighting breaks out between Sulla’s supporters, including the other consul of 87, Gnaeus Octavius, and the Marian party, including, prominently, Marius himself, who plotted his return from Africa, his son, Lucius Cornelius Cinna, and Quintus Sertorius. The Marians gain the upper hand. 86: Marius dies.
84: Cinna dies.
83: Sulla, after some initial, inconsequential victories over Mithridates, returns to Italy and defeats the Marian party, now under the leadership of Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, who flees to Africa, and Quintus Sertorius, who retreats to the Hispanic peninsula (with particular strongholds in modern-day Portugal).

  • 20 Brown (2003) 103.

70In 84 BC, we find Pompey in the camp of Carbo, but soon afterwards he decided to transfer his allegiances to Sulla, raising a private legion from his client base (that is, without senatorial authorization) and presenting it to Sulla upon Sulla’s return to Italy from his campaign against Mithridates. This is the moment when he was first hailed as imperator (see above). He then helped Sulla to crush the Marian opposition in Italy, with notable success and an ever-swelling army. Cicero acknowledges, but then quickly glosses over, this problematic chapter in Pompey’s CV, re-labelling those military operations that were part of the civil conflict but did not take place on Italian soil with reference to the geographical regions where they happened. See below on Africanum bellum, Transalpinum bellum and Hispaniense bellum – three phrases that give the impression of warfare against external enemies. Brown points out that ciuile bellum is ‘a contradiction in terms, inasmuch as cooperation in war against external enemies would normally be considered one of the chief duties and characteristics of a citizen. “Civil war” in English has lost the paradoxical sense it held in Rome, where the distinction between ciues and non-ciues was a crucial determinant of status, obligations, and rights.’20

  • 21 Plutarch, Life of Pompey 12.

71Africanum ... bellum: Pompey proceeded to fight against the remaining supporters of Marius who had fled to Africa, but he also campaigned against the African king Iarbas, who backed the Marians. Capture of the king and his kingdom paved Pompey’s path to celebrating his first triumph (see above under triumphis).21 (No Roman celebrated a civil-war triumph until Julius Caesar.)

72Transalpinum ... bellum: after some initial setbacks, Quintus Sertorius, Marius’former ally, managed to consolidate his power base in Spain and, as a renegade, engaged in prolonged warfare against the official Roman presence on the Hispanic peninsula – with notable success. In 77 BC, Pompey was sent to Spain to reinforce the war effort and, on his way, engaged in various battles with Gallic tribes. Cicero’s label Transalpinum bellum refers to these rather inconsequential encounters.

73Hispaniense ... bellum: Pompey struggled mightily against Sertorius, but eventually managed to gain the upper hand; his ultimate victory was facilitated by the assassination of Sertorius during a banquet in 72 BC.

74servile bellum: with the war in Spain finished, Pompey returned to Italy, just in time to join in the tail end of Rome’s suppression of the slave uprising under Spartacus in 71 BC, upstaging Crassus, who had been responsible for the heavy lifting. See further below on § 30.

75navale bellum: in 67 BC, the tribune Aulus Gabinius introduced a bill that called for someone to be given an extraordinary command against the pirates. It was apparent to everybody that the command would go to Pompey (as it did), who quickly brought the pirate problem under control. The lex Gabinia was in many ways the blueprint for the lex Manilia, and Pompey’s success against the pirates Cicero’s greatest trump: he spends five full paragraphs of the set text (§§ 31-35) rehearsing Pompey’s running of the campaign and returns to the topic throughout the rest of the speech.

76varia et diversa genera et bellorum et hostium: the use of synonyms (varia, diversa) and polysyndeton (et bellorum et hostium) reinforces the point that Pompey has seen every type of warfare, every type of enemy: his scientia rei militaris is grounded in comprehensive experience.

77non solum gesta ab hoc uno, sed etiam confecta: this is the second time in the paragraph that Cicero uses conficere (see above: plures provincias confecit quam alii concupiverunt). In each instance, the emphasis is on Pompey’s talent to get things done: an important consideration, given the long drawn-out nature of Rome’s struggle with Mithridates, which had been flaring up intermittently for the last two decades, and the failure of other generals to finish the job (notably Lucullus, whose ineffective endeavours Cicero recalls in the early parts of the speech).

78ab hoc uno: another reminder of Pompey’s singularity.

79nullam rem esse declarant in usu positam militari, quae huius viri scientiam fugere possit: quae (referring back to rem) introduces a relative clause of characteristic (hence the subjunctive possit).


80After fairly briskly dispatching the first of four essential attributes of his perfect general, scientia rei militaris, in § 28, Cicero here moves on to the second in his list, virtus, which receives more extensive coverage (§§ 29-42). In § 29 he introduces three decisive conceptual operations that remain crucial for how the section on virtus unfolds:

  1. He fragments the singular virtus into a plurality of virtutes. These virtutes he defines further in two ways:

  2. By adding the attribute imperatoriae, he implies that there are virtutes specific to the general. This in turn entails that the virtutes specific to the general do not constitute the sum-total of virtutes: there are others as well.

  3. Within the subcategory of virtutes imperatoriae, he distinguishes between those that are commonly (cf. quae vulgo existimantur) recognized and those that are not. He goes on to list those he considers common ones right away (labor in negotiis, fortitudo in periculis, industria in agendo, celeritas in conficiendo, consilium in providendo), but postpones his treatment of the ‘uncommon’ones until § 36, i.e. halfway through the section.

  • 22 Cicero’s discussion of virtus at de Inventione 2.159, where he defines the philosophically (and ver (...)

81All three of these moves are of crucial importance to Cicero’s agenda in the pro lege Manilia. And all are to some degree both unorthodox and selfserving. To begin with, the switch from the singular virtus to the plural virtutes ‘de-essentializes’ virtus. Instead of opting for one basic, ‘essential’ meaning of the term (such as ‘martial prowess’), Cicero opens up an entire portfolio of virtutes, in which any one quality (such as ‘martial prowess’) is just one (if perhaps a privileged one) among several others that need to be taken into consideration as well. The use of the plural virtutes is not in itself unusual – it also occurs elsewhere in Latin literature, from Plautus and Terence onwards.22 And yet, in this particular setting, the way in which Cicero ‘pluralizes’ virtus may well have raised the eyebrows of those who, for whatever reason, preferred to think of virtus as consisting primarily in one particular quality (such as – again – straightforward military excellence). Similarly, other Roman aristocrats might well have balked at the differentiation of virtutes imperatoriae into those that are commonly recognized and those that are not. They might have objected that if one wanted to distinguish between virtus and virtutes imperatoriae in the first place, then the common understanding of virtutes imperatoriae as consisting of labor, fortitudo, industria, celeritas, and consilium is quite comprehensive, that, in other words, there are no ‘uncommon’ virtutes that qualify for being added to the list. But what Cicero hints at here, he elaborates in detail in §§ 36-42, where he submits that in addition to the ‘common ones’ the perfect general is also outstanding in innocentia, temperantia, fides, facilitas, ingenium and humanitas. In contrast to ‘courage’, ‘strategic brilliance’, and ‘martial prowess’, these are all ‘soft’ virtues, which put the emphasis on ethical excellences, such as integrity of character, self-restraint, trustworthiness, and ease in social intercourse. The conceptual operations here thus ultimately enable Cicero to endow virtus with a range of untraditional or at least unorthodox meanings – a conceptual creativity that, as we shall see, is a key part not only of his promotion of Pompey, but of his self-promotion as well.

82Iam vero virtuti Cn. Pompei quae potest oratio par inveniri?: Cicero begins the new section with a rhetorical question, flagging up the inability of speech (even his) to match reality. The interrogative adjective quae and the noun it modifies (oratio) are postponed, yielding proleptic pride of place to Pompey’s virtus. The word order, with virtus coming first and the oratio about it a distant second, thus mirrors the facts. The v-alliteration vero virtuti (cf. also inveniri) adds rhetorical colour.

83Iam vero: iam can be used to mark a transition to a new topic (here from Pompey’s scientia rei militaris to his virtus); in this sense, it is frequently strengthened by vero (as here): OLD s.v. iam 8a.

84inveniri: the basic meaning of invenio is ‘to encounter, come upon, meet, find’. In rhetoric, it acquired the technical sense ‘to devise arguments or topics for a speech’. Inventio (‘invention’, ‘finding something to say’) is the first of five canonical parts in classical rhetorical theory of how to prepare and deliver an oration. The others are dispositio (‘the organization of the argument’), elocutio (‘style’, i.e. ‘artful expression’), memoria (‘memory’, ‘recall’), and pronuntiatio or actio (‘delivery’). Cicero’s earliest surviving piece of theoretical prose is entitled de Inventione. Cicero thus seems to imply that he could falter at the first task when faced with the challenge of capturing Pompey’s virtus in discourse. Despite this (mock-) diffidence, he will of course rise to the occasion.

85quid est quod quisquam aut illo dignum aut vobis novum aut cuiquam inauditum possit adferre?: The subject and the predicate of the question are quid and est. quid is also the antecedent of quod; the subject of the quod clause is quisquam; dignum, novum, inauditum are predicates of quod. Cicero uses a polyptoton of the generalizing quisquam ~ cuiquam and a polysyndetic (aut aut aut) tricolon to underscore the futility of anyone (quisquam) trying to put Pompey’s outstanding ability into words that would be worthy of Pompey (illo), novel to the Roman people (vobis), or unfamiliar to anyone (cuiquam) in the whole wide world. The rhetorical question calls for the answer ‘nothing’. Cicero, of course, will find something to say worthy of Pompey, new to his audience, and simply unheard of – starting with the next sentence where he claims that there are virtutes imperatoriae not commonly thought of as such, a claim that (as we shall see) forms the basis for an interesting bipartite structure to this section. In what follows, then, the posture of modesty adopted here thus imperceptibly turns into a platform of oratorical megalomania that culminates in the assertion at the end of the section (§ 42) that outstanding public oratory features among those things worthy of a general. There is, then, plenty that is novel and unheard of in Cicero’s discourse about (Pompey’s) virtus, and in a special sense the originality of his approach also proves ‘worthy’ of Pompey (as well as of Cicero himself).

86quid est ... quod quisquam ... possit adferre?: quod introduces a relative clause of characteristic (hence the subjunctive possit): ‘what is there of such a kind that...’

87Neque enim illae sunt solae virtutes imperatoriae, quae vulgo existimantur,

88labor in negotiis,

89fortitudo in periculis,

90industria in agendo,

91celeritas in conficiendo,

92consilium in providendo,

93quae tanta sunt in hoc uno, quanta in omnibus reliquis imperatoribus, quos aut vidimus aut audivimus, non fuerunt: the subject of the sentence is illae, which takes solae virtutes imperatoriae as predicate and functions as antecedent of the relative pronoun quae: ‘those are not the only qualities specific to a general, which are thought of as such by the people – namely...’.

94quae, a connecting relative (= et ea), is in the nominative neuter plural (cf. tanta) as Cicero steps back and sums up the preceding qualities (which are of indiscriminate gender).

95labor in negotiis: labor is here used in the relatively rare sense of ‘application to work’, ‘industry’, ‘perseverance’: OLD s.v. 2. Most commonly, it means ‘work’, ‘labour’, ‘toil’, ‘physical exertion’, ‘hardship’. Cicero uses labor as a positive hallmark elsewhere, often in conjunction with another term such as studium (de Oratore 1.260: Atheniensem Demosthenem, in quo tantum studium fuisse tantusque labor dicitur: ‘Demosthenes, the Athenian, in whom there is said to have been so much enthusiasm and application to work’) or industria (in Verrem 3.103: hominum summi laboris summaeque industriae: ‘men of the greatest industry and diligence’). More frequently, labor is not itself a virtus, but the context in which excellence manifests itself. See e.g. Tusculan Disputations 1.2: in laboribus et periculis fortitudo (‘courage in hardships and dangers’). The willingness to undergo physical toil and bear hardship is a key feature of Roman-aristocratic self-promotion.

96As for neg-otium: as the negation of otium (‘free time’, ‘leisure’), it refers to the fact of being occupied, i.e. ‘work’ or ‘business’ and, in particular, ‘public or official business’, both in the singular and (as here) plural, with or without the attribute publicus.

97fortitudo in periculis: fortitudo means ‘courage’ and ‘courage’ only (unlike virtus, which can mean ‘courage’ but also has a wide range of other meanings). Quintessentially, it captures facing up to danger, in particular on the battlefield. In § 28, Cicero implicitly divided the qualities that characterize the perfect military commander into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ ones, when he lamented the absence of a large pool of viri fortes atque innocentes to choose from (utinam, Quirites, virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam tantam haberetis...!). His supreme commander needs to be brave (fortis) first and foremost, but also show integrity of character (innocens) – one of the ‘uncommon’ qualities Cicero will return to in § 36.

98[Extra information:

  • 23 McDonnell (2006) 334.

99The adjective fortis is very common, the noun fortitudo less so. Cicero uses it a lot in his philosophical works to translate the Greek term for ‘manliness’ and courage, i.e. andreia (from anêr, meaning ‘man’) since he employs virtus (in terms of etymology, the closest equivalent to andreia) to translate the Greek term for ethical excellence, i.e. aretê.23 In the speeches, in contrast, fortitudo occurs only nine times.]

100industria in agendo: industria means ‘diligence’, ‘application’, ‘industry’, referring to the careful and purposeful pursuit and execution of tasks, not least in military matters.

101celeritas in conficiendo: Given that the war against Mithridates had been dragging on for more than two decades, Pompey’s track-record of bringing conflicts to a quick and decisive conclusion (proven not least in his campaign against the pirates: a point that Cicero will hammer home in §§ 32-35, with repeated references to ‘speed’) is particularly pertinent.

102consilium in providendo: consilium has a range of meanings, from ‘advice/counsel’ to ‘advisory body/council’. Here it refers to the ‘exercise of judgement’ or ‘discernment’ in matters of military strategy or more generally ‘strategic intelligence’.

103quae tanta sunt ..., quanta ... non fuerunt: tanta modifies quae in predicative position and correlates with quanta (‘these are present to such a degree, as...’).

104in hoc uno ... in omnibus reliquis imperatoribus: an antithesis that contrasts this one specific individual with all the rest. It is reinforced by the chiasmus of (a) hoc (b) uno :: (b) in omnibus (a) reliquis.

105quos aut vidimus aut audivimus: the antecedent of quos is imperatoribus. With vidimus and audivimus Cicero harks back to the end of § 27, where he argued that Pompey outshines in excellence both the glory of his contemporaries (eorum hominum, qui nunc sunt, gloriam) and the memory of historical superstars (memoriam antiquitatis): vidimus refers to individuals within living memory (whether still alive or dead: vidimus is in the perfect) and audivimus to generals more distant in time or culture. The ancient world produced its share of military geniuses, and Cicero’s formulation evokes the spectre of one figure in particular: Alexander the Great. He was widely considered the best and the most successful military leader there ever was, and Pompey, from early on, modelled himself on the Macedonian prince in a spirit of imitation and emulation, starting with his adoption of the epithet ‘Magnus’.


106Cicero now calls on witnesses that can testify to Pompey’s nonpareil virtutes imperatoriae, thus drawing the language of forensic oratory into the political domain. Mere humans will not do: he gives us a parade of personified countries: Italy, Sicily, Africa, Gaul, Spain, and again Italy, in a powerful sweep across the entire Western Mediterranean, are called upon to vouch for Pompey’s excellence in warfare. When Cicero says Testis est Italia, Sicilia, Africa, etc., there is no suggestion that he is referring to the Italian, Sicilian, African etc. people. The regions called for testimony are foreshadowed by the list in § 28 about the breadth of Pompey’s military experience: civile, Africanum, Transalpinum, Hispaniense, servile, navale bellum, varia et diversa genera et bellorum et hostium.

107The drum of ‘testis est + country + relative clause’ in asyndetic sequence is relentless:

  1. Testis est Italia, quam ille ipse victor L. Sulla huius virtute et subsidio confessus est liberatam.

  2. Testis est Sicilia, quam multis undique cinctam periculis non terrore belli, sed consilii celeritate explicavit.

  3. Testis est Africa, quae magnis oppressa hostium copiis eorum ipsorum sanguine redundavit.

  4. Testis est Gallia, per quam legionibus nostris iter in Hispaniam Gallorum internecione patefactum est.

  5. Testis est Hispania, quae saepissime plurimos hostes ab hoc superatos prostratosque conspexit.

  6. Testis est iterum et saepius Italia, quae cum servili bello taetro periculosoque premeretur, ab hoc auxilium absente expetivit, quod bellum exspectatione eius attenuatum atque imminutum est, adventu sublatum ac sepultum.

108In terms of overall design, Cicero uses ring-composition, starting and ending with Italy, together with a massive rhetorical climax. On his return to Italy (vi), he breaks the established pattern in various ways. First, he adds the adverbs (themselves arranged climactically) iterum et saepius in the main clause. Second, he integrates a further construction (the cum-clause cum... premeretur) within the relative clause. And third, he continues his account of this particular campaign by means of a connecting relative (or another relative clause) (quod). The sense of climax is further enhanced by the way in which Cicero gradually amplifies the degree of agency granted to his geographical personifications in the relative clauses.

  • In the first two instances (Italia, quam...; Sicilia, quam...), are accusative objects (though the first quam is also the subject accusative of the indirect statement introduced by confessus est). The subjects are Sulla (confessus est) and Pompey (explicavit).

  • In the third (Africa, quae...) and fourth (Gallia, per quam...) Cicero does without a human agent, and the regions gain in prominence as the (passive) targets of military or strategic actions.

  • And in the final two instances (Hispania, quae...; Italia, quae...) regions are the subjects of verbs that presuppose active agency (conspexit; expetivit).

109One of the effects of personification is to suggest a special relationship of Pompey to the divine sphere – compare the idea of the river (-god) Tiber in the Aeneid, who is on speaking terms with Virgil’s hero. This adds to the claim, which in fact permeates the speech, that Pompey is favoured by the gods. See further § 48 (discussed below), where Pompey emerges as having special powers over the forces of nature.

110Testis est Italia, quam ille ipse victor L. Sulla huius virtute et subsidio confessus est liberatam (sc. esse): the relative pronoun quam has a double function: it is the accusative object of confessus est and the subject accusative of the indirect statement dependent on confessus est: quam... liberatam (supply: esse). Cicero here refers to Pompey’s contribution to Sulla’s victory over the Marians in 84-83 BC, specifically his raising of a private army in 84 BC for Sulla’s cause. He glosses over the awkward fact that Romans here fought against Romans, leaving it unspecified whom Pompey liberated Italy from – an effect reinforced by the passive construction and obfuscated agency – instead of saying, forcefully, ‘Pompey liberated Italy’, Cicero fudges: ‘Italy was liberated by means of Pompey’s excellence and help’.

111ille ipse victor L. Sulla: Cicero here invokes Sulla as the ultimate winner. It is quite difficult to render the emphasis achieved through ille ipse in English: ‘that paragon of a victor, Lucius Sulla himself’. The sense is that there is no greater authority on the subject than the former dictator.

112confessus est: the verb captures the fact that every Roman aristocrat was keen to claim credit for military achievement: Cicero insists that even the general in charge overall, Sulla, acknowledged Pompey’s outstanding contribution to the campaign – even though he will have done so grudgingly.

113liberatam: the use of the verb liberare (‘to free’) is striking, especially when compared to other sources. Valerius Maximus (5.2.9), Plutarch (Life of Pompey 8), and Appian (Bellum Civile 1.80) note that Pompey tapped into the social networks of his father to raise an army for Sulla’s cause; and they recognize his contribution to the Sullan victory over the Marians in Italy. But their accounts fall far short of Cicero’s claim (attributed to Sulla) that ‘Pompey freed Italy’, which in comparison emerges as a massive hyperbole.

114[Extra information:

  • 24 See further Arena (2013).

115The verb liberare (and the noun libertas) carried a powerful, if diffuse ideological charge in the political thought of the late Roman republic. For those with a popular bent, libertas referred first and foremost to the sovereignty of the people, which they saw under threat from an in-group of powerful nobiles. For the senatorial oligarchy, libertas essentially consisted in the preservation of oligarchic equality in access to positions of power (i. e. the absence of an autocrat or tyrant and the maintenance of the status quo).24 For this reason, they systematically objected to every ‘extraordinary command’– such as the one Manilius and Cicero wanted to give to Pompey – as constituting a threat to libertas. By associating Pompey with the freeing of Italy from hostile oppression Cicero obliquely appropriates the notion of libertas for his cause.]

116huius virtute et subsidio: huius (the genitive singular of hic) refers to Pompey; virtute and subsidio are ablatives of means.

117Testis est Sicilia, quam multis undique cinctam periculis non terrore belli, sed consilii celeritate explicavit: after Sulla and his supporters had vanquished the Marian forces in Italy, high-ranking Marian officers, notably the consul of 82, Carbo, fled South to Africa and Sicily. The senate, by now controlled by Sulla, invested Pompey with praetorian imperium and sent him in pursuit. Cicero gives a more precise account of events in § 61, in the context of the paradoxical argument that in the case of Pompey, the unprecedented has tradition:

Quid tam novum quam adulescentulum privatum exercitum difficili rei publicae tempore conficere? confecit. huic praeesse? praefuit. rem optime ductu suo gerere? gessit. quid tam praeter consuetudinem quam homini peradulescenti, cuius aetas a senatorio gradu longe abesset, imperium atque exercitum dari, Siciliam permitti atque Africam bellumque in ea provincia administrandum? fuit in his provinciis singulari innocentia, gravitate, virtute: bellum in Africa maximum confecit, victorem exercitum deportavit. quid vero tam inauditum quam equitem Romanum triumphare? at eam quoque rem populus Romanus non modo vidit, sed omnium etiam studio visendam et concelebrandam putavit.

[What is so novel as that a mere youth, holding no office, should raise an army at a time of crisis in the commonwealth? Yet he did raise one. Or that he should command it? Yet he did command it. Or that he should achieve a great success under his own direction? Yet he did achieve it. What so contrary to custom as that one who was little more than a youth and far too young to hold senatorial rank should be given a military command and be entrusted with the province of Sicily and Africa and the conduct of a campaign there? He displayed in the performance of these duties remarkable integrity, dignity and capacity: the campaign in Africa, a very serious one, he brought to an end and led his army home victorious. What, indeed, so unheard of as that a Roman knight should hold a triumph? Yet even that the Roman People not merely witnessed but thought fit to attend, and to join in celebrating it with universal enthusiasm.]

118Plutarch (Life of Pompey 10) reports that Pompey took over Sicily with ease and showed generally great kindness to the indigenous population (no doubt in part with a view to extending his networks of loyal supporters), but that he deliberately humiliated the captured Carbo before having him executed. Cicero again suppresses the civil-war dimension of Pompey’s operations in Sicily (gently hinted at in the phrase multis... periculis), choosing to focus on the positive consequences of his arrival for the island (and Roman province) and his ability to establish control through swift strategic planning (consilii celeritate) rather than the application of violence or the threat of arms (terrore belli).

119multis undique cinctam periculis: multis and periculis go together. The word order is iconic: multis and periculis encircle (cingere) the other words that belong to the participle construction (undique cinctam).

120non terrore belli, sed consilii celeritate: the word order is chiastic: ablative of means (terrore) + genitive (belli):: genitive (consilii) + ablative of means (celeritate).

121Testis est Africa, quae magnis oppressa hostium copiis eorum ipsorum sanguine redundavit: in Africa, Pompey fought both against the Marians and their African allies. This enables Cicero to use the straightforward term for ‘external enemy’, i.e. hostis. Slaughtering hostes was unproblematic from a Roman point of view. In fact, the rules for celebrating a triumph required a significant amount of carnage (several thousand enemy soldiers killed). Pompey met the requirement in his victory over the African king Iarbas (which earned him his first triumph), a fact reflected in Cicero’s emphasis on bloodshed.

122Testis est Gallia, per quam legionibus nostris iter in Hispaniam Gallorum internecione patefactum est: the subject of the relative clause is iter. Cicero continues the rhetoric of gore, evoking the notion of a ‘road paved with corpses’. He is referring to Pompey’s mass-slaughter of Gauls on his way to his appointment in Spain. (Gallorum is an objective genitive dependent on internecione.)

123Testis est Hispania, quae saepissime plurimos hostes ab hoc superatos prostratosque conspexit: if Cicero could present Pompey’s slaughter of Africans and Gauls as an uncontroversial achievement, matters become messy again with Spain, where Pompey fought against the Roman renegade Sertorius (a former supporter of Marius, who had established an ‘alternative’ republic in Spain) as well as indigenous foes. Cicero retains the emphasis on external enemies (hostes), but scales back his rhetoric of gore. (Interestingly, in the list of wars in § 28, some manuscripts gloss Hispaniense [sc. bellum] with mixtum ex civilibus atque ex bellicosissimis nationibus: ‘consisting of engagements with both citizens and the most ferocious nations’.)

124Testis est iterum et saepius Italia, quae cum servili bello taetro periculosoque premeretur, ab hoc auxilium absente expetivit, quod bellum exspectatione eius attenuatum atque imminutum est, adventu sublatum ac sepultum: servile bellum refers to the slave revolt orchestrated by Spartacus, which started near Capua (in the vicinity of Naples). The uprising, which began in 73 BC, when Pompey was still fighting in Spain, was initially successful and spread quickly through Southern Italy. The senate eventually put Crassus in charge of eight legions to suppress the rebellion, and he soon re-established Rome’s military dominance, winning a decisive victory in 71 BC. By this time, Pompey had returned with his legions from Spain and joined in the mop-up operations. Afterwards, he claimed that the credit for the defeat of the slaves belonged primarily to him, rather than Crassus. See Plutarch, Life of Crassus 11. In passing over Crassus in silence, Cicero perpetuates Pompeian spin.

125iterum et saepius: literally ‘again and more often’, in idiomatic English ‘over and over again’: saepius is the comparative form of the adverb saepe.

126cum: not the preposition + ablative (despite the fact that an ablative follows!), but the conjunction + subjunctive. premeretur is in the imperfect subjunctive to indicate contemporaneous action in secondary sequence.

127servili bello taetro periculosoque: Cicero first identifies this war with servili and then glosses it with two further attributes that stress the monstrosity of a war against slaves (taetro) and the degree of danger that was involved (periculoso), not least since it happened very close to home.

128ab hoc ... absente: Cicero again uses the demonstrative pronoun to refer to Pompey. absente stands in predicative position to hoc and may have concessive force, with an oblique dig at Crassus: Italy sought help from Pompey, even though he was far away (and other generals in the country). The alliteration auxilium absente heightens the apparent paradox; and the hyperbaton generated by the insertion of auxilium in-between hoc and absente puts further emphasis on absente. absente is the first of three ablatives in this sentence that position Pompey in space and bring him ever closer: first he is absent (absente); then he is expected to arrive (expectatione); and finally he is there (adventu). The design builds up a powerful sense of anticipation and endows his arrival with semi-divine connotations, akin to an epiphany.

129quod bellum exspectatione eius attenuatum atque imminutum est, adventu sublatum ac sepultum [sc. est]: the quod-clause is a syntactically and thematically awkward appendix. It conspicuously breaks the pattern of the previous sentences: testis est + region + relative clause, with the region as antecedent of the relative pronoun. There are two ways to construe the quod: (i) as a relative pronoun that contains its antecedent (bellum) within the relative clause: ‘... a war, which was...’; (ii) as a connecting relative (= et id): ‘and this war was...’ The second solution is arguably more elegant. The powerful, virtually synonymous pairs of verbs attenuatum atque imminutum and sublatum ac sepultum obfuscate the fact that Pompey’s contribution to the victory was hardly decisive. In fact, the weakening and diminishing of the war in anticipation of Pompey’s arrival captures not so much the actual military situation in Southern Italy as the psychology of the inhabitants of Rome, for whom the return of Pompey (further) defused the threat posed by Spartacus.

130adventu sublatum ac sepultum [sc. est]: the ablative adventu is studiously ambiguous. We can take it in a temporal sense (‘upon his arrival, the war was finished’); but Cicero invites his audience to spot a causal relation as well: because of Pompey’s arrival, the war was dead and buried. Either way, the formulation deftly sidesteps the awkward fact that Pompey’s military contribution to the war effort was rather inconsequential.

131This is not the first passage in which Cicero endows an arrival of Pompey with military significance. Early on in the speech, he claimed that Pompey’s mere appearance in the Greek East on his mission against the pirates checked the advance of Mithridates and Tigranes (§ 13):

cuius adventu ipso atque nomine, tametsi ille ad maritimum bellum venerit, tamen impetus hostium repressos esse intellegunt ac retardatos.

[They recognize that his very arrival and name, even though he only came for the war against the pirates, nevertheless checked and delayed the attack of the enemy.]

132The idiom (in particular the noun adventus) and the scenario suggest a god at work and liken the manifestation of the general to an epiphany, i.e. divine power rendered visible. Cicero reinforces this impression at the end of § 13, again in an idiom that recurs in our passage here:

hunc audiebant antea, nunc praesentem vident tanta temperantia, tanta mansuetudine, tanta humanitate, ut ii beatissimi esse videantur, apud quos ille diutissime commoretur.

[They heard of him; now they see him face to face in such self-control, such gentleness, such human kindness that those seemed to be most blessed with whom he spent the most time.]

133The term praesens, which in religious contexts is used to refer to the efficacious presence of a god, and Pompey’s impact on those around him (profound bliss: beatissimi) are symptomatic of divine force. Cicero here links his assimilation of Pompey to the divine sphere with his ‘soft qualities’ (temperantia, mansuetudo, humanitas), on which he will elaborate in detail in § 36.


134With his last ‘geographical witness’, which is the entire Mediterranean coastline and every city located on it, Cicero has reached a new topic on which he will dwell for several paragraphs (§§ 31-35): Pompey’s war against the pirates in the previous year (67 BC). Pirates had bugged Rome for decades and were an endemic danger to seafaring in the Mediterranean. Plutarch has the following graphic account of their doings (Life of Pompey 24.1-6):

The power of the pirates had its seat in Cilicia at first, and at the outset it was venturesome and elusive; but it took on confidence and boldness during the Mithridatic war, because it lent itself to the king’s service. Then, while the Romans were embroiled in civil wars at the gates of Rome, the sea was left unguarded, and gradually drew and enticed them on until they no longer attacked navigators only, but also laid waste islands and maritime cities. And presently men whose wealth gave them power, and those whose lineage was illustrious, and those who laid claim to superior intelligence, began to embark on piratical craft and share their enterprises, feeling that the occupation brought them a certain reputation and distinction. There were also fortified roadsteads and signal-stations for piratical craft in many places, and fleets put in here which were not merely furnished for their peculiar work with sturdy crews, skilful pilots, and light and speedy ships; nay, more annoying than the fear which they inspired was the odious extravagance of their equipment, with their gilded sails, and purple awnings, and silvered oars, as if they rioted in their iniquity and plumed themselves upon it. Their flutes and stringed instruments and drinking bouts along every coast, their seizures of persons in high command, and their ransomings of captured cities, were a disgrace to the Roman supremacy. For, you see, the ships of the pirates numbered more than a thousand, and the cities captured by them four hundred. Besides, they attacked and plundered places of refuge and sanctuaries hitherto inviolate, such as those of Claros, Didyma, and Samothrace; the temple of Chthonian Earth at Hermione; that of Asclepius in Epidaurus; those of Poseidon at the Isthmus, at Taenarum, and at Calauria; those of Apollo at Actium and Leucas; and those of Hera at Samos, at Argos, and at Lacinium. They also offered strange sacrifices of their own at Olympus, and celebrated there certain secret rites, among which those of Mithras continue to the present time, having been first instituted by them. But they heaped most insults upon the Romans, even going up from the sea along their roads and plundering there, and sacking the neighbouring villas. Once, too, they seized two praetors, Sextilius and Bellinus, in their purple-edged robes, and carried them away, together with their attendants and lictors. They also captured a daughter of Antonius, a man who had celebrated a triumph, as she was going into the country, and exacted a large ransom for her.

135And so does Cassius Dio, as part of his account of Pompey’s career (36.20-21):

Pirates always used to harass those who sailed the sea, even as brigands did those who dwelt on land. There was never a time when these practices were unknown, nor will they ever cease probably so long as human nature remains the same. But formerly freebooting was limited to certain localities and small bands operating only during the summer on sea and on land; whereas at this time, ever since war had been carried on continuously in many different places at once, and many cities had been overthrown, while sentences hung over the heads of all the fugitives, and there was no freedom from fear for anyone anywhere, large numbers had turned to plundering. Now the operations of the bandits on land, being in better view of the towns, which could thus perceive the injury close at hand and capture the perpetrators with no great difficulty, would be broken up with a fair degree of ease; but those on the sea had grown to the greatest proportions. For while the Romans were busy with their antagonists, the pirates had gained great headway, sailing about to many quarters, and adding to their band all of like condition, to such an extent that some of them, after the manner of allies, assisted many others. Indeed, I have already related how much they accomplished in connection with others. When those wars had been ended, the pirates, instead of desisting, did much serious injury alone by themselves both to the Romans and to their allies. They no longer sailed in small force, but in great fleets; and they had generals, so that they had acquired a great reputation. First and foremost they robbed and pillaged those sailing the sea, no longer permitting them any safety even during the winter season, since as the result of their daring, practice, and success they made voyages in security even then; and next they despoiled even those in the harbours. For if any one ventured to put out against them, he would usually be defeated and perish; but even if he conquered, he would be unable to capture any of the enemy by reason of the speed of their ships. Accordingly, they would return after a little, as if victors, and would ravage and set in flames not only farms and fields, but also whole cities; some places, however, they conciliated, so as to gain naval stations and winter quarters in a friendly land as it were.

136Cicero’s audience, the Roman people, had much at stake in the attempt to bring the problem under control. Already at this time, the city of Rome relied to a significant degree on imported corn to feed its growing population, and the pirates posed a serious threat to the supply lines from Sicily and elsewhere. The pirates had their basis in the Eastern Mediterranean and subduing them was thus tied up with the other main military challenges in the region, i.e. the drawn-out war against Mithridates (the topic of the lex Manilia and Cicero’s speech). One of Cicero’s key talking points is the speed with which Pompey managed to dispatch the pirates. He hints at it in the last sentence of this paragraph and returns to it in detail in § 35.

137Testes [sc. sunt] nunc vero iam omnes orae atque omnes exterae gentes ac nationes, denique maria omnia, cum universa, tum in singulis oris omnes sinus ac portus: the main verb [= sunt] has to be supplied. The dissolution of the formula testis est X, foreshadowed by the extension of the formula in the preceding sentence (testis est iterum et saepius Italia ...), indicates a slight change in tone and topic. Instead of calling upon specific countries, Cicero here invokes a plurality of subjects as witnesses – the entire coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, all neighbouring peoples, every bay and harbour – to capture Pompey’s truly astounding success against the pirates. In various ways, the design of the sentence reinforces the impression that Cicero’s witnesses are innumerable: (i) omnes orae, (ii) omnes exterae gentes ac nationes, and (iii) maria omnia constitute a ‘classic’ tricolon, even though at first it appears that Cicero has here violated ‘the law of successively growing cola’ – maria omnia is much shorter than omnes exterae gentes ac nationes. But this apparent anti-climax in fact sets up the final piece of rhetorical gushing, which throws the entire tricolon out of sync: cum universa, tum in singulis oris omnes sinus ac portus. denique suggests that maria omnia will be the final item, but Cicero then proceeds to explore it in ways that produce deliberate inconcinnities, both in terms of syntax and theme. Only the cum-part (the attribute universa) fits grammatically with maria; in the tum-part, Cicero introduces the new subjects sinus and portus, which stand on their own – a fact further reinforced by yet another instance of omnis, which thereby figures four times in one tricolon (i. e. one time too often). Likewise, the tum-part, through inclusion of the phrase in singulis oris, points back to the first item (omnes orae), bringing the sentence full circle: it is as if Cicero, in the way he has designed the sentence, is tracing the entire (irregular) coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. The attributes omnes – omnes – omnia – universa – singulis all add to the impression of comprehensiveness.

138nunc vero iam: the words recall the iam vero of § 29. Each one can be used on its own to mark a transition to a new topic or item or to set up a rhetorical climax. English has a wide range of similar words – ‘further’, ‘moreover’, ‘now’, ‘indeed’– but combining them would produce clumsy prose.

  • 25 Note that the masculine nominative singular is exter and not (as some vocabulary lists have it) ext (...)

139omnes exterae gentes ac nationes: the word gens has two basic meanings: it can refer to a Roman clan or group of families sharing the same nomen and the same supposed ancestors (for example: gens Iulia, alleged to derive from Aeneas’ son Ascanius renamed Iulus); or it can refer (as here) to a non-Roman nation, people, or ethnicity. In those cases, Roman authors often add the attribute ‘exter, -era, -erum’ (‘foreign’) to eliminate ambiguity.25 gens is etymologically related to gigno (‘to bring into being, to create’), just as natio comes from nascor (‘to be born’): the two terms are virtual synonyms. The pleonasm adds to the rhetoric of comprehensiveness and generates a parallel design that has maria, cum universa at its centre:

omnes orae


in singulis oris

maria, cum universa

omnes exterae gentes ac nationes


omnes sinus ac portus

140sinus atque portus: both are fourth declension nouns in the nominative plural. Like most fourth-declension nouns, they are both masculine. (The two most important exceptions are manus, -us, and domus, -us, which are feminine.)

  • 26 Note that the meaning of cum you need here is overlooked in some vocabulary lists including those a (...)

141cum ... tum ...: cum is a nasty little word because it can mean all sorts of things. It can be either a preposition with the ablative or a conjunction, introducing a range of subordinate clauses in either the indicative or the subjunctive. But it also has some other uses. Followed by tum, for instance, it is used to co-ordinate (and rank) two related circumstances. So whenever you encounter the word, it is a good idea to take a step back and consider what kind of cum you are dealing with. Here, the word that follows cum, i.e. universa, could be in the ablative (suggesting, falsely, that we are dealing with the preposition). It isn’t, of course! If one tries this option out, insurmountable difficulties soon arise: ‘with universal...’doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and a noun that would complete the phrase is of course nowhere to be found – universa is in the neuter nominative plural agreeing with maria. Perhaps, then, we are dealing with the conjunction? But no finite verb form, in either the indicative or the subjunctive, is coming up! So on to the third option, which requires a tum – and lo and behold, here it is!26

142quis enim toto mari locus per hos annos aut tam firmum habuit praesidium, ut tutus esset, aut tam fuit abditus, ut lateret? The subject of the rhetorical question, which requires the answer ‘none’, is quis... locus, which takes two verbs coordinated by aut – aut: habuit (which governs the accusative object firmum... praesidium) and fuit. The two ut-clauses are both consecutive, each set up by a tam. Cicero specifies two possibilities by which places might have remained unaffected from the pirates: either they had such a powerful garrison that the pirates would not have dared to attack or they were so well hidden that the pirates would have been unable to locate them. But the way Cicero phrases the question implies that such places did not exist: the entire Mediterranean (cf. toto mari) was under threat from piracy during these years.

143quis ... locus: quis is an interrogative adjective modifying locus.

144toto mari: an ablative of place. This is a neat phrase to revise some difficult declensions. mare, maris, n. is a pure, third-declension i-stem noun, which means that the dative and the ablative look identical:





















145totus, on the other hand, belongs to a group of adjectives that mix the 2nd and the 3rd declension. This means that, unlike straight 2nd declension adjectives, it is possible to distinguish between the neuter dative singular (toti) and the neuter ablative singular (toto):



















































146The following little rhyme from George Lord may help you remember the irregular genitive and dative singular endings of totus and related adjectives:

unus, solus, totus, ullus,
uter, alter, neuter, nullus
The ending that these words will give
-ius in the genitive.
For dative endings, don’t be wrong,
alius the -i is long.

  • 27 Morwood (1999) 86.

147ut tutus esset ... ut lateret: two result clauses in secondary or historic sequence. The main verbs (habuit and fuit) are ‘perfects without have’ (as Morwood calls them) or ‘aorists’:27 they refer to a past state of affairs that does not continue in the present (as opposed to present perfects or ‘perfects with have’). In historic sequence, the imperfect subjunctive in subordinate clauses (like the result clauses here) refers to the same time as (or a later time than) the verb of the main clause.

148quis navigavit, qui non se aut mortis aut servitutis periculo committeret, cum aut hieme aut referto praedonum mari navigaret? In this second rhetorical question, Cicero shifts the focus from (stationary) locations around the Mediterranean to travellers. Just as with the locations, he uses aut – aut (this time two pairs) to sketch out the dire condition of sea-faring before Pompey took care of the pirates. If the previous sentence focused on geographical ubiquity (quis... locus, i.e. none), here the stress is on the absence of temporal respite from danger: people had the choice of sailing either in winter-time when storms would threaten their lives, or during the proper sailing season (which extended from March to October), when pirates would threaten their liberty. (Though one should perhaps not insist on too strict a match between the two pairs of aut: while mortis ... periculo maps up principally with hieme and servitutis ... periculo with referto praedonum mari, the pirates clearly posed a threat to both liberty and life.)

149quis navigavit, qui non se aut mortis aut servitutis periculo committeret: unlike the quis of the previous sentence, which is an interrogative adjective (modifying locus), the quis here stands on its own, as a proud interrogative pronoun. navigavit is another ‘perfect without have’ (see note above). The verb in the relative clause introduced by qui is in the imperfect subjunctive – imperfect to indicate contemporaneous action in historic sequence; subjunctive because the sense is consecutive/resultative: ‘who set sail without the consequence/result of putting his life or liberty in danger?’ committeret governs both a direct object (the reflexive pronoun se) and an indirect object (the dative periculo). The English equivalent is: ‘to expose someone to something’. The two genitives mortis and servitutis both depend on periculo.

150hoc tantum bellum, tam turpe, tam vetus, tam late divisum atque dispersum quis umquam arbitraretur aut ab omnibus imperatoribus uno anno aut omnibus annis ab uno imperatore confici posse? Cicero adds yet another rhetorical question but significantly delays the interrogative pronoun (quis), which is the subject of the sentence. The main verb is arbitraretur, which introduces an indirect statement: hoc tantum bellum, tam turpe, tam vetus, tam late divisum atque dispersum is the sprawling subject accusative, posse the verb. The present passive confici goes with posse. As in the two previous rhetorical questions, Cicero uses aut – aut to construct an either/or alternative. uno anno and omnibus annis are ‘ablatives of time within which’.

151hoc tantum bellum, tam turpe, tam vetus, tam late divisum atque dispersum: the noun here is bellum, which Cicero pads out with a string of modifiers: tantum refers to the size, turpe to the ethics (Rome being bullied by pirates is ‘shameful’ or ‘dishonourable’), vetus to the duration, and late divisum atque dispersum to the complex geography (it was spread across the entire Mediterranean).

152quis umquam arbitraretur: arbitraretur is in the imperfect subjunctive. The subjunctive here has potential force: Cicero’s rhetorical question demands ‘no-one’ as an answer and he uses the potential subjunctive to present it as an unlikely possibility that anyone would ever have believed feasible what Pompey then actually went on to do.

153ab omnibus imperatoribus uno anno aut omnibus annis ab uno imperatore: Cicero neatly correlates extremes (both in the sense of minima and maxima) in duration of time and in the number of available generals: countless generals, but only one year; countless years, but only one general. The design is chiastic: ablative of agency (ab omnibus imperatoribus) + ablative of time (uno anno) :: ablative of time (omnibus annis) + ablative of agency (ab uno imperatore). Put differently, from the point of view of military strategy he identifies two pairs that each consists of one positive and one negative aspects: many generals, but very short period of time; all the time in the world, but only one general. Neither scenario, he implies, anyone would have considered a recipe for success. This serves him as foil for Pompey’s achievement, who managed to get the job done despite combining the respective negatives: only one general + very limited amount of time.


154Cicero continues with his onslaught of rhetorical questions, but now gives them a special edge: they all involve his audience, the Roman people, whom he holds to account at least partially for the dire state of affairs caused by the pirates. On the face of it, the tactic of collective shaming is curiously negative, but it generates room for the special relationship between Pompey and the people that Cicero will bring into play in subsequent paragraphs, while also reminding them that technically they are in charge of the far-flung empire that Rome has become. This comes with certain responsibilities, not the least of which is appointing generals capable of dealing effectively with military challenges.

155The paragraph falls into three parts. We begin with a string of rhetorical questions (all calling for a negative answer) that put the spotlight on Cicero’s audience, the Roman people:

(i) quam provinciam ... tenuistis...?

(ii) quod vectigal vobis tutum fuit?

(iii) quem socium defendistis?

(iv) cui praesidio ... fuistis?

(v) quam multas existimatis insulas esse desertas...?

156He then addresses a rhetorical question to himself:

(vi) sed quid ego longinqua commemoro?

157After the one sentence that is not a rhetorical question in this paragraph (fuit hoc quondam... non sua tecta defendere), Cicero returns to interrogative mode with three further rhetorical questions that all follow the same pattern: they are introduced by a verb in the deliberative subjunctive, which sets up an indirect statement, followed by a circumstantial cum-clause (note, though, that the cum-clauses do not belong into the indirect statements):

(vii) ... ego... mare... clausum fuisse dicam, cum...

(viii) ... [eos] captos [esse] querar, cum...

(ix) ... tutum mare non fuisse dicam, cum...

158The pattern continues in the following paragraph (see below). In those last three rhetorical questions Cicero contrasts the ill-fortune that the pirates inflicted on non-Roman citizens (allies, envoys sent to Rome, merchants) with that suffered by Roman armies or official representatives of the Roman people (exercitus vestri, legati populi Romani, secures, i.e. axes here symbolic of praetors and their magisterial power).

159Quam provinciam tenuistis a praedonibus liberam per hosce annos?: quam is an interrogative adjective modifying provinciam (‘which province’). tenuistis governs the direct object provinciam; the adjective liberam stands in predicative position to provinciam: NOT ‘which free province did you keep’ (because then you are stuck with a praedonibus, which you can’t properly fit in), BUT ‘which province did you keep free’ (and then a praedonibus fits in very nicely: ‘free from pirates’). For tenuere, see OLD 20: ‘to cause to remain, keep, maintain (in a given condition)’.

160per hosce annos: hosce is the combination of the accusative masculine plural form of hic, haec, hoc (hos) and the enclitic particle -ce, which can be added to demonstratives to strengthen their force: ‘throughout these particular years’.

161quod vectigal vobis tutum fuit?: quod is an interrogative adjective modifying vectigal (‘what revenue’). As liberam, tutum stands in predicative position. NOT: ‘what safe revenue was there?’ BUT: ‘What revenue was safe?’ vobis is a dative of advantage, producing an elegant alliteration with vectigal.

  • 28 On Rome’s allies (or, rather, ‘slaves to Rome’) see the recent monograph by Myles (2013).

162quem socium defendistis?: Whereas provincia and vectigal refer to matters of direct concern to the Roman people, the case is less clear-cut with a socius (‘ally’ – more commonly in the plural: socii).28 Still, Cicero implies that it is a matter of fides to protect allies.

163cui praesidio classibus vestris fuistis?: cui may look like yet another interrogative adjective this time in the dative (after the quam, the quod, and the quem of the previous sentences); indeed, it could be one in form, but it is not – despite the irritating, since potentially misleading, fact that it is followed by a noun in the same case (dative), i.e. praesidio. The facts of the matter are that cui is an interrogative pronoun and that cui and praesidio are two different kinds of dative co-ordinated by the verb fuistis. cui is a dative of advantage (‘for whom?’), praesidio is a dative of means (finalis) answering to the question ‘what for?’ and standing in predicative position to the subject of the sentence (which here is embedded in fuistis): ‘for whom were you a bulwark?’ or ‘whom did you serve as a bulwark?’

164classibus vestris: an ablative of instrument.

165quam multas existimatis insulas esse desertas, quam multas aut metu relictas aut a praedonibus captas urbes esse sociorum?: After several interrogative adjectives (quam, quod, quem) and an interrogative pronoun (cui), we now get an interrogative adverb: quam could be an interrogative adjective in the accusative feminine singular, but the fact that it is followed by multas makes it clear that it is the adverb meaning ‘how’. The main verb of the sentence is existimatis, which introduces an indirect statement. The subject accusatives are multas ... insulas and multas ... urbes and the infinitives are esse desertas, relictas (sc. esse), and captas ... esse.

166metu: an ablative of cause.

167Sed quid ego longinqua commemoro?: quid is here used adverbially, meaning ‘why?’

168longinqua: the adjective is in the neuter accusative plural and stands in for a noun: ‘matters that are remote’.

169Fuit hoc quondam, fuit proprium populi Romani, longe a domo bellare, et propugnaculis imperii sociorum fortunas, non sua tecta defendere: Cicero feels outrage, which is reflected in his syntax. Instead of the straightforward fuit hoc quondam proprium populi Romani (‘this was once characteristic of the Roman people’), he restarts his sentence with a repetition of fuit (literally: ‘this was once, it was characteristic of the Roman people’). The two infinitive phrases (i) longe a domo bellare, and (ii) propugnaculis imperii sociorum fortunas, non sua tecta defendere stand in apposition to the demonstrative pronoun hoc (in the nominative neuter singular). (Like any other noun, the substantial infinitive can stand in apposition to a noun or (in this case) pronoun.) Such so-called ‘appositional infinitives’ are best translated by adding a ‘namely’: ‘this was once the case, it was characteristic of the Roman people, namely to wage war...’. As Gregory Hutchinson (2013) points out, the construction resembles (and recalls) a passage in one of the speeches that the Athenian orator Demosthenes delivered against the Macedonian king Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great (Phil. 3.36: ‘There was, there was something then, Athenians...’). For Athens, Demosthenes laments, ‘unbroken victory, empire, and altruistic enterprise belong (hitherto) only in the past’ (272). Both Cicero and his Athenian counterpart thus claim that their state has been shamefully letting down its proud tradition of asserting its own proud traditions! (We owe this reference to John Henderson.)

170fuit proprium populi Romani: proprium (in the nominative) stands in predicative position to the subject of the sentence (embedded in fuit) and governs the possessive genitive populi Romani.

  • 29 Macdonald (1986) 65

171longe a domo: Macdonald has the following note on the preposition a, Cicero’s use of which here some of you may find surprising: ‘It is Cicero’s practice to use the accusative and ablative cases without prepositions to indicate motion to or from a point when that point is indicated by the name of a town or small island, or by the words domus, rus, and humus. The preposition, however, is used in certain circumstances and is regularly found in conjunction with longe.’29

172Sociis ego nostris mare per hos annos clausum fuisse dicam, cum exercitus vestri numquam a Brundisio nisi hieme summa transmiserint?: This is the first of three rhetorical questions (demanding the answer ‘no’) that are not introduced by an interrogative adjective or pronoun but acquire their status as questions from the deliberative subjunctive of the main verb (here dicam: ‘am I to say...?’). dicam introduces an indirect statement, with mare as subject accusative and clausum fuisse as infinitive. sociis... nostris is a dative of (dis)advantage.

173Sociis ego nostris ... exercitus vestri: Cicero here plays with personal pronouns and possessive adjectives to position himself polemically vis-à-vis his audience. He uses an inclusive nostris with reference to the allies (‘our’ – i.e. yours and mine), but uses a differentiating vestris with reference to the armies (‘your’).

174cum exercitus vestri numquam Brundisio nisi hieme summa transmiserint: the subject of the cum-clause is exercitus vestri (nominative plural – the forms of the genitive singular are identical, so don’t get confused!). transmiserint is perfect subjunctive.

175Brundisio: an ablative of separation. Brundisium (modern Brindisi) was a major port on the Adriatic coast of Italy, offering the shortest route to Greece. But because of the pirates, Cicero claims, even full-scale armies didn’t dare to embark except outside the regular sailing season.

176hieme summa: an ablative of time: ‘in the middle of winter’.

177Qui ad vos ab exteris nationibus venirent captos querar, cum legati populi Romani redempti sint?: This is the second of three rhetorical questions (demanding the answer ‘no’) that acquire their status as questions from the deliberative subjunctive of the main verb (here querar: ‘am I to lament...?’). querar introduces an indirect statement with an – elided! – eos as subject accusative (and antecedent of the relative pronoun qui) and captos (sc. esse) as infinitive.

178cum legati populi Romani redempti sint: legati is nominative plural, populi Romani genitive singular. Cicero here refers to the piratical habit of kidnapping Roman officials and collecting ransom in return for their release.

179Mercatoribus tutum mare non fuisse dicam, cum duodecim secures in praedonum potestatem pervenerint?: This is the third of three rhetorical questions (demanding the answer ‘no’) that acquire their status as questions from the deliberative subjunctive of the main verb (here dicam: ‘am I to say...?’). dicam introduces an indirect statement with mare as subject accusative and fuisse as infinitive; tutum despite its position in front of mare is predicative: NOT ‘the safe sea was not’ BUT: ‘the sea was not safe’. mercatoribus is a dative of (dis)advantage.

180cum duodecim secures in praedonum potestatem pervenerint: high magistrates of the Roman republic went about their business with an entourage of lictors, who carried the fasces: a bound bundle of wooden rods that included an axe (securis) when they left the city. The fasces were a symbol of magisterial power, with the axe in particular signifying jurisdiction over life and death. Outside Rome, consuls had twelve, praetors six lictors. Cicero here refers to an incident that involved the capture of two praetors (hence 2 x 6 = 12 axes). We know their names (Sextilius and Bellinus) from Plutarch’s Life of Pompey 24, but nothing else.


181This section sees a continuation of the onslaught of questions Cicero began in § 31. They serve to illustrate how great the threat the pirates presented was and therefore how great Pompey must be as a general to have successfully defeated them. In the course of his geopolitical sweep, Cicero brings the enemy ever closer to home. He begins in the Eastern Mediterranean (Cnidus, Colophon, and Samos are located in Asia Minor and the Aegean Sea); then he moves to the West Coast of Southern Italy (Caieta and Misenum, both located south of Rome); and finally – and climactically – arrives at the mouth of the Tiber, the city of Ostia, and the harbour of Rome, a mere 15 miles from the capital. Other touches contribute to the (increasing) sense of danger. When he mentions Greek (and anonymous other) locations, Cicero makes no reference to eyewitnesses, but leaves no doubt that even distant places are of vital concern to Roman interests since they help to secure the supply of corn to the capital on which the populace depended for their daily bread (eloquently evoked by Cicero in the relative clause quibus vitam et spiritum ducitis). The sack of Caieta, however, occurred within sight of a Roman official (inspectante praetore) and the outrageous assault on Ostia virtually within eyeshot of the Roman people (prope inspectantibus vobis). These instances of enforced spectatorship find resolution in the final sentence, with the exclamation pro di immortales! functioning as pivot between tragedy and triumph. Cicero recalls once more the appearance of the pirates at Ostia, but only as foil for this conclusion that since then Pompey has dealt with the problem so thoroughly that now there is not even any hearsay of pirate activity anywhere in the Mediterranean. The phrase Oceani ostium refers to the straits of Gibraltar: in a sense, then, we traverse the entire Mediterranean from East to West in the course of this paragraph, in parallel with the concluding claim that Pompey has rid the entire Sea of pirates.

182However, although Cicero is right to argue that Pompey had significant and considerable success against the pirates compared to many of his predecessors, he did not crush them entirely. Rather, he decided to resettle them at Soli in Cilicia (from then on called Pompeiopolis = ‘the city of Pompey’), where they were able to build up their strength again during the civil wars. Cicero later seems critical of Pompey’s decision not to punish the pirates harshly instead; in his de Officiis, written in 44 BC, he criticises the subjugation of morality to expediency in contemporary Rome (in contrast to the righteousness of their ancestors) by saying ‘we give immunity to pirates and make our allies pay tribute’ (3.49). It was not until Augustus held power long term that the threat of the pirates was completely removed.

183Cnidum aut Colophonem aut Samum, nobilissimas urbes, innumerabilesque alias captas esse commemorem, cum vestros portus atque eos portus, quibus vitam et spiritum ducitis, in praedonum fuisse potestate sciatis?: The sentence continues and concludes the sequence of rhetorical questions that began in the previous paragraph and followed the pattern of a verb in the deliberative subjunctive (here: commemorem) setting up an indirect statement (Cnidum... captas esse) followed by a circumstantial cum-clause (cum vestros portus ... sciatis). The rhetorical design of the sentence is the same as that of the three preceding ones: Cicero contrasts the ill-fortune that the pirates inflicted on non-Roman citizens (in this case famous, and not so famous, Greek cities) with that suffered by Romans in what amounts to an ‘a fortiori praeteritio ’. The fact that the pirates had been encroaching upon Rome itself trumps their abuse of allies and others: there is no reason why Cicero should treat the latter in any detail, given that the former is so much more shocking. But he tweaks the syntax of the cum-clause slightly, thereby achieving an elegant transition to his approach in the subsequent sentences. In the previous three cum-clauses, he stated the outrage committed on Romans as a matter of fact: cum ... transmiserint; cum ... redempti sint; cum ... pervenerint. He could have continued this pattern by writing: cum vestri portus atque ei portus, quibus vitam et spiritum ducitis, in praedonum fuerint potestate. Instead, he uses the second person plural of a verb of knowing (sciatis), which governs the indirect statement vestros portus atque eos portus [= subject accusative]... in praedonum fuisse [= infinitive] potestate. This direct address to the audience continues in the next sentence: an vero ignoratis...?

184commemorem: deliberative subjunctive introducing an indirect statement: the accusatives are Cnidus, Colophon, Samos, as well as innumerable other cities Cicero does not name, and the infinitive is captas esse. Like many of the verbs in this section, captas esse is passive; the agents are of course the pirates, so we need to understand an implied a praedonibus.

185Cnidum aut Colophonem aut Samum, nobilissimas urbes, innumerabilesque alias: Plutarch, Life of Pompey 24, recounts the indiscriminate plundering of the pirates in the Eastern Mediterranean, mentioning Samos (but not Cnidus or Colophon): ‘Besides, they attacked and plundered places of refuge and sanctuaries hitherto inviolate, such as those of Claros, Didyma, and Samothrace; the temple of Chthonian Earth at Hermione; that of Asclepius in Epidaurus; those of Poseidon at the Isthmus, at Taenarum, and at Calauria; those of Apollo at Actium and Leucas; and those of Hera at Samos, at Argos, and at Lacinium.’ cum vestros portus atque eos portus ... in praedonum fuisse potestate sciatis?: sciatis is in the subjunctive in a circumstantial cum-clause. It introduces another indirect statement: vestros portus and eos portus are the subject accusatives, and fuisse the infinitive. Cicero distinguishes between the harbours that were (or ought to have been) under direct control of the Roman people (vestros portus) and those from which shipments of corn were sent to Rome (eos portus). The pirates managed to bring each type into their power, at least temporarily.

186quibus vitam et spiritum ducitis: quibus is either an ablative of origin or an instrumental ablative; the indicative ducitis signals that the relative clause is not part of the indirect statement (otherwise the verb would be in the subjunctive): Cicero is stating a fact. The phrase vita et spiritus refers, literally, to ‘breath as the concomitant of life or consciousness’ (OLD s.v. spiritus 3); here Cicero uses it metaphorically to refer to Rome’s corn supply, which the pirates put under threat.

187in praedonum fuisse potestate: there is both a prepositional hyperbaton (the preposition in is not immediately followed by potestate, the noun it governs) and verbal hyperbaton (fuisse breaks up the phrase praedonum potestate) here. These smaller rhetorical flourishes do not compromise the audience’s understanding of Cicero’s sentences or force it to wait until the end of the sentence for key information as a periodic sentence does, but add some spice and make the syntax a little more exciting. The unusual word order could also mirror the disruption the pirates caused to Roman systems.

188An vero ignoratis portum Caietae celeberrimum ac plenissimum navium inspectante praetore a praedonibus esse direptum? ex Miseno autem eius ipsius liberos, qui cum praedonibus antea bellum gesserat, a praedonibus esse sublatos?: ignoratis introduces two further indirect statements:

(i) portum (subject accusative) ... esse direptum (infinitive)

(ii) liberos (subject accusative) ... esse sublatos (infinitive)

189Unlike the main verb in the previous sentence, commemorem, or the three at the end of § 32 (dicam, querar, dicam), Cicero does not use a deliberative subjunctive or the first person singular to ask this question. Instead, he addresses his audience directly with ignoratis, a second person plural present indicative active. Why does he alternate? Perhaps he wanted to add some variety, perhaps he wanted to ensure he held the people’s attention by putting them on the spot, perhaps he wanted to obfuscate his less than precise ‘recall’ of events (for which see below). (The rhetorical question presupposes ‘no, we do know’ as an answer, whether it is actually true or not...). With querar in the subsequent sentence, Cicero switches back to the deliberative subjunctive.

190an: the particle an introduces a direct question that includes a notion of surprise or indignation and/or expects a negative answer (as here).

191portum Caietae: a harbour, situated on the coast of Latium south-west of Formiae (a town north of Naples). Cicero here surprisingly uses a genitive of definition (‘the harbour of Caieta’); usually in classical Latin geographical specifications stand in apposition to the general noun: urbs Roma (rather than urbs Romae). (English, in contrast, prefers the genitive of definition: ‘the city of Rome’.)

192celeberrimum ac plenissimum navium: navium is genitive plural and stands apo koinou with celeberrimum and plenissimum. The superlatives rhetorically pad out the facts.

193inspectante praetore: an ablative absolute. If this phrase is translated with concessive force (‘even though a praetor was watching’), it gives the impression that not even the presence of Roman authority-figures sufficed to stop the pirates. The indifference of pirates to the presence of a Roman magistrate with normal imperium seems implicitly to justify giving extraordinary powers to Pompey. There is also a neat contrast between Pompey’s ability to subdue enemies while still far away (cf. the end of § 30: while still absent from Italy, he nevertheless managed to have a significant impact on the suppression of the revolting slaves) and the inability of an ordinary magistrate to thwart the pirates running riot in his sphere of command. Listing the sufferings and misfortunes of senators, who were at the top of the Roman pecking order, at the hands of the pirates also suggests that the average Roman citizen was vulnerable and would be entirely powerless against them. This impression is furthered through the parallel between the phrases inspectante praetore and inspectantibus vobis two sentences later. They are both ablative absolutes with the verb inspecto and so suggest the Roman people are just as helpless as the praetor at Caieta. It is not entirely clear who the praetor actually was – and given his pathetic inability to deal with the pirates the suppression of his name is probably a deliberate act of rhetorical mercy on Cicero’s part. One promising candidate is M. Antonius Creticus, one of the praetors of 74 BC, who was in charge of a fleet located at Misenum, the place where the alleged abduction of his children occurred.

194ex Miseno autem eius ipsius liberos, qui cum praedonibus antea bellum gesserat, a praedonibus esse sublatos?: Intuitively, one is tempted to relate eius ipsius back to the ‘watching praetor’ of the previous sentence; but this is not a requirement. The pronouns, which are the antecedent of the relative pronoun qui, could simply look forward to a different individual – i.e. the person who had waged war against the pirates some time ago. And indeed, commentators link this reference to a piece of information in Plutarch’s Life of Pompey, who reports that the pirates abducted the daughter (singular!) of M. Antonius, the father (!) of M. Antonius Creticus, off the coast of Italy; then they go on to argue that Cicero here uses ‘a rhetorical plural’ instead of the accurate singular. However, for the plural to register as ‘rhetorical’, the audience would have to have their facts straight. Yet how many citizens present at the delivery of the speech would have been able to grasp on the spot that Cicero is referring to two different Antonii and two events separate in time, and, moreover, is using a rhetorical plural? Our guess is: not too many (especially since he keeps matters anonymous). For the inattentive listener, Cicero conjures up a praetor who had fought the pirates unsuccessfully and had his children abducted on top of it. Why does he do it? Arguably, because in terms of both simplicity and drama, his potted version of events is rhetorically superior to one that is painstakingly accurate (but boring in its details). It deserves emphasis, though, that Cicero always treads very carefully when he distorts history: M. Antonius had commanded a fleet against the pirates back in 102 BC, and with the pluperfect gesserat and the adverb antea he seems to acknowledge, however obliquely, that the Antonius at issue is not the praetor, but his father, without troubling the audience by elaborating on this point explicitly.

195gesserat: although this verb is in a subordinate clause in indirect speech (introduced by ignoratis), it is in the indicative because Cicero accepts this as fact, not simply as something reported which he does not wish to verify.

196Nam quid ego Ostiense incommodum atque illam labem atque ignominiam rei publicae querar, cum prope inspectantibus vobis classis ea, cui consul populi Romani praepositus esset, a praedonibus capta atque oppressa est?: Cicero reverts to the deliberate subjunctive. querar, however, does not introduce an indirect statement but takes a series of direct objects linked by atque: (i) Ostiense incommodum, (ii) illam labem, (iii) ignominiam rei publicae, all of them referring to the same event. What follows is not, as previously, a cum-clause in the subjunctive, but a cum-clause in the indicative (cum classis ea ... capta atque oppressa est) – an unexpected shift in mood that underscores Cicero’s indignation at arguably the greatest outrage committed by the pirates against the Roman people, the attack on the harbour of Ostia, reported also in Cassius Dio (36.23): ‘As these operations of theirs met with success it became customary for the pirates to go into the interior, and they inflicted many injuries on those even who had nothing to do with the sea. This is the way they treated not only the distant allies of Rome, but even Italy itself. For, believing that they would obtain greater gains in that quarter and also that they would terrify all the others still more if they did not keep their hands off that country, they sailed into the very harbour of Ostia as well as other cities in Italy, burning the ships and pillaging everything.’

197Ostiense incommodum: the adjective Ostiense is here used to indicate location: ‘the set-back at Ostia’. Ostia, Rome’s seaport, comes from the Latin word for ‘the mouth of a river’, i.e. ostium, which in turn derives from the Latin word for mouth, i.e. os. It is the place where the river Tiber flows into the Mediterranean.

198illam labem: the demonstrative pronoun or (as here) adjective ille, illa, illud often carries the notion of ‘common knowledge’, ‘fame’, or (as here) ‘notoriety’: ‘that disaster (which you are all familiar with)’.

199ignominiam rei publicae: rei publicae could be either a possessive genitive (‘disgrace of the commonwealth’) or a dative of disadvantage (‘disgrace for the commonwealth’).

200prope inspectantibus vobis: an ablative absolute. prope (‘almost’) renders the hyperbole acceptable: Ostia was located about 30 kilometers from the city.

201classis ea, cui consul populi Romani praepositus esset: the antecedent of cui is classis ea, with the demonstrative adjective ea (in unusual postpositive position) setting up the consecutive relative clause – hence the (pluperfect passive) subjunctive praepositus esset. The consecutive force underscores the fact that the pirates didn’t just sink any old fleet, but a fleet of such importance that it was under the command of a consul of the Roman people. Who that consul was we do not know.

202capta atque oppressa est: although these are verbs in a cum-clause, it is a temporal cum-clause and so is followed by the indicative, not the subjunctive. With the relevant vowels elided (final ‘a’ in capta, ‘e’ in atque, ‘e’ in est) this phrase scans entirely spondaic. The spondaic rhythm adds to the grave tone and feeling of disaster Cicero’s has built up across this and the preceding sections.

203pro di immortales!: Cicero uses the interjection pro followed by the vocative di immortales as pivot from highlighting, via a long string of rhetorical questions, what threat the pirates posed to the Roman people, to Pompey’s quick and resounding victory over them in the previous year. The invocation of the immortal gods at this point is thematically appropriate insofar as Cicero goes on to position Pompey vis-à-vis the divine sphere in the following sentence in two countervailing ways: by referring to him as a ‘human being’ (cf. hominis), he emphasizes the distinction between ‘mortals’ and ‘immortals’ and leaves no doubt that Pompey belongs to the former, yet by means of the phrases divina virtus and tantam ... lucem adferre rei publicae he subtly assimilates him to the gods.

204tantamne unius hominis incredibilis ac divina virtus tam brevi tempore lucem adferre rei publicae potuit, ut vos, qui modo ante ostium Tiberinum classem hostium videbatis, nunc nullam intra Oceani ostium praedonum navem esse audiatis? The final sentence of the section is yet another rhetorical question. However, this time, Cicero uses the device to marvel at Pompey’s remarkable skill in ridding the Mediterranean of the pirates so effectively and so quickly. adferre governs both an accusative object (tantam ... lucem: note the massive hyperbaton) and a dative (rei publicae). tantam and tam set up the result clause ut ... audiatis. audiatis governs an indirect statement with nullam ... navem (another massive hyperbaton) as subject accusative and esse as infinitive. Within the ut-clause, Cicero highlights the fantastic turn-around achieved by Pompey by means of the antithesis of modo (‘just recently’) and nunc (‘now’) and a geographical contrast: if a little while ago the pirates ran riot at the mouth of the Tiber (ante ostium Tiberinum), now none of their ships can be found anywhere within the entire Mediterranean (intra Oceani ostium). The danger has receded from sight (videbatis) to the absence of any rumour (audiatis). Set out schematically, the ut-clause and the relative clause therein compare and contrast as follows:







ostium Tiberinum


Oceani ostium

classem hostium


Nullam ... praedonum navem




205Cicero introduces a touch of (chiastic) variation into his otherwise parallel design by playing with the position of attributes and genitives: (a) ostium (b) Tiberinum – (b) Oceani (a) ostium; (a) classem (b) hostium – (b) praedonum (a) navem.

206tantamne ... lucem: -ne is an interrogative particle used in direct questions; it tends to attach itself to emphatic words (such as tantam here).

207incredibilis ac divina virtus: Cicero endows this aspect of Pompey’s virtus with two elevating attributes: divina (‘divine’ or ‘god-like’) and incredibilis (‘defying belief’).

  • 30 This paragraph is based on Gildenhard (2011) 266-67.
  • 31 Contrast § 20, where Cicero praises the virtus, assiduitas and consilium of Lucullus; unlike Pompey (...)

208In the political culture of the Roman republic ‘godlikeness’ was not an unproblematic form of praise:30 to elevate a specific individual above the rest of humanity was at variance with the principle of oligarchic equality that underwrote the senatorial regime of republican government. At the same time, many outstanding individuals – from Scipio Africanus Maior to Sulla and the young Caesar – staked claims to a special relationship with the gods, and Cicero’s panegyric of Pompey would have been flat if he had not explored Pompey’s relationship with the divine sphere. He does so most explicitly in the paragraphs on felicitas (§§ 47-48: see below), but also elsewhere in the speech, not least by strategically deploying the attribute divinus. Cicero ascribes Pompey’s success over Sertorius to his divinum consilium ac singularis virtus (§ 10) and the term recurs as attribute of his virtus both here and in § 36 (discussed below).31 It is not easy to determine how Cicero wanted the attribute to be understood in each individual instance. The semantics of divinus range from the literal (pertaining to the divine sphere) to the metaphorical. In the latter sense divinus loses its association with the divine and becomes synonymous with more mundane markers of distinction such as praeclarus, eximius, or mirabilis. In some instances, it is obvious whether the usage is literal or metaphorical. In § 42, for instance, Cicero claims that Pompey was born divino quodam consilio to end all wars, clearly referring to some supernatural charter (to be discussed in more detail below). From an ideological point of view, such a passage is fairly unproblematic. While Pompey appears to be acting in accordance with the will of the gods, this kind of religious privilege stays short of the claim that he himself possesses supernatural powers. Suggestive ambiguities arise, however, when the adjective is made to refer not to the gods, but to human beings or their capacities, as is the case with Pompey’s divinum consilium and divina virtus. In those instances it remains unclear whether the literal or the metaphorical meaning of the attribute is in force. Whether Pompey’s exercise of judgement or his courage are truly divine, a gift from the gods, or merely outstanding is impossible to decide – and Cicero exploits this ambiguity for a panegyric that plays with fire while trying to avoid a conflagration: he nudges Pompey skywards without explicitly claiming divinity for him.

209tam brevi tempore: Pompey cleared the Western Mediterranean of pirates in just 40 days and the Eastern Mediterranean in 49 days in the course of the summer of 67 BC.

  • 32 Welch (2005) 326.

210lucem adferre rei publicae: The phrase receives discussion by Kathryn Welch, in her study of light metaphors used in Roman public discourse: ‘The phrase lucem adferre is not a common one in Cicero. It is used on only one other occasion [Philippics 13.44] and there it serves to indicate the depths to which the res publica has sunk. ... In both cases, the emphasis is on virtus placed at the disposal of the community for its greater good.’32

211ante Oceani ostium: ante here is the preposition + accusative; Oceani ostium (literally: ‘the mouth of the Ocean’) refers to the strait of Gibraltar.


212This and the next paragraph elaborate on Pompey’s campaign against the pirates, putting the emphasis on the speed with which he completed the task of sweeping the Mediterranean clean, thus securing the corn-supply for the capital (heavily dependent on overseas imports) and expanding Rome’s imperial control in the process. The repetition of the phrase tam brevi tempore (‘in such a short period of time’) underscores the continuity to what has come before; and Cicero again puts the emphasis on Pompey’s ability to get things done: celeritas in conficiendo (§ 29) continues to be his major theme in this paragraph as well (cf. celeritate, celeriter, conficere). Seemingly inconspicuous words (tam, tot, tanti, umquam, nondum) serve to enhance the sense of wonder at Pompey’s achievement.

213Atque haec qua celeritate gesta sint, quamquam videtis, tamen a me in dicendo praetereunda non sunt: translating literally, one would get: ‘And even though you see (sc. for yourselves) with what speed (qua celeritate) these things (haec) were accomplished, they nevertheless ought not to be passed over by me in my speech.’ This, of course, produces nonsense: Cicero has just spoken about ‘these things’ (haec), so he can’t possibly be disinclined to mention them now. Rather, what he doesn’t want to pass over without comment is the speed with which Pompey accomplished his task of eliminating the pirates. So why doesn’t the Latin say this? As it happens, haec, which belongs into the indirect question introduced by qua, has been pulled up front (into a so-called proleptic position) to facilitate the transition, with the awkward, further consequence that it has ‘bullied’ the gerundive praetereunda non sunt into agreeing with it grammatically though not in sense. There is another oddity involved in the gerundive construction: unusually, Cicero opts for an ablative of agency (a me) to go with it rather than a dative of agency (mihi). (It is difficult to know why he opted for the ablative – perhaps he liked the assonance of (t-)a-me-(n) a me?) If one were to iron out every wrinkle, the sentence would run: atque quamquam videtis qua celeritate haec gesta sint, tamen mihi in dicendo praetereundum non est. Possibly, the grammatical incongruities enact the theme of the sentence: surpassing speed, manifesting itself in somewhat rough-and-ready prose. For another instance of this, see below on quam celeriter.

214qua: an interrogative adjective in agreement with celeritate; it introduces an indirect question, dependent on videtis, hence the subjunctive gesta sint. The tense is perfect for past action in primary sequence.

215in dicendo: a gerund, so literally ‘in speaking’.

216Quis enim umquam aut obeundi negotii aut consequendi quaestus studio tam brevi tempore tot loca adire, tantos cursus conficere potuit, quam celeriter Cn. Pompeio duce tanti belli impetus navigavit?: The demonstrative adverb tam (‘in so little time’) sets up the relative adverb quam (‘as’), which is followed by another adverb (celeriter). This is a bit awkward. If one construes quam with tam as well as celeriter and translates literally one would get: ‘who in their zeal for attending to business or making profit, was ever able to visit so many places, to complete such long journeys in as little time as quickly as it took for the charge of such a massive military operation to sweep across the sea under the leadership of Gnaeus Pompeius?’ This isn’t good English. Intelligibility improves if one construes celeriter as a free-standing adverb with navigavit: ‘in so little time ... as it took Pompey’s force to sail speedily ...’. The point that Cicero is making, reinforced by the pleonastic celeriter, is that no-one on his business travels could have visited as many places in as short a time as it took Pompey to sweep across the entire Mediterranean on his military campaign.

217aut obeundi negotii aut consequendi quaestus studio: studio is an ablative of cause or modus that governs two adjectival gerundive phrases in the genitive singular coordinated by aut – aut: obeundi negotii and consequendi quaestus. The aut – aut here clearly does not set up logically exclusive alternatives, but rather ‘emphasizes the necessity of one alternative, without excluding the possibility of the other simultaneously’ (OLD s.v. aut 2b).

218quam celeriter Cn. Pompeio duce tanti belli impetus navigavit?: The subject of the quam-clause is impetus, which basically means ‘aggressive movement’, ‘onslaught’, and therefore is a rather peculiar choice of diction: Cicero seems to abstract from Pompey’s fleet (which did the actual sailing) and put the emphasis entirely on the decisive quality of speed. The genitive attribute tanti belli enhances the oddity: how can the ‘movement of so great a war’ sail? It is Cicero’s way of saying that Pompey moved the war quickly across the Mediterranean, and as he tries to capture the speed of operation in words, his prose waxes poetical: impetus is (as it were) the personification of Pompey’s military prowess.

219Cn. Pompeio duce: Cn. = Gnaeo. The phrase is an ablative absolute consisting of two nouns, but lacking a participle (which one could think of as being the – non-existent – present participle of sum): ‘with Gnaeus Pompeius being the leader’= ‘with Gnaeus Pompeius as leader’. (Julius Caesar spotted this gap in the Latin language and in the de Analogia, his treatise on grammar and style, proposed ens, entis as a present participle form of sum, on the analogy of potens, potentis (the present participle of posse). It didn’t catch on until much later.)

220qui nondum tempestivo ad navigandum mari Siciliam adiit, Africam exploravit; in Sardiniam cum classe venit, atque haec tria frumentaria subsidia rei publicae firmissimis praesidiis classibusque munivit: sailing on the Mediterranean in winter was a risky business in light of the frequent storms at that time of the year, but Pompey considered securing the corn-supply from overseas (Sicily, Africa, Sardinia) a matter of utmost urgency that countenanced no delay, whatever the dangers. The message here is that he acted in the interest of the Roman people with no regard for personal safety.

221qui: a connecting relative (= et is).

222nondum tempestivo ad navigandum mari: the entire phrase is an ablative of location. The central word is the noun mari (‘on a sea’), which is modified by the adjective tempestivo in predicative position (NOT ‘a seasonable sea...’, BUT ‘a sea seasonable to...’). tempestivo is in turn modified by the adverb nondum (‘not yet’) and governs the preposition ad + accusative which here expresses purpose and governs the gerund (‘verbal noun’) navigandum (‘a sea not yet seasonable for sailing’). Given the meaning of ‘tempest’ and ‘tempestuous’ in English, the Latin tempestivus, which agrees with mari, may be a ‘false friend’. It comes from the noun tempestas, which can mean ‘bad or stormy weather’ or more generally ‘violent disturbance’, but its basic meaning is ‘period’, ‘season’, ‘weather’. The adjective tempestivus refers to something ‘ready’, ‘in season’, ‘suitable or opportune for a specific season or time’.

223... Siciliam adiit, Africam exploravit, in Sardiniam ... venit, atque haec tria frumentaria subsidia ... munivit: the sentence features four main verbs. The first three – referring to Pompey’s operations in the Western Mediterranean – follow upon each other asyndetically, in line with Pompey’s ‘breathless speed’. Cicero uses a connective (atque) to link the third and the fourth item, which sums up the previous three by giving the reason for Pompey’s visits to Sicily, Africa, and Sardinia, i.e. securing the corn supply.


224Cicero continues his account of Pompey’s war against the pirates. After securing the corn supply through quick visits to Sicily, Africa, and Sardinia, Pompey undertook a systematic sweep of the entire Mediterranean, from West to East, starting in Spain and ending in Asia Minor, more specifically Cilicia, the traditional stronghold of the pirates, which he ‘pacified’ and brought under permanent Roman control. The paragraph falls into three main parts. The first sentence (Inde cum ... Ciliciam adiunxit) retraces the various stages of the campaign with a broad brush, before Cicero focuses in on various details (omnes ... imperavit). He then pithily sums up Pompey’s main achievement: taking care of the seemingly intractable pirate problem within one single campaigning season (Ita tantum bellum ... confecit). Apart from Pompey’s supreme military achievement, Cicero begins to highlight the ‘soft’ qualities that characterize his approach to campaigning, in preparation for the next paragraph. Thus he stresses that Pompey did not simply kill all and sundry but accepted surrender and was in general willing to negotiate with enemies to reach a diplomatic solution to conflict. What Cicero fails to mention is the strategic rationale behind Pompey’s preference for quick-fix diplomacy over prolonged warfare in solving the pirate problem. Pompey tried to avoid at all costs getting bogged down in a protracted military campaign that might have ruled him out of consideration for the looming war against Mithridates – a much more appealing prospect than chasing after pirates and storming their strongholds. As it happened, Metellus, the Roman general in charge of military operations in Crete at the time, pushed for a complete military victory over the local communities, which resulted in the embassy to Pompey: the Cretans hoped to receive more favourable terms of surrender from him.

225Inde cum se in Italiam recepisset, duabus Hispaniis et Gallia Transalpina praesidiis ac navibus confirmata, missis item in oram Illyrici maris et in Achaiam omnemque Graeciam navibus Italiae duo maria maximis classibus firmissimisque praesidiis adornavit, ipse autem, ut Brundisio profectus est, undequinquagesimo die totam ad imperium populi Romani Ciliciam adiunxit: this is a long sentence, which is best broken down into its constituent parts:

  1. We begin with a cum-clause: Inde cum se in Italiam recepisset...

  2. then we get an ablative absolute:... duabus Hispaniis et Gallia Transalpina praesidiis ac navibus confirmata...

  3. ... and another ablative absolute: ... missis item in oram Illyrici maris et in Achaiam omnemque Graeciam navibus...

  4. ... before we reach the main clause. It falls into two halves:

    1. Italiae duo maria maximis classibus firmissimisque praesidiis adornavit;

    2. ipse autem ... undequinquagesimo die totam ad imperium populi Romani Ciliciam adiunxit

  5. the final piece is a temporal ut-clause, inserted into the second half of the main clause: ut Brundisio profectus est.

226Before looking at each part in turn, it is worth pondering the organizing principles of the sentence as a whole. The importance of Italy and Rome (and the Roman people) stands out. Italy is the only region mentioned twice – in Italiam; Italiae duo maria – and Cicero concludes the sentence with a reference to the (now extended) empire of the Roman people (ad imperium populi Romani), which thereby emerge at the centre of Pompey’s thoughts and actions. Grammar reinforces the point. First, Pompey is the (implied) subject of all the clauses that contain references to Italy, places therein (Brundisium), or the Roman people: (i) recepisset; (iv) adornavit, adiunxit; (v) profectus est. In contrast, Cicero packs Pompey’s actions in Spain, Gaul, and Greece into two (passive) ablative absolutes: (ii) and (iii). And second, whereas the two Spains and Gaul were furnished praesidiis ac navibus, Pompey secured the two seas and coastlines of Italy in the superlative: maximis classibus firmissimisque praesidiis.

227Inde cum se in Italiam recepisset: inde is pulled up front to provide a transition but belongs into the temporal cum-clause (with subjunctive; the tense is pluperfect to indicate a time prior to that of the main verb adornavit, which is in the perfect).

228duabus Hispaniis et Gallia Transalpina praesidiis ac navibus confirmata: the plethora of ablatives may be confusing. The noun-phrases that make up the ablative absolute are the chiastically arranged duabus Hispaniis (the reference is to Hispania Citerior, i.e. ‘Nearer Spain’, and Hispania Ulterior, i.e. ‘Further Spain’, of course from the point of view of Italy) and Gallia Transalpina. confirmata (perfect passive participle in the ablative singular) agrees with the nearest one in case, number, and gender, i.e. Gallia Transalpina, but pertains to duabus Hispaniis as well. praesidiis ac navibus are ablatives of means or instrument. All three regions had been Roman provinces for some time. Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior were set up in 197 BC; Gallia Transalpina in Southern France, perhaps better known under the alternative name Gallia Narbonensis, in 120 BC. (The first Roman province was Sicily, established in the wake of the first Punic war in 240 BC.)

229missis item in oram Illyrici maris et in Achaiam omnemque Graeciam navibus: in the previous ablative absolute, Cicero began with the nouns (Hispaniis et Gallia) and ended with the participle (confirmata); here he inverts the pattern, beginning with the participle (missis) and ending with the noun (navibus). The focus is on Greece, which Cicero brings out in a climactic tricolon: we start on the West coast of the Greek peninsula (in oram Illyrici), move on to a major province (in Achaiam), and end with the comprehensive omnem Graeciam (also modified by the preposition in + accusative, indicating direction).

230Italiae duo maria maximis classibus firmissimisque praesidiis adornavit: Italiae is a possessive genitive dependent on duo maria, which is the accusative object of adornavit. The subject is Pompey (implied). The duo maria of Italy are the Mare Hadriaticum/Superum (today’s Adriatic Sea, separating the Italian from the Balkan Peninsula) and the Mare Tyrrhenum/Inferum (today’s Tyrrhenian Sea).

231ipse autem ... undequinquagesimo die totam ad imperium populi Romani Ciliciam adiunxit: undequinquagesimus is put together from unus + de + quinquagesimus, i.e. 1 (unus) taken off (de) the 50th (quinquagesimus) = 49th. The word for ‘50’ is quinquaginta [quinque + ginta]. undequinquagesimo die is an ablative of time. totam agrees with Ciliciam and is emphasized through the hyperbaton.

232ut Brundisio profectus est: ut (with the indicative) here has the temporal sense ‘from the time when’. Brundisio is an ablative of separation. Latin does not use a preposition with cities and smaller islands, but if you were to depart from (say) Sardinia, the idiomatic phrase would be ex Sardinia proficisci.

233omnes, qui ubique praedones fuerunt, partim capti interfectique sunt, partim unius huius se imperio ac potestati dediderunt: one could suppose that praedones is the antecedent of qui and has been attracted into the relative clause (‘all pirates, anywhere/wherever they were...’); alternatively, one could take praedones predicatively (‘all those, who were pirates anywhere...’). The word order is designed to bring out the antithesis between omnes and unius huius (sc. Pompey).

234unius huius ... imperio ac potestati: imperium refers to the right to issue commands attached to the high magistracies of the Roman commonwealth; potestas refers to the legal power associated with a specific role in Roman society, here Pompey’s extraordinary command as defined by the lex Gabinia. unius huius is a possessive genitive.

235Idem Cretensibus, cum ad eum usque in Pamphyliam legatos deprecatoresque misissent, spem deditionis non ademit obsidesque imperavit: idem (nominative masculine singular of the pronoun idem, eadem, idem) is the subject of the sentence referring to Pompey. ademit (‘to take something away from somebody’) governs an accusative object (spem deditionis) and a dative (Cretensibus). It is a dative of disadvantage, which is here negated by the non. The -que after obsides, which links ademit and imperavit, has a slightly adversative force: ‘but/rather’.

236obsidesque imperavit: imperavit here governs an accusative object of the thing Pompey demanded, i.e. hostages. (If Cicero wanted to say that Pompey gave orders to the hostages, obsides would be in the dative: to command somebody to do something is imperare + dative + ut/ne with subjunctive.)

237Ita tantum bellum, tam diuturnum, tam longe lateque dispersum, quo bello omnes gentes ac nationes premebantur, Cn. Pompeius extrema hieme apparavit, ineunte vere suscepit, media aestate confecit: Cicero here returns to § 31, especially the beginning (Testes nunc vero iam omnes orae atque omnes exterae gentes ac nationes) and the end (hoc tantum bellum, tam turpe, tam vetus, tam late divisum atque dispersum quis umquam arbitraretur aut ab omnibus imperatoribus uno anno aut omnibus annis ab uno imperatore confici posse?) Note the repetitions (with variation), which achieve a sense of closure of Cicero’s treatment of the war against the pirates:

§ 31

§ 35

omnes exterae gentes ac nationes

omnes gentes ac nationes

tantum bellum

tantum bellum

tam vetus

tam diuturnum

tam late divisum atque dispersum

tam longe lateque dispersum

confici posse


238quo bello omnes gentes ac nationes premebantur: bello, a reiteration of bellum and the antecedent of quo, has been attracted into the relative clause: ‘a war, by which...’

239Cn. Pompeius extrema hieme apparavit, ineunte vere suscepit, media aestate confecit: an elegant, asyndetic (and hence ‘speedy’) tricolon, with a touch of variation in the ablatives: extrema hieme and media aestate are ablatives of time, ineunte vere is a temporal ablative absolute.


240Cicero now moves on from hailing Pompey’s martial prowess and his stunning success as a general to a consideration of his other qualities. Already in § 13, he differentiated between Pompey’s impact on (Eastern) provincials and that of other generals on the grounds of Pompey’s special character traits – temperantia, mansuetudo, humanitas:

His vos, quoniam libere loqui non licet, tacite rogant, ut se quoque, sicut ceterarum provinciarum socios, dignos existimetis, quorum salutem tali viro commendetis; atque hoc etiam magis, quod ceteros in provinciam eius modi homines cum imperio mittimus, ut etiam si ab hoste defendant, tamen ipsorum adventus in urbis sociorum non multum ab hostili expugnatione differant. Hunc audiebant antea, nunc praesentem vident, tanta temperantia, tanta mansuetudine, tanta humanitate, ut ei beatissimi esse videantur, apud quos ille diutissime commoratur.

[Since they [sc. the Eastern allies of Rome] are not allowed to speak their mind, they beseech you silently that, just like the allies of the other provinces, you consider them, too, worthy so as to entrust their safety to such a man – especially given that with the other men we send with a command into a province of this kind, even if they ward off the enemy, their arrivals in the cities of the allies do not differ much from a hostile takeover. Previously they were hearing, now, with him present, they see that this man is of such self-control, of such gentleness, of such human kindness that those seem to be most blessed amongst whom he remains for the longest period of time.]

241The relative clause quas paulo ante commemorare coeperam harks back to the beginning of his discussion of virtus in § 29, where he insisted that virtus comprises not just martial prowess and military genius, but also moral qualities and talent for diplomacy: Neque enim illae sunt solae virtutes imperatoriae, quae vulgo existimantur, labor in negotiis, fortitudo in periculis, industria in agendo, celeritas in conficiendo, consilium in providendo. Cicero covered the ‘orthodox’ virtutes imperatoriae in §§ 29-35. What follows now is a discussion of virtutes imperatoriae (or artes, as he goes on to call them: see next note), which are not commonly recognized as such: innocentia, temperantia, fides, facilitas, ingenium, humanitas.

  • 33 Macdonald (1986) 69.

242Est haec divina atque incredibilis virtus imperatoris: haec is retrospective in force and sums up Cicero’s discussion of Pompey’s ‘military prowess’ or virtus, in the strict sense of enabling success in battle. He has already used the two elevating attributes divina and incredibilis of Pompey’s virtus in §33, though in inverse order: unius hominis incredibilis ac divina virtus.

243quid?: the neuter form of the interrogative pronoun quis, quid occurs here elliptically to mark the transition to a further item. See OLD s.v. quis1 12 b.

244ceterae [sc. virtutes], quas paulo ante commemorare coeperam, quantae atque quam multae sunt!: Note the word order: as is regular after quid?, Cicero continues with the word he wishes to stress: ceterae ... quantae atque quam multae sunt! (And not: quantae atque quam multae sunt ceterae!).

245paulo: an ablative of the measure of difference.

246Non enim bellandi virtus solum in summo ac perfecto imperatore quaerenda est, sed multae sunt artes eximiae huius administrae comitesque virtutis: Cicero continues his work on the meaning of virtus. As he has done previously, subtle touches underwrite his conceptual creativity. By attaching the gerund bellandi (placed before the noun it depends on, for emphasis) to virtus, he reiterates his earlier point that ‘martial excellence’ is only one aspect of a composite phenomenon. His summus ac perfectus imperator has others as well.

247quaerenda est: a gerundive of obligation.

248multae sunt artes eximiae huius administrae comitesque virtutis: the multae ... artes are identical to the ceterae [virtutes] of the previous sentence. Cicero thus uses artes and virtutes here as synonyms. Macdonald proposes that ‘this word [sc. artes] means something not very different from virtutes but implies their practical operation’, but this distinction is difficult to uphold. 33 virtus bellandi is a pointless quality if not applied in practice; and at de Re Publica 1.3 Cicero even draws a contrast between ars, in the sense of ‘skill’ that does not require constant application, and virtus, which ‘resides entirely in its application’ (virtus in usu sui tota posita est).

249eximiae could be either feminine nominative plural (and would then modify artes or administrae comitesque) or feminine genitive singular (going with huius and virtutis). The latter is the case: Cicero grants that martial excellence of virtus bellandi, to which he gestures back with the demonstrative pronoun huius, is eximia, i.e. the most important of all artes/virtutes; but goes on to argue that this particular excellence has many important ‘handmaidens’ (administrae) and ‘companions’ (comites).

250Ac primum quanta innocentia debent esse imperatores! quanta deinde in omnibus rebus temperantia [sc. debent esse imperatores]! quanta fide, quanta facilitate, quanto ingenio, quanta humanitate [sc. debent esse imperatores]!: The subject throughout is imperatores, the verb is debent, which governs the infinitive esse. The elision puts the emphasis squarely on quanta innocentia, quanta ... temperantia, quanta fide, quanta facilitate, quanto ingenio, and quanta humanitate, which are all ablatives of quality or description with esse. Note the relentless anaphora of the pronominal adjective quantus, -a, -um. In terms of rhetorical registers, Cicero here again pauses (Ac primum) for a theoretical observation of normative force (cf. debent).

251primum ... deinde: Cicero singles out innocentia and temperantia by using adverbs of enumeration (‘first...’, ‘then...’), before adding the remaining qualities in a simple list.

252innocentia: innocentia means something akin to ‘integrity of character’, ‘moral uprightness’. It is a quality of someone not liable to become corrupted by opportunities of wealth and power, and hence rather precious in public figures, not least in the context of imperial administration/exploitation. The noun here harks back to the very opening of the section on the ideal general (and the set text). See § 27: Utinam, Quirites, virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam tantam haberetis...

253temperantia: Cicero had already praised Pompey for his temperantia in § 13: see above. The term refers to ‘self-control’, ‘moderation’, or ‘restraint’, and in particular someone’s ability to keep violent emotions (also known as ‘passions’) in check. At de Inventione 2.164, a treatise on rhetoric and the earliest surviving work of Cicero, conventionally dated to 91 BC, he defines it as follows: temperantia est rationis in libidinem atque in alios non rectos impetus animi firma et moderata dominatio. eius partes continentia, clementia, modestia (‘Temperance is a firm and well-considered control exercised by the reason over lust and other improper impulses of the mind. Its parts are continence, clemency, and modesty’). At in Catilinam 2.25, temperantia functions as the antithesis of luxuria (‘luxury’). The term went on to play a significant role in Cicero’s late philosophical writings, such as the de Finibus (see 1.47 and 2.60) and, above all, the de Officiis, where it is one of the four cardinal virtues (see 1.15).

  • 34 Hölkeskamp (2004).

254fide: fides is a key concept in how the Romans thought about social relations, and dictionary entries (‘confidence’, ‘loyalty’, ‘trustworthiness’, ‘credibility’) convey only a limited sense of the full semantic range and force of the qualities at issue: fides underwrites socio-economic exchanges, defines political interactions, and justifies Roman rule. In relationships that were both reciprocal (with each party rendering some, but not necessarily the same, kind of service to the other) and asymmetrical (with one party being much more powerful than the other), a commitment to fides on both sides operated as a (partial) counterweight to steep inequalities in power.34

255facilitate: facilitas is an abstract noun, related to facio (‘I do’) and facilis (‘easy to do’) and refers to ‘ease/aptitude in doing something’, here specifically ‘ease in interpersonal relations’, ‘affability’. facilitas greases ‘friendship’ (amicitia), or good social relations more generally, also between unequal parties, as Cicero makes clear in § 41: ut is, qui dignitate principibus excellit, facilitate infimis par esse videatur. Even though Pompey outclasses everybody within Rome’s highly competitive aristocracy, when he interacts with those of a lower social rank his facilitas renders differences in rank and standing inconspicuous. At pro Murena 66, Cicero draws an illuminating contrast between comitas et facilitas and gravitas severitasque, which brings out the positive aspects of facilitas, but at the same time underscores that too much facilitas may well turn into a vice. In measure, gravitas and severitas are also ‘good’ qualities in the Roman system of values. See, for instance, Terence, Hecyra 248: Phidippe, etsi ego meis me omnibus scio esse apprime obsequentem, | sed non adeo ut mea facilitas corrumpet illorum animos (‘Phidippus, I know that I am extremely indulgent to all my family, but not to the extent that my affability corrupts their characters’). Facilitas in this sense refers to an indulgent disposition willing to overlook or forgive faults in others and is frequently used synonymously with clementia, indulgentia, and comitas.

256ingenio: ingenium is prima facie an odd item in the list. Most basically, it refers to ‘natural disposition’ and then to ‘inherent quality or character’, or, with a greater emphasis on talent, ‘natural abilities’, especially of the mental/intellectual kind: it can specifically refer to being gifted with words, whether in rhetoric or poetry. In rhetorical theory, ingenium is a key technical term (innate talent complementing ars, or ‘exercise’, in constituting the perfect orator, the summus orator). But in the sense of ‘talent’ it refers to inherent potential rather than inherent moral excellence, and in some of his later philosophical writings Cicero laments that some of the greatest talents (ingenia) in Roman history, such as Caesar, became corrupted through the desire for power (see de Officiis 1.23). In our passage, though, ingenium means something akin to ‘soundness in character’– but arguably also gestures obliquely to specifically oratorical talent, as emerges in § 42 (see our commentary below).

  • 35 The following is based on Gildenhard (2011) 202-03.

257humanitate: humanitas is one of Cicero’s pet-words and has a range of meanings. Five basic senses can be identified:35

  1. Humanitas aids in the recognition of a universal human nature as the basis of sympathy or compassion towards others, especially on the part of someone in a position of power vis-àvis an inferior; classic relationships of this kind are judge and defendant in a court of law or victor and defeated enemy in war.

  2. Humanitas constitutes a human quality that can be personified and resides, or ought to reside, in each human being but does so to different degrees; it may articulate itself as a force of conscience that governs and guides behaviour (or ought to do so) to make it conform to standards of universal ethics.

  3. Humanitas represents standards of civilization, which only certain periods or cultures have attained; this scenario may involve a diachronic differentiation between two stages of historical development within a single culture or an ethnographic differentiation between cultures.

  4. As a reflexive version of 3, humanitas demarcates the synchronic distinction between civilization and barbarity within Roman culture in Cicero’s here and now, thereby introducing a dividing line that cuts across the Roman citizen body.

  5. Humanitas refers to, or is identical with, a high level of civilized manners, cultural refinement and literary education that only select individuals within a specific culture ever reach, who thereby constitute this culture’s ‘true’ nobility.

258The different meanings of course shade into one another and it is not always easy to pin down precisely which sense takes precedent; in the passage under consideration here it is arguably 1 and 2 (just as in § 13, cited above).

259[Extra information: Ciceroniani sumus

260Cicero’s creative investment in humanitas has yielded extraordinary dividends in terms of his intellectual legacy. In the Renaissance, Sense 5 got reactivated in the phrase of studia humanitatis, out of which our ‘Humanities’ evolved. In that sense all of us students of the humanities are Ciceronians.]

261quae breviter qualia sint in Cn. Pompeio consideremus: quae is a connecting relative (= et ea) in the accusative neuter plural, referring back to all of the enumerated qualities. It is the accusative object of consideremus (in the hortative subjunctive), which also governs the indirect question (hence the subjunctive sint) qualia sint in Cn. Pompeio. The subject of the indirect question are again the collective qualities. Literally: ‘Let us consider these briefly, of what kind they are in Gnaeus Pompeius.’ qualia is the nominative neuter plural of the interrogative pronoun qualis.

262summa enim omnia sunt, Quirites, sed ea magis ex aliorum contentione quam ipsa per sese cognosci atque intellegi possunt: Cicero claims that Pompey (in Cn. Pompeio has to be understood with summa enim omnia sunt from the previous sentence) possesses all (omnia) of these qualities to the highest possible degree (summa). But in order to fully appreciate Pompey’s outstanding excellence, Cicero goes on to argue, the best method is to compare and contrast (cf. ex aliorum contentione) his qualities (ea, just like omnia, is a generic neuter plural in the nominative, referring back to the catalogue of artes/ virtutes; it is the subject of possunt) with those of other generals rather than to look at them in isolation (ipsa per sese). Cicero’s insistence on the heuristic value of comparing and contrasting feeds right into his agenda of singling out Pompey as the only possible candidate for the job: throughout the speech, he not only promotes Pompey, but also demotes, if often obliquely, anyone else who might have taken on the command. This strategy defines the opening section of the speech in particular, where he damns Lucullus, hitherto in charge of the war against Mithridates, with faint praise and explains why Pompey would succeed where Lucullus failed.

263Quirites: the citizens of Rome. See note on § 27.

264cognosci atque intellegi: the two present passive infinitives are virtual synonyms, with cognoscere perhaps placing the emphasis more on the first encounter (‘to get to know’) and intellegere on the outcome (‘to understand’).


265This follows on from Cicero’s announcement at the end of the previous paragraph that Pompey’s ‘soft qualities’ stand out with particular clarity when compared to the behaviour of others in similar positions of power. Without naming names (ego autem nomino neminem), he goes on to imply that corruption is rife among Rome’s military leaders, who use public resources for despicable private ends: personal advancement or enrichment. Such illegal activities violate public trust and have their roots, so Cicero suggests, in an unwholesome character. Ambition and greed, he implies, run rampant in Rome’s ruling elite. The consequences are not just felt at Rome, with the embezzlement of public funds, but also in the provinces – wherever Roman armies go, they descend upon the local population (regardless whether it consists of Roman citizens or allies) like a swarm of locusts. The argument here feeds into Cicero’s promotion of Pompey: he has the qualities needed to win the hearts and minds of provincials, which is a key asset in Rome’s war against Mithridates.

266In a sense, Cicero here continues the theme that was at the centre of his prosecution of Gaius Verres in 70 BC for misconduct in provincial administration, as recorded (with a considerable dose of artistic license) in his Verrine Orations. And it is tempting to read the de imperio as part of the story of Cicero, Scourge of Bad Provincial Governance or General Corruption. The problem with this is that after securing Verres’ exile, he went on to defend several people accused of provincial exploitation (Marcus Fonteius in 69, for example). The response might be that those people (unlike Verres) were innocent, but it seems more likely that Cicero was playing by the rules of the game, whereby you defend whoever asks for your help (especially if they are politically/socially prominent people), whatever you think of their personal innocence.

267Still, the alleged corruption of Rome’s provincial government and the ruthless exploitation of the allies remain leitmotifs of Cicero’s argument right to the very end of the speech. He even uses the vices of his contemporaries to put Pompey’s greatness into perspective, most explicitly in § 67: quasi vero Cn. Pompeium non cum suis virtutibus, tum etiam alienis vitiis magnum esse videamus (‘as though indeed it were not obvious that Pompeius owes his greatness not to his own merits alone but also to the demerits of other men’). This ‘comparative levelling’ of Pompey’s ‘absolute’ excellence also informs the section here, and comes out most notably in § 40 when Cicero revisits the reasons for Pompey’s seemingly extraordinary speed – he implies there that the speed wasn’t extraordinary at all: Pompey simply refuses to let himself get sidetracked by the temptations that routinely slow down all the others.

268Quem enim imperatorem possumus ullo in numero putare, cuius in exercitu centuriatus veneant atque venierint?: The main verb of the sentence is possumus, which takes the object infinitive putare. putare governs the accusatives Quem ... imperatorem. Quem is either an interrogative adjective (‘which general can we believe to be of any esteem...?’) or an interrogative pronoun, with imperatorem in predicative position (‘whom can we believe to be a general of any esteem...?’)

269ullo in numero: the phrasing of (in) numero with a pronominal adjective (in this case ullus) is idiomatic: OLD s.v. numerus 11a. in aliquo (nullo) numero (haberi) means ‘(to be held) of some (no) account/esteem’. Cicero’s question here is rhetorical: one cannot consider a general who sells posts in his army to be ‘of any account/esteem’ – that is, he is no general at all.

270cuius in exercitu centuriatus veneant atque venierint?: cuius is a possessive genitive in the masculine singular of the relative pronoun, dependent on exercitu and referring back to imperatorem: ‘in whose army...’ The subject of the relative clause is centuriatus (a 4th-declension noun here in the nominative masculine plural). The verbs are veneant (3rd person plural present subjunctive active [in form, but passive in meaning]) and venierint (3rd person plural perfect subjunctive active [in form, but passive in meaning]), from veneo,-ire,-ii (-itum), which functions as the passive to vendo (‘to sell’) – ‘to be sold’. veneo is easily confused with venio, venire, veni, ventum (‘to come’). In the perfect active subjunctive the forms of the two verbs are indeed identical, but the 3rd person plural present subjunctive active of venio would be veniant. veneant atque venierint are in the subjunctive because the relative clause is one of characteristic: ‘a general of the sort who...’.

271centuriatus: the nominative masculine plural of the 4th-declension noun centuriatus, -us, i.e. ‘office of the centurion’ – a relatively well remunerated position in the Roman army.

272quid hunc hominem magnum aut amplum de re publica cogitare, qui pecuniam ex aerario depromptam ad bellum administrandum aut propter cupiditatem provinciae magistratibus diviserit aut propter avaritiam Romae in quaestu reliquerit?: The main verb (possumus) and its object infinitive (putare) need to be supplied from the previous sentence. putare introduces an indirect statement with hunc hominem as subject accusative and cogitare as infinitive. magnum aut amplum agree with quid: ‘What [matter] grand and edifying can we believe this man to be thinking about the state, who...’

273qui introduces another relative clause of characteristic, which explains the subjunctives diviserit and reliquerit. They are in the perfect: Cicero is referring to apparently well-known incidences in the past. pecuniam is the accusative object of both diviserit and reliquerit, coordinated by aut aut. At issue are two forms of corrupting passion – cupiditas (‘desire for power and glory’) and avaritia (‘greed, i.e. desire for wealth’) – that lead to illegal use of public funds: bribery and embezzlement. What makes the clause difficult to take in is the participle depromptam, which agrees with pecuniam and governs the phrases ex aerario and ad bellum administrandum:

qui pecuniam [ex aerario depromptam ad bellum administrandum] aut propter cupiditatem provinciae magistratibus diviserit aut propter avaritiam Romae in quaestu reliquerit?

274qui pecuniam ... magistratibus diviserit: the construction of dividere here is ‘to distribute an accusative object (pecuniam) among recipients in the dative (magistratibus)’.

275pecuniam ex aerario depromptam ad bellum administrandum: depromptam is the perfect passive participle of depromere in the accusative feminine singular agreeing with pecuniam. It governs the prepositional phrases ex aerario and ad bellum administrandum. The preposition ad here expresses purpose: ‘for war to-be-waged’, ‘in order to wage war’.

276ex aerario: an aerarius is someone who works in copper or other precious metals (aes, aeris, n.). The adjective aerarius refers to something that pertains to, or is made of copper, bronze, etc. Hence the Latin phrase for treasury, i.e. aerarium stabulum – ‘a dwelling/stable (stabulum) pertaining to precious metal’. stabulum was considered redundant, hence the freestanding aerarium, i.e. ‘a place where precious metal is kept’– or, specifically, the place in the temple of Saturn at Rome, where the state treasury was located, or, simply, ‘the treasury’. In the late republic, the urban quaestors were in charge of its administration, overseen by the senate. They would provide funds for magistrates or pro-magistrates to finance their military operations, on the understanding that such funds would be invested in the best public interest, rather than for illegal private benefits.

  • 36 Macdonald (1986) 69.

277propter cupiditatem provinciae: provinciae is an objective genitive dependent on propter cupiditatem. As Macdonald points out, ‘this must mean “ambition to retain his province” rather than “obtain a province”.’36

278Romae: a locative (‘in Rome’).

279Vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites, ut agnoscere videamini, qui haec fecerint: literally, Cicero says: ‘your murmuring of disapproval, citizens, makes it that you seem to recognize [those], who have done these things’. ‘makes it’, of course, is awkward English – ‘shows’ or ‘demonstrates’ is much more elegant. Cicero elides the accusative object of agnoscere (eos), which is also the antecedent of the relative pronoun qui. qui haec fecerint is an indirect question dependent on agnoscere: hence the subjunctive. Note that Cicero treads very carefully here, by means of one of his favourite hedges: the use of videor. He does not say, factually and brutally, ut agnoscatis (‘that you recognize’) but ut agnoscere videamini (‘that you seem to recognize’).

  • 37 For a more detailed discussion of written v. spoken versions of Cicero’s speeches see Gildenhard (2 (...)

280Vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites: Cicero here makes it out that he is reacting spontaneously to the audience. Instances such as these raise the question of the relationship between three different versions of the same speech: (a) what Cicero prepared beforehand (though he would have spoken freely, rather than read from a script); (b) what he said during the oral delivery of the speech; (c) the version disseminated in writing afterwards. Did Cicero anticipate an admurmuratio from the audience at this moment already in the planning phase? Did the admurmuratio arise spontaneously and Cicero captured the moment in the written version? Was there perhaps no admurmuratio during the delivery at all, but Cicero kept, or added it, in the published version to convey a sense of ‘life delivery’ and interactivity for those who encountered the speech in writing? We simply do not know.37

281ego autem nomino neminem; quare irasci mihi nemo poterit, nisi qui ante de se voluerit confiteri: Cicero here introduces a comment on his own behalf, which almost sounds like a parenthesis.

282ego autem nomino neminem: Cicero implies that his audience knows very well whom he is referring to, but still refrains from naming names. The autem, then, has adversative force: despite the fact that everyone knows whom I am talking about, Cicero is saying, I (notice the emphatic use of the personal pronoun ego), for my part, keep my hands clean and will abstain from explicit mudslinging. nomino neminem constitutes a deft paronomasia, which partly makes up for the anti-climactic neminem. Imagine Cicero to pause ever so slightly after nomino – raising the expectation that he is about to crucify rhetorically a corrupt aristocrat; perhaps some members in the audience are beginning to sweat nervously at this point – only to let the air out with the categorical neminem.

283quare irasci mihi nemo poterit, nisi qui ante de se voluerit confiteri: poterit is future, voluerit future perfect. Cicero argues that since he has not named anyone, nobody will be able to be angry with him unless that person ‘will have wanted’ to out himself as guilty beforehand. nisi does not introduce a conditional clause; it has a limiting function – ‘except he, who...’. The antecedent of the relative pronoun (is) is elided.

284ante: used adverbially: ‘beforehand’.

285Itaque propter hanc avaritiam imperatorum quantas calamitates ... nostri exercitus ferant, quis ignorat?: The main clause is the question quis ignorat, which governs the indirect question introduced by the interrogative adjective quantas: hence the subjunctive of ferant. propter hanc avaritiam imperatorum belongs into the indirect question, but is pulled up-front for emphasis.

286Itaque: the connective itaque (‘hence’, ‘therefore’) introduces a sentence or thought that emerges from, and stands in some sort of causal relation to, what comes before. Here, though, the link is not with the immediately preceding (ego autem nomino neminem; quare irasci mihi nemo poterit, nisi qui ante de se voluerit confiteri) but the prior vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites, ut agnoscere videamini, qui haec fecerint. It thus reinforces the sense of ego ... confiteri as a parenthetical aside.

287quocumque ventum est: only verbs that take an accusative object in their active forms have a complete passive (they are so-called ‘transitive verbs’). Verbs that are ‘intransitive’, i.e. don’t take an accusative object, only form an impersonal passive in the third person singular. venio, venire, veni, ventum (‘to come’) is intransitive, and ventum est is its impersonal perfect passive. Its use here stresses the action and obfuscates agency: Cicero could have said quocumque venerunt [sc. nostri exercitus]. Another nuance to note is the indicative (ventum est): given that the indefinite relative clause is part of the indirect question, Cicero could have used the subjunctive by assimilation; but he retains the indicative to enhance the graphic nature of his rhetoric: the disgraceful conduct of Roman armies is an indisputable matter of fact.


288In this paragraph Cicero considers the impact the presence of an army has on the wider population, both within Italy and beyond. In his effort to rouse sympathy with the plight of allies and external nations affected by warfare or, more specifically, undisciplined or marauding troops owing to a lack of leadership, he encourages his audience to draw on recent personal experiences. We get the following three scenarios:

  1. Roman armies on the march through Italy (itinera)

  2. Roman armies attacking enemy cities (hostium urbes)

  3. Roman armies camping in their winter quarters (hiberna, sc. castra among allied nations (sociorum civitates)

289In what is prima facie a highly counterintuitive argument (phrased carefully, to be sure, in the form of a rhetorical question), Cicero implies that (i) and (iii) have caused greater havoc than (ii). The ‘collateral damage’ caused by troop movement within Italy (cf. in Italia) serves as basis for his suggestion that outside Italy (cf. apud exteras nationes) the destructive impact on allied nations (sociorum civitates) by Roman winter quarters exceeds the harm done to enemies (cf. hostium) by Roman soldiers sacking their cities. This is baffling – and prepares for the explanatory punch-line set up by enim. The reason for this unfortunate paradox is that soldiers tend to plunder their host community into ruin unless their general checks their marauding; but only a general who exercises self-control (a rare creature indeed, so Cicero implies) is able to control his army.

  • 38 Radice and Steel (2014) 70.
  • 39 Macdonald (1986) 70.

290Itinera, quae per hosce annos in Italia per agros atque oppida civium Romanorum nostri imperatores fecerint, recordamini: Itinera is pulled up front for emphasis. Opinions on how to interpret the subjunctive fecerint in the quae-clause vary: some think that we are dealing with a generic relative clause (‘Recall the kind of marches that our generals made...’);38 others that it is an indirect question dependent on recordamini, with quae being interrogative rather than relative (‘Recall the marches which/which marches our generals made...’).39 The latter seems more attractive, not least since it continues the pattern from the end of the previous paragraph: quantas calamitates ... ferant, quis ignorat? Itinera, quae .... fecerint, recordamini!

291per hosce annos: it is unclear how far back Cicero wants his audience to think: does per hosce annos refer as far back as the Social War? The civil wars between Sulla and the Marians? Or just the suppression of the revolt of Spartacus? The vague chronology ensures that the identity of nostri imperatores remains equally vague. The sentence by itself does not imply misbehaviour on the part of the generals: Pompey, after all, was one of the imperatores that would have come to mind; the emphasis is rather on the burden of ordinary troop movement on the civilian population. But in the light of how the paragraph ends, one could wonder whether Roman generals and their armies always maintained impeccable discipline while travelling through Italy.

292tum facilius statuetis, quid apud exteras nationes fieri existimetis: statuetis (3rd conjugation) is future active indicative, existimetis (1st conjugation) is present active subjunctive in the indirect question introduced by the interrogative pronoun quid, which has a double function: it is the accusative object of existimetis and the subject accusative of the indirect statement governed by existimetis (fieri being the infinitive).

293facilius: the comparative form of the adverb facile.

294Utrum plures arbitramini per hosce annos militum vestrorum armis hostium urbes an hibernis sociorum civitates esse deletas?: Cicero continues to address his audience directly: the main verb of the rhetorical question is arbitramini. It introduces an indirect statement consisting of two subject accusatives, each with a genitive attribute, coordinated by utrum (hostium urbes)... an (sociorum civitates), and one infinitive: esse deletas. The emphatically placed attribute plures modifies both urbes and civitates. Likewise, the possessive genitive militum vestrorum modifies both armis and hibernis. So Cicero begins and ends with elements ‘shared’by the utrum- and the an-part: plures, per hosce annos, militum vestrorum, esse deletas; in between we get the disjunctive contrasts: armis as compared to hibernis (ablatives of instrument); hostium as compared to sociorum (possessive genitives); urbes as compared to civitates (subject accusatives).

295Utrum ... an ...: introduces a disjunctive question that offers more than one alternative. Cicero strongly suggests that the (prima facie counterintuitive) second alternative is the right one: to say that the opposite is the case would hardly be worth the effort, but to argue that winter-quarters are more pernicious for the indigenous population than the wholesale destruction of cities through armed violence baffles and intrigues. It calls for explication, which Cicero delivers in the subsequent sentence (cf. enim).

296hibernis: allies were expected to support Roman armies that set up winter quarters in their territory. Depending on the demands made by the general on the local population and the discipline he imposed on his soldiers, the presence of a camp during the winter months could turn into a destructive imposition.

297Neque enim potest exercitum is continere imperator, qui se ipse non continet, neque severus esse in iudicando, qui alios in se severos esse iudices non vult: the main sentence falls into two parts coordinated by neque... neque... The subject (imperator) and the verb (potest, which governs both continere and esse) remain the same.

298In §§ 37-38 Cicero offers a critique of Roman generals and armies, whom he conceives as operating in the service of the Roman people (and its magistrates): cf. his repeated reference to imperator (es), armies (exercitus), and soldiers (milites), and his use of the possessive adjectives noster and vester. § 37: quem enim imperatorem ...; propter hanc avaritiam imperatorum; nostri exercitus; § 38: nostri imperatores; militum vestrorum (armis). Throughout it is fairly clear that Cicero blames the generals first and foremost, rather than their troops, and the final sentence hammers the point home in no uncertain terms: an army is an extension of the will and the ethics of its leader. The principle ‘there are no bad soldiers, only bad leaders’ will have resonated well with Cicero’s primary audience, the Roman people, many of whom will have served time as citizen-soldiers. It is also a principle he endorses elsewhere, at times with reference to Plato, who argued the same in the Republic. Is it true, though?

299severus: fans of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series won’t have problems with the meaning of this adjective: just think Snape.

300in iudicando ... iudices: an instance of figura etymologica.

301qui alios in se severos esse iudices non vult: non vult introduces an indirect statement with alios as subject accusative and esse as infinitive. severos agrees with iudices (in attributive position) and the entire phrase stands in predicative position to alios. The reflexive pronoun se (accusative singular) refers to the subject of the qui-clause, i.e. the general.


  • 40 Plutarch, Life of Pompey 30.1.

302In this section, Cicero moves on from describing the faults of other commanders to building up a picture of the excellent conduct of Pompey when he brought his army into Asia. At the time of the speech, Pompey was still in quarters in Asia and visiting cities in the region, to shore up his campaign against the pirates and prepare for the war against Mithridates, which he hoped would be coming his way.40 Cicero stresses how even during the winter, when other commanders would have exploited allies, Pompey took great care not to inflict harm on anyone or abuse the goodwill of the locals. The contrast between Pompey’s actions with those of other generals destroying the allied territory, as mentioned in § 37, throws the discipline of Pompey’s forces (and by implication his self-control and ‘imperial ethics’) into proper relief.

303Hic miramur hunc hominem tantum excellere ceteris, cuius legiones sic in Asiam pervenerint, ut non modo manus tanti exercitus, sed ne vestigium quidem cuiquam pacato nocuisse dicatur?: The main verb of the direct question is miramur, which introduces an indirect statement, with hunc hominem as subject accusative and excellere as infinitive. A relative clause follows (cuius... pervenerint: the verb is in the subjunctive because it is a subordinate clause within indirect speech). The sic therein sets up the consecutive ut-clause.

304ut non modo manus tanti exercitus, sed ne vestigium quidem cuiquam pacato nocuisse dicatur?: The verb of the ut-clause is the impersonal dicatur (in the present subjunctive), which governs a ‘nominative + infinitive construction’: the subjects are manus and vestigium, the verb is nocuisse. Negatives are a bit of an issue here, caused by a slight adjustment to the non modo... sed etiam ... (‘not only... but also...’) formula. Cicero here wants to say ‘not only not, but not even’, but does not add the required second negative to the ‘non-modo’ part; rather, he uses the ‘local negation’ ne… quidem, which in the first instance negates the word in-between, i.e. vestigium, to negate the entire sentence. Put differently, Cicero is saying literally: ‘that not only a hand, but not even a footprint, of such a great army is said to have harmed anybody peaceful’– which makes little sense. What he means, however, is ‘that not only no hand, but not even a footprint, of such a great army is said to have harmed anybody peaceful.’

305hic: the adverb, rather than the demonstrative pronoun, which can be translated along the lines of ‘here’ or ‘in these circumstances’.

306hunc hominem: Pompey.

307manus: in form, manus could be either nominative singular (‘hand’) or nominative plural (‘band’). The verb (dicatur) does not help us to decide: when a verb governs two subjects, it regularly agrees with the closest one, in this case vestigium, which is singular. So manus could still be plural. The question then becomes one of interpretation.

308ceteris: in the dative plural because the verb excellere (meaning ‘to surpass’ or ‘to excel’) takes the dative. imperatoribus is implied.

309tantum: used adverbially here: ‘so much’ or ‘so greatly’.

310cuiquam pacato: this is dative, and acts as the object of nocuisse. cuiquam comes from quisquam (‘anyone’); pacato is either the adjective pacatus, -a, -um (derived from paco), meaning ‘disposed to peace, peaceable’ or the perfect passive participle of paco, -are, -avi, -atum, meaning ‘to impose a settlement on, bring under control, subdue’. The choice between ‘anyone peaceful’ and ‘anyone who had (already) accepted the terms of Roman peace after having been subdued’ involves a fine, but important distinction: were those that didn’t suffer harm peaceful to begin with or is Cicero referring to communities that were once hostile but are now ‘pacified’ the Roman way? He comes back to Roman notions of peace and provincial exploitation with a sarcastic witticism at the end of the speech (§ 67): ecquam putatis civitatem pacatam fuisse, quae locuples sit, ecquam esse locupletem, quae istis pacata esse videatur? (‘Do you imagine that any state has been “pacified” and still remains wealthy, that any state is wealthy and seems to these men [= greedy members of Rome’s ruling elite] “pacified”?’) Put differently, Cicero suggests that Roman ‘pacification’ proceeded until a province had been stripped of its wealth...

311Iam vero quem ad modum milites hibernent cotidie sermones ac litterae perferuntur: the subject of the sentence are sermones ac litterae, referring to oral reports or hearsay (sermones) and written missives (litterae) that, so Cicero implies, reach Rome on a daily basis (cotidie) and bring news on how Pompey’s soldiers comport themselves in their winter quarters. iam vero (‘moreover’) gives an emphatic beginning to what follows as if there is still much more to say about Pompey’s self-control. It highlights how Pompey not only avoided damaging the areas through which he led his army, but also made sure that no-one in these areas was forced to spend money on his troops during a time when many other generals plundered the provinces to increase their own wealth.

312quem ad modum milites hibernent: an indirect question (hence the present subjunctive of hibernent) notionally dependent on sermones ac litterae and introduced by quem ad modum.

313cotidie: the adverb suggests a constant stream of news from Asia to Rome, implying in turn that Pompey was building up a high degree of goodwill with Rome’s allies. (The idea of the allies preferring Pompey to be Rome’s general came up already in § 13 and recurs in § 41.)

314Non modo ut sumptum faciat in militem nemini vis adfertur, sed ne cupienti quidem cuiquam permittitur: this sentence summarizes the contents of the oral and written reports that reached Rome, so one could have expected Cicero to present this intelligence in indirect speech. He doesn’t, thereby enhancing the vividness of his discourse. The word order serves the same purpose: by placing the consecutive ut-clause ut sumptum faciat in militem, which specifies the results of the two main clauses, i.e. nemini vis adfertur and ne cupienti quidem cuiquam permittitur, up front, Cicero raises the expectation that he is about to detail a form of financial abuse or extortion – only to cancel out this expectation instantly with nemini vis adfertur. vis is the subject of adfertur: it refers to the illegitimate use of physical force or violence. The second main clause generates a similar moment of surprise. If Cicero first stresses that no one was forced to support Pompey’s soldiers against their will, he now ups the ante by arguing that, with Pompey in charge, no provincial is allowed to incur expenses on behalf of the Romans even if he wanted to do so!

315ne cupienti quidem cuiquam permittitur: as above, the negative in ne... quidem covers the entire sentence. cupienti is the present active participle in the dative of cupio agreeing with cuiquam: it was not permitted to anyone, even if he so desired.

316Hiemis enim, non avaritiae perfugium maiores nostri in sociorum atque amicorum tectis esse voluerunt: the subject is maiores nostri, the main verb voluerunt, which introduces an indirect statement with perfugium as subject accusative and esse the verb (here used as a full verb): ‘the ancestors wished there to be a shelter from... in the houses of...’(If Cicero had written tecta instead of in... tectis, esse would be a copula, i.e. a verb that ‘links’ the subject and its predicate: ‘the ancestors wished the houses of... to be a shelter from...’.)

317Hiemis ..., non avaritiae perfugium: hiemis is an objective genitive, avaritiae is a subjective genitive: in the phrase hiemis perfugium, someone else is seeking shelter from ‘the object’ winter; in the phrase avaritiae perfugium, it is ‘the subject’ greed that is seeking shelter. Or, put differently, hiemis is the object against which the verbal action implied in perfugium is directed, whereas avaritiae is the subject understood to carry out the verbal action implied in perfugium. The fact that these two words are both in the genitive and depend on the same noun serves to highlight the contrast between these two diametrically opposed ways of treating the houses of the allies.

318maiores nostri: with his invocation of the ancestors, Cicero implies that Pompey has lived up to the high standards supposedly upheld in the past, further reinforcing the idea that he was a fair and self-disciplined commander. (Cicero mentions the glory or actions of their ancestors to spur on the Roman people to defeat Mithridates in §§ 6, 11 and 14 of this speech.)

319in sociorum atque amicorum tectis: the hyperbaton in ... tectis generates a closed word order.

320tectis: this is ablative plural to go with the word in, and literally means ‘roofs’. Here this word is used to refer to the whole building (a rhetorical device called ‘synecdoche’), and therefore can be translated as ‘houses’.


321Cicero now argues that Pompey’s outstanding character not only ensures compliance with ethical standards in military operations set by the ancestors; it also has significant strategic advantages. The very speed of movement Cicero has singled out earlier as a hallmark of Pompey’s approach to warfare is ultimately grounded in his personal qualities. This is an interesting argument, not least since it runs counter to his earlier assertion that the most important manifestation of virtus is martial prowess, whereas the ‘soft’ qualities are mere handmaidens. Consider: in § 29, Cicero identified celeritas in conficiendo as one of the virtutes imperatoriae, which everybody recognizes as such; in contrast, temperantia is one of those seemingly ‘secondary’ qualities that Cicero introduces as administrae comitesque to virtus bellandi in § 36. Now it emerges that temperantia is in fact the enabling condition of celeritas in conficiendo – far from being secondary, it is foundational for Pompey’s success (and hence an essential element of Cicero’s conception of the summus imperator). Cicero does not spell any of this out explicitly. But those able to read between the lines will realize that his initial endorsement of virtus bellandi as the most important manifestation of aristocratic excellence is little more than a concession to Roman common sense that he himself does not share. Through the unorthodox validation of other, ethical qualities, and the (frankly astonishing) argument that they are of fundamental importance not just for winning over the hearts and minds of locals but for successful warfare, Cicero’s discussion of virtus in the pro lege Manilia offers at least a partial critique and subversion of this common sense – and a redefinition of virtus in a distinctly Ciceronian key.

322As in the previous paragraph, Cicero makes his case by means of comparison (cf. § 36: ea magis ex aliorum contentione quam ipsa per sese cognosci atque intellegi possunt). Unlike other generals, Pompey is immune to temptations and desires that routinely slow down members of Rome’s ruling elite when on campaign in the Greek East, with its manifold attractions and opportunities for enrichment and pleasure. Whereas his peers get sidetracked, Pompey’s moderation enables single-minded dedication to the task at hand. Cicero here concedes that many Roman aristocrats considered the Eastern Mediterranean as one large museum from which they could help themselves to statues, paintings, and other artworks for display back in Rome. But greed and plunder, as he has already argued in earlier sections of the speech, slow down military progress and incite hostility among the indigenous people. It is one of the main reasons why Lucullus had not been able to finish off Mithridates after defeating him in battle (§ 22):

Primum ex suo regno sic Mithridates profugit, ut ex eodem Ponto Medea illa quondam profugisse dicitur, quam praedicant in fuga fratris sui membra in eis locis, qua se parens persequeretur, dissipavisse, ut eorum collectio dispersa, maerorque patrius, celeritatem persequendi retardaret. Sic Mithridates fugiens maximam vim auri atque argenti pulcherrimarumque rerum omnium, quas et a maioribus acceperat et ipse bello superiore ex tota Asia direptas in suum regnum congesserat, in Ponto omnem reliquit. Haec dum nostri colligunt omnia diligentius, rex ipse e manibus effugit. Ita illum in persequendi studio maeror, hos laetitia tardavit.

[At first Mithridates fled from his kingdom, as Medea is formerly said to have fled from the same region of Pontus; for they say that she, in her flight, strewed about the limbs of her brother in those places along which her father was likely to pursue her, in order that the collection of them, dispersed as they were, and the grief which would afflict his father, might delay the speed of his pursuit. Mithridates, flying in the same manner, left in Pontus the whole of the vast quantity of gold and silver, and of beautiful things which he had inherited from his ancestors, and which he himself had collected and brought into his own kingdom, having obtained them by plunder in the former war from all Asia. While our men were diligently occupied in collecting all this, the king himself escaped out of their hands. And so grief retarded the father of Medea in his pursuit, but delight delayed our men.]

323And, as Cicero goes on to say, the reputation of L. Lucullus’ army that it would despoil even the most sacred shrines struck fear into the hearts and minds of the local population, so that they rose up in arms against the Romans and afforded protection to Mithridates (§ 23).

324Age vero ceteris in rebus qua ille sit temperantia, considerate: the singular imperative of ago, i.e. age, could be used idiomatically as a transitional particle, irrespective of the how many people were in the audience – hence the seemingly weird situation that the sentence begins with a singular imperative and ends with one in the plural (considerate). considerate governs an indirect question (hence the subjunctive sit) introduced by the interrogative adjective qua, which agrees with temperantia. qua... temperantia is an ablative of quality. ceteris in rebus belongs into the qua-clause, put is pulled up-front for emphasis. Translate in the following order: Age vero, considerate qua temperantia ille sit in ceteris rebus.

325ceteris in rebus: the preposition that governs the ablative phrase comes second; the normal word order would be in ceteris rebus. The phenomenon is called ‘anastrophe’.

  • 41 Caesar, too, built up a reputation for celeritas: veni, vidi, vici, and all that! Cf. (1998), who a (...)

326Unde illam tantam celeritatem et tam incredibilem cursum inventum putatis?: The main verb of the question is putatis, which introduces an indirect statement, with illam tantam celeritatem and tam incredibilem cursum as subject accusatives and inventum (sc. esse) as (passive) infinitive. inventum agrees in case, number, and gender with the closest of the two subject accusatives, i.e. cursum. It may seem curious that Cicero here opts for a passive construction and, further, that he doesn’t even specify an agent by means of an ablative of agency (e.g. ab illo). The reason could be that the question is designed as a ‘red herring’: as Cicero goes on to suggest counterintuitively, Pompey’s speed wasn’t extraordinary at all – all he did was not to get sidetracked because of character flaws, like all the other generals.41

327Non enim illum eximia vis remigum aut ars inaudita quaedam gubernandi aut venti aliqui novi tam celeriter in ultimas terras pertulerunt, sed eae res, quae ceteros [sc. imperatores] remorari solent, non retardarunt: the sentence has two (negated) main verbs, linked by sed: non ... pertulerunt; non retardarunt. illum is the accusative object of both. pertulerunt goes with three subjects, presented as excluded alternatives coordinated by aut – aut: (i) eximia vis remigum; (ii) ars inaudita quaedam gubernandi; (iii) venti aliqui novi.

328retardarunt: the syncopated form of the 3rd person plural perfect indicative active of retarda-ve-runt.

329non avaritia ab instituto cursu ad praedam aliquam devocavit, non libido [ab instituto cursu] ad voluptatem [devocavit], non amoenitas [ab instituto cursu] ad delectationem [devocavit], non nobilitas urbis [ab instituto cursu] ad cognitionem [devocavit], non denique labor ipse [ab instituto cursu] ad quietem [devocavit]; a long, paratactic string of main clauses in asyndeton, each starting with the negation non. The ablative phrase ab instituto cursu and the main verb devocavit are systematically elided after the first one.

330non ..., non ..., non ..., non ..., non ...: a powerful anaphora, reinforced by the asyndeton, the elisions, and Cicero’s economy in the use of attributes: none of the accusative phrases except the first (ad praedam aliquam) has a modifier.

331(i) avaritia ... ad praedam, (ii) libido ad voluptatem, (iii) amoenitas ad delectationem, (iv) nobilitas urbis ad cognitionem: the first four clauses yield an intricate chiastic design: (i) avaritia and (ii) libido designate personal characteristics; (iii) amoenitas and (iv) nobilitas urbis refer to the characteristics of specific locations. Yet (i) correlates with (iv) and (ii) with (iii): greed for plunder entails the inspection of famous cities; and lust for pleasure motivates ‘wellness stops’.

332non denique labor ipse ad quietem: the climactic fifth item in the list is different in nature: it refers to a positive quality of Pompey, i.e. his seemingly superhuman ability to do without rest. ipse, which agrees with labor, is here used to emphasize something regarded as exceptional or extreme: see OLD s.v. ipse 9.

333postremo signa et tabulas ceteraque ornamenta Graecorum oppidorum, quae ceteri tollenda esse arbitrantur, ea sibi ille ne visenda quidem existimavit: the subject of the sentence is ille (referring to Pompey), the main verb existimavit. It introduces an indirect statement, with the polysyndetic tricolon signa et tabulas ceteraque ornamenta as subject accusative and visenda (sc. esse) as infinitive. ea sums up signa et tabulas ceteraque ornamenta for additional emphasis. The pronoun sibi is a dative of agency with the gerundive (‘by him’). Cicero construes the relative clause and the second half of the main clause in parallel:






(sibi) ille

tollenda esse


ne visenda [sc. esse] quidem




334The parallel design heightens the contrast between Pompey and all the others (ceteri). It also underscores how widespread and prolific the practice of taking sculpture from Greece to Rome was and hence how admirable Pompey was to resist it. (A significant proportion of original Greek bronzes survive because the ships carrying them from Greece capsized en route to Italy.)

335signa et tabulas ceteraque ornamenta: signa are statues, tabulae are paintings, and ornamenta refers to any other kind of civic artwork on display in the public spaces of cities that could be removed and taken to Rome.

336quae ceteri tollenda esse arbitrantur: the relative pronoun quae has a double function: it is the accusative object of arbitrantur and it is the subject accusative of the indirect statement introduces by arbitrantur (with the gerundive tollenda esse as infinitive).


337The paragraph consists of five sentences, with the first four focusing on Pompey’s temperantia vel continentia (the two terms are virtual synonyms) and the final sentence moving on to Pompey’s facilitas:

  1. Itaque omnes nunc in iis locis Cn. Pompeium sicut aliquem non ex hac urbe missum, sed de caelo delapsum intuentur;

  2. nunc denique incipiunt credere, fuisse homines Romanos hac quondam continentia, quod iam nationibus exteris incredibile ac falso memoriae proditum videbatur;

  3. nunc imperii vestri splendor illis gentibus lucem adferre coepit;

  4. nunc intellegunt non sine causa maiores suos tum, cum ea temperantia magistratus habebamus, servire populo Romano quam imperare aliis maluisse.

  5. Iam vero ita faciles aditus ad eum privatorum, ita liberae querimoniae de aliorum iniuriis esse dicuntur, ut is qui dignitate principibus excellit, facilitate infimis par esse videatur.

338(i) – (iv) elevate Pompey; (v) emphasizes that despite his elevated status Pompey has remained humble. Grammar, syntax, and style reinforce the point. Cicero sets up (i) – (iv) as a thematic unit by means of the anaphora of nunc; the iam vero of (v) marks a new section in the argument: the two particles iam and vero will continue to provide ‘transitional kit’ in the following paragraph (see below). A similar effect is achieved by the subjects and the verbs. (i) – (iv) present matters from the perspective of the Eastern provincials, which Cicero introduces in (i) with the formulation omnes in iis locis (‘everybody in this part of the world’). omnes in iis locis is also the implied subject of (ii) incipiunt credere and (iv) intellegunt. (iii) also maintains the provincial perspective but with an element of variation. If (i) intuentur, (ii) incipiunt credere, and (iv) intellegunt put the emphasis on the perception of provincials, (iii), which is the central sentence of this section, foregrounds facts from a Roman point of view (see imperii vestri splendor), even though the focus remains on the impact of Rome on provincial peoples: illis gentibus is synonymous with omnes in iis locis. In contrast, (v) again breaks with this pattern: we get the impersonal passive verb dicuntur, which carries no implication that what is being said about Pompey’s accessibility and ease in interpersonal interaction is a matter of provincial perception: it holds true anywhere.

339The anaphora of nunc endows this paragraph with special urgency: opinions in the East are (again) swinging in favour of Rome because of Pompey’s presence and the way in which he has conducted his military operations so far. The Roman people, so Cicero implies, ought not to miss this opportunity and build on the momentum Pompey has generated, not least since they are the beneficiaries of Pompey’s efforts on behalf of the res publica. In the course of the paragraph, Cicero transforms the respect, indeed worship, that Pompey commands in the East into the imperial glory of the Roman people: nunc imperii vestri splendor illis gentibus lucem adferre coepit. Now it is the ‘glory of your empire’, rather than just Pompey’s personal success. Thus Pompey’s temperance results in a view of the Roman empire itself as being above human, bringing ‘light’ to the people of the East. (The notion of the Roman people as a civilising force would have been welcome to Cicero’s audience, but we should not take his word for it that the provincial people really saw Rome in this way.) Cicero even implies that the moral standards of ancestral Rome justified her empire, as demonstrated by the fact that some gave up their independence voluntarily, arguing (on the basis of no evidence) that the reason for this voluntary submission to Roman rule was the self-restraint of Roman officials at the time – the same self-restraint for which Pompey, too, is famous.

340Cicero is here most likely alluding to the decision of King Attalus III of Pergamum, who died without heir in 133 BC, to leave his kingdom to the Roman people. The reasons will have had more to do with a pragmatic sense of power-politics in the region than appreciation of the outstanding morals of Roman officials – and the decision proved at any rate controversial. It was Tiberius Gracchus who decided to accept the legacy (before he got killed, that is), via the people, as a way to fund his land redistribution. (As someone who enjoyed an inherited guestfriendship with Eumenes he received the news ahead of everyone else.) Some in the senate were pretty cross with him for jumping the gun, especially when a revolt broke out, led by Aristonicus, a son of Attalus’s predecessor Eumenes. It took two years to quell the uprising and another two years to set up the province of Asia. Put differently, Cicero is playing fast and loose with the historical truth.

341Itaque omnes nunc in iis locis Cn. Pompeium sicut aliquem non ex hac urbe missum, sed de caelo delapsum intuentur: intuentur is here construed with a double accusative (Cn. Pompeium and aliquem) coordinated by sicut. The two participles missum and delapsum agree with aliquem: ‘they looked upon Gnaeus Pompeius as someone who was not sent from this city, but who descended from the sky.’

  • 42 Classen (1963) 332, with reference to Cicero, Letters to Atticus 2.21.4. At Man. 13, Pompey ironica (...)

342delapsum: This idea of a serene descent from on high spells epiphany, picking up on the theme of Pompey’s almost divine virtus which runs through the speech, elevating him above ordinary men. It is important to note, though, that Cicero here distinguishes sharply between an Eastern and a Roman point of view. Pompey’s divinity is in the eyes of the beholder: the subjects of intuentur are Eastern provincials. For Cicero’s Roman audience, Pompey remains ex hac urbe missus, i.e. a properly appointed magistrate of the senate and the people of Rome, who derived his position and powers from constitutional procedures.42 This use of ‘divergent focalization’ presupposes, and taps into, the Roman prejudice about the Greek East as a hotbed of superstitious beliefs, including the elevation of humans to divine status. Cicero, in other words, nowhere asserts that Pompey is a god; he merely reports that, in the East, he was perceived as one. By making the issue one of psychology (‘Pompey seems divine’, i.e. to those who don’t know better), rather than ontology (‘Pompey is divine’) he manages to portray Pompey as god-like, without subverting important principles of Rome’s political culture, which had no room for the worship of human beings as gods.

  • 43 This is a leitmotif throughout the speech; at Man. 24, for instance, Cicero makes paradoxical point (...)

343Even though Cicero presents the impression of Pompey as quasi-divine as the delusion of foreign communities, he suggests that this delusion is real in its consequences insofar as it can be exploited to strategic advantage. To begin with, the quasi-religious adulation Pompey commands stands in striking contrast to the religious outrage caused by Lucullus, which Cicero reported in the opening parts of the speech. The nature of the enemy (a king) and the theatre of operation (Asia), so he suggests, call for a general who can rival his opponent in religious charisma. Pompey’s ability to appear god-like thus emerges as a crucial military asset. As the recipient of the same sort of ‘irrational’ devotion Mithridates enjoys, Pompey will be able to fight fire with fire.43 Cicero thus makes tactical use of a foreign system of belief, meant to encourage the Roman people to put Pompey in charge of the war.

  • 44 This note is based on Gildenhard (2011) 264-65

344But wasn’t this technique potentially dangerous? By making the Eastern point of view part of his discourse, did Cicero not willy-nilly endow Pompey with a divine aura of sorts? How many members in the audience would have picked up on the ‘divergent focalization’? Isn’t Cicero violating important principles of oligarchic equality on which the senatorial tradition of republican government rested by hailing Pompey as god-like? On the other hand (and depending on how we define the context of the speech), it is equally possible to argue that the focalized deification of Pompey is a profoundly conservative form of praise in that it limits the validity (and hence the virulence) of Greek ideas about divine human beings to the Eastern Mediterranean. As we have pointed out in the Introduction, ever since Roman aristocrats became aware of the Greek practice to grant (semi-) divine status to outstanding individuals, some of them toyed with the notion of integrating this unique form of exaltation into their own public image. Cicero’s strategy of geographic focalization, on the other hand, reduces the Greek concept of ‘human godlikeness’ to a localized, psychological phenomenon, thus radically confining its scope and implicitly denying its relevance and applicability at Rome. The fact that other cultures are more prone to turn humans into gods, so Cicero seems to be saying, may be exploited for strategic purposes in the context of imperial expansion but does (or should) not necessarily affect Pompey’s domestic identity. There is, then, a dialectic of panegyric excess and republican moderation in place here that is fiendishly difficult to pin down: what do you think Cicero was up to?44

345nunc denique incipiunt credere, fuisse homines Romanos hac quondam continentia, quod iam nationibus exteris incredibile ac falso memoriae proditum videbatur: credere introduces an indirect statement, with homines Romanos as subject accusative and fuisse as infinitive, followed by a substantive quod-clause, which explicates the indirect statement: ‘... a fact that...’. quod is the subject of videbatur and agrees with incredibile and proditum: ‘... a fact that ... appeared unbelievable and wrongly transmitted to memory’. The striking emphasis on ‘now’ (nunc) and ‘beginning’ (incipiunt, coepit) divides Roman history for present purposes into three distinct phases: (i) an early time of moral excellence that currently is nothing but an indistinct (provincial) memory or, worse, has started to look like a mere invention; (ii) an intermediary time of decline and corruption that has rendered the alleged quality of the previous period look ‘too good to be true’; (iii) the present, defined and dominated by Pompey, in whom ancestral excellence has re-emerged – and with it belief and confidence in the historical existence and continued possibility of impeccable conduct on the part of Roman magistrates. Cicero here taps into a long-standing Roman discourse that configured ‘the ancestors’ as benchmarks of excellence. It is important to realize that this sweeping conception of history, with its vague caesuras (Cicero doesn’t explain when and why the decline kicked in or why and how Pompey has managed to buck the trend), is as much a figment of Cicero’s imagination as it is tailor-made for his rhetorical aim of elevating Pompey above his contemporaries.

346hac ... continentia: an ablative of quality.

347quondam ... iam: the two adverbs mark a temporal contrast: given the conduct of contemporary Roman generals, by now (iam) the notion that once (quondam) there were Romans of outstanding self-restraint had lost any credibility (cf. incredibile) – a credibility now gradually restored by Pompey (cf. incipiunt credere).

348falso memoriae proditum: falso is an adverb; despite the fact that it may look like a dative it does not – and cannot: memoria is feminine – agree with memoriae, which is a dative governed by proditum: ‘falsely transmitted to memory’.

  • 45 Welch (2005) 320-21.

349nunc imperii vestri splendor illis gentibus lucem adferre coepit: with the strategically placed vestri, Cicero has his audience partake in Pompey’s supernatural aura and in turn ensures that the supernatural aura of Pompey appears as a force acting on behalf of the Roman people. The imagery continues the divine connotations of de caelo delapsum: the metaphorical invocation of brightness and light in splendor and lucem adferre suggests the supernatural and the salvific and reinforces the importance of just governance as the ultimate foundation of Rome’s imperial rule: ‘The depredations causing the light to be dimmed were the fault not only of the pirates but of greedy and unjust governors ... and a man of singularis virtus is needed to bring it back to those areas of the world in need of it, Rome included. This theme of Rome’s problems being caused by lack of moderation in Rome’s own leaders who bring about a break in fides between Rome and its provinces is closely linked to similar expressions in both Cicero’s De Officiis and Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae. In the theme of light lost and light returning we should understand that Cicero’s thinking allows that Rome’s claim to leadership is not intrinsic, nor is it an inalienable birthright. It will last only as long as Rome deserves it, that is, while her imperium is based on justice. In the same way that Rome’s lumina cannot rely on their ancestors for their status but must face the iudicium publicum which will confirm their dignitas, so the position of Rome as the lux orbis terrarum, and thus the claims of the populus Romanus to maiestas, or ‘greaterness’, are valid only if such claims rest on the just practices of the centre and its representatives.’45

350nunc intellegunt non sine causa maiores suos tum, cum ea temperantia magistratus habebamus, servire populo Romano quam imperare aliis maluisse: the subject continues to be omnes (in iis locis). The verb intellegunt introduces an indirect statement with maiores suos as subject accusative and maluisse as infinitive, which in turn governs the antithetical infinitives servire (taking populo Romano as dative object) and imperare (taking aliis as dative object).

351non sine causa: the phrase belongs to the indirect statement. A double negative (non + sine) makes a positive. The rhetorical device is called litotes.

352maiores suos: the reflexive possessive adjective suos identifies the ancestors in question as those of the provincials (the implied subject of intellegunt).

353tum, cum ea temperantia magistratus habebamus: another potentially tricky use of cum, given that it is followed by an ablative (ea temperantia). This may well give one the (wrong) idea that it is the preposition. In fact, it is the conjunction: cum here introduces a temporal clause in the imperfect indicative (habebamus). It is set up by tum: ‘at the time (tum) when (cum)’. (Note that this is not the correlation cum – tum discussed above.)

354ea temperantia: an ablative of quality, which does not take any preposition.

355magistratus: a fourth declension noun in the accusative plural: the accusative object of habebamus.

356servire ... maluisse: as noted above, the most striking illustration of this unusual preference occurred in 133 BC, when the King of Pergamum, Attalus III, died leaving no heir but a will in which he left his kingdom to the people of Rome. Note, however, that the transfer of power occurred after his death, so did not affect him personally, and that other members of the royal family were not quite as keen to relinquish their independence as the deceased king: a rebellion of one of his more distant relatives ensued, which was, ironically, quelled with the help of the King of Pontus at the time, Mithridates V Euergetes, the father of Mithridates Eupator, against whom Rome is now fighting. Cicero of course has no interest in rehearsing any such details; he nonchalantly generalizes and, moreover, ascribes the unprecedented act of a single king to a widespread appreciation of Roman morals among Eastern provincials. The antithesis between servire and imperare heightens the hyperbole: the dramatic declaration that entire nations gladly gave up their own freedom in order to enjoy Roman rule underscores the alleged strategic advantage of innocentia in the context of imperial expansion. If, so Cicero seems to be implying here, provincials did not have to live in fear of marauding Roman generals and their armies, they would become part of the Roman empire of their own accord.

357Iam vero ita faciles aditus ad eum privatorum, ita liberae querimoniae de aliorum iniuriis esse dicuntur, ut is qui dignitate principibus excellit, facilitate infimis par esse videatur: the verb is the passive dicuntur, which governs a nominative + infinitive (esse) construction. There are two plural subjects, aditus and querimoniae, each with a predicative complement, faciles and liberae, with the infinitive esse. The two subjects follow each other asyndetically, an effect re-inforced by the anaphora of ita, which sets up the consecutive ut-clause that concludes the sentence.

358aditus ad eum privatorum: privatorum is a subjective genitive dependent on aditus: who has access? Private individuals. The power of a Roman magistrate or pro-magistrate in a province, especially when he was in command of an army, was quasi-autocratic. It is therefore hardly surprising that a steady stream of visitors – and not just official delegates from civic communities such as the Cretan ambassadors Cicero mentioned in § 35 but also private individuals – would seek him out to gain his support: for all intents and purposes, he represented the law. Cicero suggests that Pompey made himself available to all and sundry and used his extraordinary powers with a keen sense of justice.

359de aliorum iniuriis: aliorum is a subjective genitive dependent on iniuriis: who has committed harm? Others.

360ut is qui dignitate principibus excellit, facilitate infimis par esse videatur: the ut-clause and the relative clause embedded therein map out two complementary qualities situated at the opposite ends of Rome’s sociopolitical spectrum. In terms of social rank (dignitas) Pompey is at the very top of Roman society; in terms of his accessibility (facilitas), his behaviour does not differ from those who are at the very bottom. The syntax reinforces the perfect, paradoxical match of Pompey’s dignitas and facilitas:


relative clause

Subject (Pompey)



Ablative of respect



Whom he surpasses/matches



Verb, indicating Pompey’s relative position


par esse videatur


361In the previous paragraph, Cicero started with four sentences that dealt with Pompey’s temperantia, constituted also stylistically as a unit by the quadruple anaphora of nunc. In the last sentence of § 41, he moved on to facilitas – a switch in focus marked by the particles Iam vero – which he treats in one sentence. § 42 continues this approach: we get another list of sentences, introduced by either iam or vero, to do with (mainly) ‘soft’ virtutes:

  1. Iam quantum consilio, quantum dicendi gravitate et copia valeat, in quo ipso inest quaedam dignitas imperatoria, vos, Quirites, hoc ipso ex loco saepe cognovistis.

  2. Fidem vero eius quantam inter socios existimari putatis, quam hostes omnes omnium generum sanctissimam iudicarint?

  3. Humanitate iam tanta est, ut difficile dictu sit, utrum hostes magis virtutem eius pugnantes timuerint an mansuetudinem victi dilexerint.

362Consilium is a quality Cicero included in his list of virtutes imperatoriae commonly recognized as such (see § 29: labor in negotiis, fortitudo in periculis, industria in agendo, celeritas in conficiendo, consilium in providendo). Like facilitas, fides and humanitas figure in the list of handmaidens to martial virtus Cicero enumerated in § 36: Ac primum quanta innocentia debent esse imperatores! quanta deinde in omnibus rebus temperantia! quanta fide, quanta facilitate, quanto ingenio, quanta humanitate! In that list, innocentia and temperantia took pride of place, corresponding to the lengthy treatment they receive in §§ 36-41, whereas fides, facilitas, ingenium, and humanitas occur in the form of a checklist, corresponding to their swift treatment in §§ 41-42. A word on ingenium and dicendi gravitas et copia: if you recall, we expressed a certain amount of bafflement in our commentary on § 36 that Cicero included ingenium in his list of virtutes. And he does indeed not mention the term again in his discussion of the perfect general. Instead, what we get here in § 42 is the somewhat surprising inclusion of powerful oratory among the qualities that define the summus imperator. We mentioned at the time that ingenium is a key technical term in rhetorical theory (innate talent complementing ars, or ‘exercise’, in constituting the perfect orator, the summus orator); and it now emerges that Cicero included a reference to ingenium to set up his pitch for dicendi gravitas et copia as an important characteristic of an outstanding military leader. Once we see this correspondence, all the virtutes mentioned in § 36 are accounted for, and the reference to oratory no longer comes (entirely) out of the blue.

363In his sentence on humanitas, Cicero claims that Rome’s enemies are as appreciative of Pompey’s virtus (here used unequivocally in its ‘primary’ meaning of ‘martial prowess’) while fighting as they are of his mild disposition (mansuetudo) when defeated. He thereby elegantly sums up the full spectrum of virtutes, from tough-as-nail courage on the battlefield to humane treatment of vanquished foes, that he covered in §§ 29-42 and claimed for Pompey’s rich portfolio of excellences – just before the final, concluding sentence of his discussion of virtus, in which he argues the paradoxical point that putting this uniquely able individual in charge of war will soon result in permanent peace, a boon of such proportions that it resembles a divine charter: et quisquam dubitabit quin huic hoc tantum bellum permittendum sit, qui ad omnia nostrae memoriae bella conficienda divino quodam consilio natus esse videatur?

364Iam quantum consilio [sc. valeat], quantum dicendi gravitate et copia valeat, in quo ipso inest quaedam dignitas imperatoria, vos, Quirites, hoc ipso ex loco saepe cognovistis: the main verb is cognovistis which governs the indirect question (hence the subjunctive) quantum ... valeat. The antecedent of the relative clause introduced by in quo ipso is ambiguous, not least since quo and ipso could be either masculine or neuter. It could be Pompey, the subject of the indirect question implied in valeat: ‘in whom there is anyhow a certain dignity characteristic of a general’. It could be dicendi – understood either specifically in the sense of ‘Pompey’s way of speaking’ or more generally ‘powerful oratory’. Or it could hark back to the indirect question in its entirety, i.e. the powerful display of political wisdom eloquently articulated. In this last sense in particular, Cicero implicitly claims dignitas imperatoria also for himself.

365Lexically and thematically, Cicero here harks back to the opening of § 29, the beginning of his discussion of virtus: Iam vero virtuti Cn. Pompei quae potest oratio par inveniri? Quid est quod quisquam aut illo dignum aut vobis novum aut cuiquam inauditum possit adferre? Neque enim illae sunt solae virtutes imperatoriae, quae volgo existimantur ... Arguably, his claim that dicendi gravitas et copia belongs to a discussion of (Pompey’s) virtus and possesses quaedam dignitas imperatoria, apart from solving the tension between excellence and its recapitulation in discourse (insofar as discourse itself emerges as a field of excellence), constitutes something new and unheard of – and worthy not just of Pompey, but also of Cicero!

366quantum consilio, quantum dicendi gravitate et copia valeat: Cicero uses the anaphora of quantum to differentiate between Pompey’s political intelligence (consilio) and his eloquence (dicendi gravitate et copia).

367consilio ... gravitate ... copia: ablatives of respect or specification.

368vos, Quirites: the direct appeal to the audience makes this part more vivid: Cicero appeals to the experience of his audience as evidence for his argument.

369hoc ipso ex loco: the preposition that governs the ablative phrase (ex) comes second, in this case after the two pronominal adjectives hoc and ipso, a phenomenon called ‘anastrophe’. Cicero refers to the place from which he is speaking, i.e. the rostra or ‘speaker’s platform’. A keen sense of place is a distinctive feature of Cicero’s oratory, and the very first sentence of the pro lege Manilia contains a programmatic reference to the location of delivery (§ 1): Quamquam mihi semper frequens conspectus vester multo iucundissimus, hic autem locus ad agendum amplissimus, ad dicendum ornatissimus est visus, Quirites, tamen hoc aditu laudis, qui semper optimo cuique maxime patuit, non mea me voluntas adhuc, sed vitae meae rationes ab ineunte aetate susceptae prohibuerunt (‘Even though it has at all times given me a special pleasure to behold your crowded assembly, and this place in particular has seemed to me to afford the amplest scope for action, the fairest stage for eloquence, nonetheless, fellow-citizens, this approach to fame, which the best have ever found most widely open, has hitherto been barred to me, not certainly by any wish of mine, but by that scheme of life which, from my earliest years, I had laid down for myself’). The reference to the sphere of domestic politics sets up one of many contrasts operative in this passage. Cicero draws attention to Pompey’s proven excellence at home, as basis for encouraging his audience to make reliable inferences about his reputation abroad (see further below: inter socios, omnes hostes).

370Fidem vero eius quantam inter socios existimari putatis, quam hostes omnes omnium generum sanctissimam iudicarint?: The main verb of the question is putatis which governs fidem vero eius quantam inter socios existimari in oratio obliqua. The subject accusative is the interrogative pronoun quantam, the infinitive is existimari. fidem stands in predicative position to quantam, but is pulled up front for emphasis. It is also the antecedent of the relative pronoun quam.

371Cicero works his way up from the domestic sphere in the previous sentence to Rome’s allies in the main clause here (inter socios) to Rome’s enemies in the relative clause (hostes omnes omnium generum), but he inverts allies and enemies chronologically: iudicarint is in the perfect (Rome’s enemies have already judged Pompey’s trustworthiness completely inviolable), which serves Cicero as basis for an a-fortiori argument that he casts as a rhetorical question: if already Rome’s enemies have demonstrated the highest possible esteem for Pompey’s fides (note the superlative sanctissimam), then the esteem in which it is held by Rome’s allies is, surely, off the scale.

372eius: the genitive of the demonstrative pronoun is, dependent on fidem: ‘his [sc. Pompey’s] trustworthiness’.

373hostes omnes omnium generum: a hyperbole, reinforced by juxtaposition, polyptoton, and chiasmus (noun + adjective:: adjective + noun), designed to recall earlier universalizing statements about Pompey’s comprehensive experience of warfare.

374iudicarint: the contracted form of iudica-ve-rint, i.e. 3rd person plural perfect subjunctive active. The subjunctive is perhaps best explained as a case of so-called attractio modi (‘attraction of mood’): it is a subordinate clause within indirect speech (fidem ... existimari) introduced by putatis.

375Humanitate iam tanta est, ut difficile dictu sit, utrum hostes magis virtutem eius pugnantes timuerint an mansuetudinem victi dilexerint: the subject of est is Pompey. humanitate ... tanta is an ablative of characteristic or quality: ‘he is of such human kindness that...’

376ut difficile dictu sit: a consecutive ut-clause set up by tanta. dictu is a supine.

377[Extra information:

378The Latin ‘supine’ is a verbal substantive that follows the 4th declension in those cases in which it occurs. There are two forms: one ending in -um, the other in -u. The supine in -um (originally an accusative of direction) expresses purposes with verb of motion. Here is an example from Ovid’s Ars Amatoria on why women frequent the theatre: spectatum veniunt, veniunt, spectentur ut ipsae: ‘they come in order to see, they come so that they themselves are seen’– or, more elegantly, ‘they come to see and be seen’. The supine ending in-u, as here, derives originally from the dative (expressing purpose) and occurs mainly with a range of adjectives such as fas, nefas; facilis, difficilis; incredibilis; or mirabilis. It is best translated in English with the infinitive: mirabile visu: ‘wondrous to behold’, difficile dictu: ‘difficult to say’.]

379utrum hostes magis virtutem eius pugnantes timuerint an mansuetudinem victi dilexerint: after positioning Pompey in relation to the citizens and the allies, Cicero considers his impact on the enemy in what amounts to a magnificent play with antitheses (virtutem v. mansuetudinem, pugnantes v. victi, timuerint v. dilexerint) in two acts. Initially, while they are still involved in combat (pugnantes) the enemies fear (timuerint) Pompey’s martial prowess (virtus); once vanquished (victi), they love (dilexerint) his leniency (mansuetudinem). Whether their initial fear or their subsequent love is stronger Cicero finds it difficult to say. The switch from present active participle (pugnantes) in the utrum-half to the perfect passive participle in the an-half presents the outcome of a war against Pompey as a foregone conclusion: all foes will be vanquished. As pointed out above, virtus, in the ‘primary’ sense of martial prowess/courage on the battlefield, and mansuetudo map out the full spectrum of Pompey’s excellences, from the ‘hard’ to the ‘soft’. The sense of closure thereby generated sets up the last sentence in the section on virtus:

  • 46 Begemann (2012) 249 labels this rhetorical ploy ‘ad natus-formula

380Et quisquam dubitabit quin huic hoc tantum bellum permittendum sit, qui ad omnia nostrae memoriae bella conficienda divino quodam consilio natus esse videatur?: Cicero finishes with a rhetorical question (that requires a resounding ‘no-one’ as answer) and a concluding endorsement of Pompey that again asserts his special relationship with the divine sphere. Pompey, Cicero asserts, has been born for a purpose: to bring all wars to a successful conclusion. He uses the formulation natus ad ... (with the preposition ad expressing purpose) to elevate certain individuals such as Pompey or Milo (who, according to Cicero, was born to rid the res publica of Clodius) into figures of destiny. They come into existence with a divine charter (cf. divino quodam consilio) to perform certain deeds for the wellbeing of the commonwealth.46 This is particularly remarkable since Fate (with a capital F) is by and large a negative, four-letter word for Cicero: he usually doesn’t hold with notions of historical destiny or necessity, only flirting with them occasionally (as here) to score rhetorical points.

381Et quisquam dubitabit quin ...: after negated expressions of doubt or hesitation (here the negation is built into the rhetorical question which demands ‘no-one’ as an answer), quin is a conjunction meaning ‘that’. Such quin-clauses are in indirect speech and hence take the subjunctive (permittendum sit).


382Cicero here reaches the third of the four qualities that distinguish his perfect general: auctoritas. See the blueprint he gave his audience in § 28: Ego enim sic existimo, in summo imperatore quattuor has res inesse oportere: (i) scientiam rei militaris, (ii) virtutem, (iii) auctoritatem, (iv) felicitatem. After his lengthy treatment of virtus (§§ 29-42), Cicero devotes §§ 43-46 to his treatment of auctoritas before moving on to felicitas in §§ 47-48. Unlike scientia militaris and virtus, auctoritas is not an ‘innate’ quality. It captures the prestige and respect (and hence the ‘commanding influence’) that others accord an individual on the basis of his previous achievements – and the ‘commanding influence’ that he can therefore exercise. auctoritas, then, implies a sociopolitical context. It is a specifically Roman notion (and form of power). Yet unlike potestas or imperium, which are formalized modes of power linked to social roles (such as that of pater familias, ‘father of a household’, which comes with patria potestas) or public office (election to the consulship gives the individual consular potestas and the right to command an army, i.e. imperium), auctoritas is more diffuse, if no less potent: it enables those who have it to get things done without needing to flex their muscle, simply on the basis of the authoritative respect they command. In this and the following paragraph, Cicero argues that the auctoritas enjoyed by Pompey among friends and foes alike has no equal and illustrates its strategic value in warfare (and not least the ongoing war against Mithridates).

383Et quoniam auctoritas quoque in bellis administrandis multum atque in imperio militari valet, certe nemini dubium est quin ea re idem ille imperator plurimum possit. The main clause is certe nemini dubium est; it is preceded by a causal subordinate clause introduced by quoniam (quoniam... valet) and followed by a quin-clause. dubium governs the dative nemini: ‘doubtful to nobody’.

384multum: a so-called ‘adverbial accusative’: with certain adjectives such as multus or plurimus (for which see below) the neuter accusative singular serves as adverb; it goes with the verb of the quoniam-clause, i.e. valet.

385quin ... possit: after negated expressions of doubt or hesitation (here the negation is nemini and the expression of doubt dubium), quin is a conjunction meaning ‘that’. Such quin-clauses are in indirect speech and hence take the subjunctive (possit).

386ea re: an ablative of respect that refers back to auctoritas: ‘in this matter’.

387idem ille imperator: the subject of the quin-clause.

388plurimum possit: plurimum, the neuter accusative singular of plurimus (the superlative of plus) is another ‘adverbial accusative’: see above on multum. It goes with possit: note the alliteration. There is a nice step-up in intensity from multum valet to plurimum possit.

389Vehementer autem pertinere ad bella administranda, quid hostes, quid socii de imperatoribus nostris existiment, quis ignorat, cum sciamus homines in tantis rebus, ut aut contemnant aut metuant, aut oderint aut ament, opinione non minus et fama quam aliqua ratione certa commoveri?: The main clause is the question quis ignorat...? ignorat governs an indirect statement with (the impersonal verb) pertinere as infinitive and the quid-clauses functioning as subject accusatives. quis ignorat is followed by a causal cum-clause (cum ... commoveri). It explains why Cicero considers this to be a rhetorical question. The verb of the cum-clause is sciamus, which governs an indirect statement with homines as subject accusative and commoveri as infinitive. ut introduces a result clause set up by tantis.

390ad bella administranda: a gerundive governed by the preposition ad, which here expresses purpose.

391quid hostes: supply de imperatoribus nostris existiment from what follows.

392cum sciamus homines in tantis rebus, ut aut contemnant aut metuant, aut oderint aut ament, opinione non minus et fama quam aliqua ratione certa commoveri?: Cicero here states a generally agreed truth (cf. the first person plural verb sciamus) about human nature: homines, the generic term for ‘human beings’, elevates his discourse to the level of universalizing reflections about humanity, subsuming in the process the two categories he specified previously, i.e. hostes and socii. Notionally, the subject of contemnant, metuant, oderint, and ament is homines, but contemnant and metuant refer back to hostes (enemies despise a weak and are afraid of a strong, authoritative general), whereas oderint and ament pick up socii (allies hate a weak and love a strong, authoritative general). By associating auctoritas with fama and opinio, and contrasting these social phenomena with ratio, Cicero pinpoints the irrational element inherent in auctoritas. (See also the end of § 45, where Cicero affiliates auctoritas with nomen and rumor, all of which are, however influential they might be, less substantial than virtus, imperium, and exercitus.)

393opinione non minus et fama quam aliqua ratione certa: opinione, fama, and ratione are all ablatives of means or instrument.

394Quod igitur nomen umquam in orbe terrarum clarius fuit? quod is an interrogative adjective agreeing with nomen (‘which name...’). The question it introduces is rhetorical. clarius is the comparative form of the adverb. Cicero leaves the comparison implicit: no name is more famous than that of Pompey.

395cuius res gestae pares [sc. fuerunt]? The verb is elided but can easily be supplied from the previous clause. Again Cicero does not spell out the comparison: nobody’s deeds are equal to those of Pompey.

396de quo homine vos, id quod maxime facit auctoritatem, tanta et tam praeclara iudicia fecistis? quo is another interrogative adjective agreeing with homine. The parenthetical id quod maxime facit auctoritatem states a general principle (hence the present tense), which finds its historical application in the main clause (vos tanta et tam praeclara iudicia fecistis). For Cicero’s identification of the populus as a source of special auctoritas, see the Introduction 2.4.


397After the introductory paragraph on auctoritas, Cicero now offers the circumstances surrounding the passing of the lex Gabinia (the bill proposed by the tribune Aulus Gabinius in the previous year, which gave Pompey the extraordinary command against the pirates) as an illustration of Pompey’s auctoritas. He proceeds in three steps:

  1. An vero ... imperatorem depoposcit?: a rhetorical question that invokes scenes from the legendary day on which the lex Gabinia was passed, asserts its universal fame (in the same idiom in which Cicero earlier described the ubiquitous presence of piracy in the Mediterranean), and recalls the tremendous popular support this piece of legislation enjoyed;

  2. Itaque ... exempla sumantur: a moment of exhortative reflection, in which Cicero reiterates what this paragraph is about: the demonstration of quantum auctoritas valet in bello (the theory) with specific reference to Pompey (its application).

  3. qui quo ... efficere potuisset: description of the economic consequences of Pompey’s appointment.

398Neither the syntax nor the phrasing in this paragraph is necessarily straightforward.

399[Extra information:

400Dio Cassius imagines Catulus, the old patrician war-horse, as making several pertinent points against the bill proposed by Gabinius: firstly, that the concentration of too much power in individuals’ hands had led to the war between Sulla and the Marians; secondly, that power-sharing gave the Roman elite as a whole more experience; thirdly, that there were plenty of pro-magistrates around who could do the job instead of Pompey; and fourthly, that the office of dictator already existed to deal with crises. These arguments applied just as much to the lex Manilia, which gave Pompey yet more power and authority, but Cicero is eager to stress that the lex Gabinia was a miraculous success. Merely by mentioning the Gabinian law, therefore, Cicero implies that Catulus and Hortensius – the opponents of the present piece of legislation – are wrong now because they were wrong then. Pompey, after all, defeated the pirates in three months to popular acclaim.]

401An vero ullam usquam esse oram tam desertam putatis, quo non illius diei fama pervaserit, cum universus populus Romanus referto foro completisque omnibus templis, ex quibus hic locus conspici potest, unum sibi ad commune omnium gentium bellum Cn. Pompeium imperatorem depoposcit?: Cicero again challenges his audience with a rhetorical question, introduced by an, that calls for a resounding ‘no, we don’t’ as an answer. The main verb is putatis, which governs an indirect statement with ullam ... oram as subject accusative and esse as infinitive. (tam) desertam is the predicative complement. What follows is a consecutive relative clause, set up by tam (hence the subjunctive) and introduced by quo and a fairly intricate temporal cum-clause that works as follows:

  • Subject: universus populus Romanus

  • Two ablative absolutes linked by -que: referto foro + completis omnibus templis

  • Relative clause: ex quibus hic locus conspici potest

  • Accusatives: unum (agreeing in predicative position with) Cn. Pompeium (the accusative object, leading up to the predicative accusative) imperatorem

  • A dative of advantage: sibi

  • A prepositional phrase: ad commune omnium gentium bellum

  • The verb: depoposcit

402ullam usquam ... oram tam desertam: the adjective attribute ullam and the adverb usquam are pleonastic – any coast anywhere. The phrasing recalls §§ 31-32, where Cicero traced the entire Mediterranean world to illustrate the extent of the pirate problem (31: Testes nunc vero iam omnes orae atque omnes exterae gentes ac nationes, denique maria omnia cum universa, tum in singulis oris omnes sinus at portus ....; 32: quam multas existimatis insulas esse desertas?).

403quo: the relative pronoun in the ablative, which introduces the consecutive relative clause, stands for ut (= the normal conjunction to introduce result clauses) + the ablative of is, i.e. eo, used adverbially (‘to that place’, ‘thither’): ut eo > quo.

404illius diei fama: Cicero refers to the widespread fame of the day on which the Roman people passed the lex Gabinia that gave control of the war against the pirates to Pompey, together with extraordinary powers.

405referto foro completisque omnibus templis: the-que after completis links two circumstantial ablative absolutes: referto foro and completis omnibus templis. In each case the participle (referto, completis) precedes the corresponding noun (foro, templis), perhaps in an enactment of the crowd flowing quickly into every available space to witness and celebrate the appointment of Pompey to a war of great concern to everybody, and especially the people of Rome, who relied on (cheap) corn imported from various places across the Mediterranean.

406referto foro completisque omnibus templis ... hic locus: hic locus refers to the speaker’s platform, or Rostra, from which Cicero is addressing the people. In the very first sentence of the speech he calls it hic ... locus ad agendum [sc. cum populo] amplissimus (‘this place affording the amplest scope of action’). The platform was located on the forum, the big open space in the centre of the city, flanked by the Capitoline and Palatine Hills. There were several temples located on these two hills, which would have afforded a good view of the proceedings in the forum.

407ad commune omnium gentium bellum: the preposition ad here expresses purpose (‘for a war...’). commune, which stands in predicative position to bellum (‘a war shared...’ and NOT ‘a shared war’), here governs the possessive genitive omnium gentium (its construction with dative is more frequent).

408depoposcit: the verb governs two accusatives: the direct object unum ... Cn. Pompeium and the predicative accusative imperatorem, best coordinated with ‘as’ in English: ‘the people demanded Gnaeus Pompeius alone as general’(and NOT ‘the people demanded the general Gnaeus Pompeius’). It picks up a passage from the beginning of the speech where Cicero imagines Rome’s allies in the region not daring to demand (deposcere) a specific general from the Roman people for the war against Mithridates (though implicitly hoping that Pompey would end up in charge). See § 12: civitates autem omnes cuncta Asia atque Graecia vestrum auxilium exspectare propter periculi magnitudinem coguntur; imperatorem a vobis certum deposcere, cum praesertim vos alium miseritis, neque audent, neque se id facere sine summo periculo posse arbitrantur (‘it is to you that every state in Greece and Asia is, by the magnitude of its peril, forced to look for help: to demand from you one particular general (especially as you have sent someone else) they neither dare nor do they think that they could do so without extreme danger’).

409Itaque, ut plura non dicam neque aliorum exemplis confirmem, quantum auctoritas valeat in bello: the main verb – sumantur – is in the third person plural present subjunctive passive, with exempla as subject. The subjunctive is iussive: ‘let there be taken examples...’. ut introduces a result clause (‘so that...’), not a purpose clause (‘in order to...’), as the negations non and neque make clear. (Negated purpose clauses are introduced by ne.) quantum introduces an indirect question.

410ab eodem Cn. Pompeio omnium rerum egregiarum exempla sumantur: a very compressed way of saying that Cicero intends to take his examples from the public career of Pompey.

411qui quo die a vobis maritimo bello praepositus est imperator, tanta repente vilitas annonae ex summa inopia et caritate rei frumentariae consecuta est unius hominis spe ac nomine, quantum vix in summa ubertate agrorum diuturna pax efficere potuisset: another intricate sentence, best broken down into its constituent bits:

  • The opening relative clause: qui quo ... imperator

  • The main clause: tanta ... spe ac nomine

  • The quantum-clause (set up by tanta): quantum vix ... efficere potuisset

412Cicero adduces an interesting phenomenon that interlinks political decision-making with economic behaviour as evidence of Pompey’s prestige. As soon as he was appointed general, the price of corn in Rome seems to have plummeted. Why? Because everyone just knew that Pompey would secure the supply routes and thereby alter the logic of supply and demand very much in favour of the former. It also suggests that the grain-merchants were using the pirates to raise their price for corn sky-high – much higher than necessary if the mere appointment of Pompey forced them to reduce their prices to the kind of bargain levels common in times of peace and agricultural fertility. There could thus be a subtle dig at those who profiteer from the misfortunes of others. But maybe this is a little too cynical. Perhaps grain prices would have fallen no matter who was appointed to the command, because of an expectation of an immediate glut based on the idea that someone was going to do something about the pirates (perhaps not necessarily that this was going to be a long-term solution, but at least that supply routes would be cleared in the short-term with negative results for anyone who had been keeping back grain against future shortages). Cicero, of course, makes it all about Pompey, but it could simply be a consequence of there being a command at all. One has to be sympathetic towards those merchants: transporting goods by sea is risky enough without adding pirates into the bargain.

413qui quo die a vobis maritimo bello praepositus est imperator: the double relative qui quo at the start of the sentence is difficult. To make sense of the construction think of qui as a connecting relative (= et is), with is belonging to the relative clause introduced by quo, and quo as a relative pronoun with its antecedent (eo die) sucked into the relative clause. In other words, translate as if the Latin read: et eo die, quo is a vobis maritimo bello praepositus est imperator... (‘And on the day [in which] this man was put in charge by you of the war against the pirates as general...’).

414tanta repente vilitas annonae ex summa inopia et caritate rei frumentariae consecuta est unius hominis spe ac nomine: the subject of the main clause is tanta... vilitas, the verb consecuta est. The two genitives annonae (dependent on vilitas) and rei frumentariae (dependent on ex summa inopia et caritate) are virtually synonymous: both refer to the corn stored and sold in Rome.

415unius hominis spe ac nomine: spe and nomine are causal ablatives. The genitive unius hominis goes with both, but is a different one in each case: unius hominis spe refers to ‘the expectations others have towards this one man’ (and not Pompey’s own expectations), so it is an objective genitive, whereas unius hominis nomine refers to the name Pompey himself has, so it is a possessive genitive.

416quantum vix in summa ubertate agrorum diuturna pax efficere potuisset: quantum picks up tanta: such a low price ... followed as prolonged peace ... could hardly have achieved. The pluperfect subjunctive potuisset indicates an unreal condition in the past: ‘even if there had been a prolonged period of peace with rich yield of produce, the price of corn would hardly have dropped lower than it did after the appointment of Pompey.’


417As his second case study to illustrate Pompey’s auctoritas, Cicero chooses the impact of his presence in Asia after Mithridates’ crushing defeat of the Roman forces under the command of C. Triarius at the battle of Zela in 67 BC. He invokes the possibility of a ‘worst-case scenario’: Rome’s loss of the province of Asia. This, Cicero submits, would have been the outcome of the defeat had it not so happened by divine dispensation that Pompey was in the region at the time, as a result of his command against the pirates. The auctoritas accorded to him even by Rome’s bitter foes Mithridates and Tigranes (the king of Armenia and Mithridates’ son-in-law) sufficed to prevent them from exploiting their victory – or so Cicero argues. Without doing anything Pompey thus managed to check the enemy in an act of ‘psychological warfare’: his auctoritas in the eyes of the royal beholders. This scenario forms the basis for Cicero’s conclusion: if Pompey’s auctoritas has such a positive impact on Roman interests in the region, an opportunity to bring his virtus to bear on the war against Mithridates would surely yield the desired result.

418Iam accepta in Ponto calamitate ex eo proelio, de quo vos paulo ante invitus admonui, cum socii pertimuissent, hostium opes animique crevissent, satis firmum praesidium provincia non haberet, amisissetis Asiam, Quirites, nisi ad ipsum discrimen eius temporis divinitus Cn. Pompeium ad eas regiones fortuna populi Romani attulisset. This is a complex sentence, best taken piece by piece.

  1. We begin with an ablative absolute: the participle is accepta and the noun is calamitate. But unlike ‘standard’ ablative absolutes, this one is not self-contained. ex eo proelio belongs to the ablative absolute, just as much as the relative clause de quo vos paulo ante invitus admonui (the antecedent of quo is proelio) and a quick-fire sequence of three asyndetic cum-clauses: (a) cum socii pertimuissent, (b) [cum] hostium opes animique crevissent, (c) [cum] satis firmum praesidium provincia non haberet.

  2. This sets up the main clause: amisissetis Asiam...

  3. amisissetis Asiam forms the apodosis of a conditional sequence and is followed by the protasis, the dependent clause that specifies the condition, here introduced by nisi, which takes us to the end of the sentence (attulisset).

419Overall, this is a highly dramatic syntax – the sentence is designed to generate a sense of crisis, evoke, if counterfactually, an ultimate disaster (the loss of Asia), before resolving the crisis with reference to our hero Pompey. By having the initial ablative absolute used to present the Roman defeat in battle ‘overflow’ into further constructions, Cicero gives an impression of the disastrous repercussions of the military disaster, an effect further enhanced by the use of asyndeton in the sequence of cum-clauses (and the elision of the conjunction after the first), which lead up to the centre of the sentence: the main clause amisissetis Asiam and a direct address to the audience (Quirites). By inverting the usual order of the conditional sequence (protasis followed by apodosis), Cicero can use the negated protasis to specify why the loss of Asia ultimately did not happen: according to him, it was the arrival of Pompey in the nick of time that turned an imminent into an averted catastrophe. Great stuff!

420ex eo proelio: the reference is to the battle between the forces of Mithridates and a part of the Roman army that Lucullus had left under the command of C. Triarius near the city of Zela in 67 BC (the same year in which Pompey held the command against the pirates). The Romans were soundly defeated.

421paulo ante: ante is an adverb, preceded by an ablative of the measure of difference: a little bit (paulo) earlier (ante). Cicero already touched upon the defeat in § 25.

422invitus: even though it happens to serve his rhetorical agenda, Cicero is keen to stress, for obvious reasons, that he mentions this military disaster only with the greatest reluctance.

423nisi ad ipsum discrimen eius temporis divinitus Cn. Pompeium ad eas regiones fortuna populi Romani attulisset: Cicero ascribes Pompey’s presence in the region to divine agency. fortuna here should probably be capitalized: see our discussion of the phrase fortuna rei publicae in § 28. Together with the adverb divinitus, which means something akin to ‘by divine providence or influence’, the phrase Fortuna populi Romani implies that the appointment of Pompey to his command against the pirates happened according to a supernatural plan, chartered by Rome’s patron deity.

424ad ipsum discrimen eius temporis: a somewhat pleonastic expression of time to enhance the significance of the crisis: ipsum discrimen refers to the actual moment of crisis, eius temporis to the larger period of time within which it occurred.

425Huius adventus et Mithridatem insolita inflatum victoria continuit et Tigranem magnis copiis minitantem Asiae retardavit.: The subject of the sentence is adventus – one of the various ‘arrivals’ by Pompey (who is of course meant with the demonstrative pronoun huius) that Cicero recalls at different moments in the speech: see also §§ 13 and 30. It goes with both verbs (continuit, retardavit), each with its own accusative object (Mithridatem, Tigranem). Both enemies of Rome receive further specification by means of a participle construction. Cicero portrays Mithridates as ‘puffed up’ (inflatum) because of his rare victory (insolita... victoria is an ablative of cause), whereas Tigranes is threatening Asia with his troops: minitor, a deponent verb, takes the dative of the person or object under threat, here the Roman province of Asia (Asiae). magnis copiis is an instrumental ablative.

426The sentence here reiterates an observation already made in § 13: cuius adventu ipso atque nomine, tametsi ille ad maritimum bellum venerit, tamen impetus hostium repressos esse intellegunt [sc. Rome’s friends and allies in the region] ac retardatos (‘the fact of his arrival, his reputation alone, although it is for a naval war that he has come, they feel to have checked and restrained the onslaughts of their foes’).

427Et quisquam dubitabit, quid virtute perfecturus sit, qui tantum auctoritate perfecerit? aut quam facile imperio atque exercitu socios et vectigalia conservaturus sit, qui ipso nomine ac rumore defenderit?: The main clause is et quisquam dubitabit, which governs two indirect questions each leading up to a relative clause of characteristic.

Main Clause

Indirect questions

Relative clauses of characteristic

Et quisquam dubitabit

(i) quid virtute perfecturus sit [aut]
(ii) quam facile imperio atque exercitu socios et vectigalia conservaturus sit

(i) qui tantum auctoritate perfecerit
(ii) qui ipso nomine ac rumore defenderit

428The subject of the two verbs in the indirect question (perfecturus sit, conservaturus sit) and the relative clauses of characteristic (perfecerit, defenderit) is Pompey.

429perfecturus sit ... conservaturus sit: indirect questions in Latin take the subjunctive, but here the actions to which Cicero is referring lie in the future – and Latin does not have a straightforward future subjunctive. To indicate future intent, he therefore uses the so-called ‘future active periphrastic subjunctive’, which consists of the future active participle form (perfecturus, conservaturus; note that Latin doesn’t have a future passive participle) and the present subjunctive of sum (sit). (It’s called ‘periphrastic’ because separate words, rather than inflection, are being used to express the grammatical form.) The problem does not arise in the relative clauses of characteristic: here Cicero is referring to past deeds and can use the perfect subjunctive (perfecerit, defenderit).

430virtute ... auctoritate ... imperio atque exercitu ... nomine ac rumore: ablatives of means or instrument.


431Cicero now sums up his discussion of auctoritas, using some of the same pieces of evidence he mustered to illustrate Pompey’s virtus. The geographical sweep in the first sentence (quod ex locis tam longinquis tamque diversis tam brevi tempore omnes huic se uni dediderunt) recalls similar formulations in § 31 (Hoc tantum bellum, tam turpe, tam vetus, tam late divisum atque dispersum, quis umquam arbitraretur aut ab omnibus imperatoribus uno anno aut omnibus annis ab uno imperatore confici posse?) and § 35 (Ita tantum bellum, tam diuturnum, tam longe lateque dispersum, quo bello omnes gentes ac nationes premebantur, Cn. Pompeius extrema hieme apparavit, ineunte vere susceptit, media aestate confecit) among others. Also in § 35, Cicero had already brought the Cretan embassy to Pompey into play (idem Cretensibus, cum ad eum usque in Pamphyliam legatos deprecatoresque misissent, spem deditionis non ademit, obsidesque imperavit), which he revisits here in some more detail. The illos reges Cicero mentions at the end of the paragraph hark back to his discussion of Mithridates and Tigranes in § 45. And his concluding reference to the amplification of Pompey’s auctoritas through his own deeds and magnis vestris iudiciis reiterates the socio-political economy that Cicero outlined at the beginning of the section (§ 43: de quo homine vos, – id quod maxime facit auctoritatem, – tanta et tam praeclara iudicia fecistis?).

432Age vero illa res quantam declarat eiusdem hominis apud hostes populi Romani auctoritatem, quod ex locis tam longinquis tamque diversis tam brevi tempore omnes huic se uni dediderunt: the subject of the sentence is the vague illa res (‘that matter’); Cicero explicates what ‘that matter’ is in the quod-clause (‘namely that...’). The main verb is declarat, which takes quantam ... auctoritatem as accusative object: the hyperbaton is massive! The genitive eiusdem hominis (of course referring to Pompey) depends on auctoritatem.

433age vero: the opening age vero is a transitional phrase, with age, the second person singular imperative active of ago, not impacting on the syntax of the sentence. Cicero already used this transition in § 40 (see above).

434ex locis tam longinquis tamque diversis tam brevi tempore: Cicero here merges a prepositional phrase (ex ... diversis) to do with geography and an ablative of time (tam brevi tempore) into a tricolon of sorts by means of the three adjectives (agreeing with two nouns), which are further emphasized by the triple anaphora of tam. The -que after the second tam links longinquis and diversis, the two attributes of locis. The phrasing asserts a control over space and time perfectly suited to Rome’s imperial needs.

435omnes huic se uni dediderunt: omnes is the subject, the reflexive pronoun se the accusative object of dediderunt. Interspersed between is the dative huic ... uni: ‘to him alone’.

436quod a communi Cretensium legati, cum in eorum insula noster imperator exercitusque esset, ad Cn. Pompeium in ultimas prope terras venerunt eique se omnes Cretensium civitates dedere velle dixerunt!: This quod-clause too stands in apposition to illa res at the beginning of the paragraph. The subject is legati, the verbs are venerunt and dixerunt, linked by the -que after ei. Cicero here refers to the fact that the Cretans preferred to send legates after Pompey who was in Pamphylia at the time instead of turning to the Roman general in command of the army on their island (noster imperator is Quintus Metellus). He makes it out that the reason was Pompey’s auctoritas. The truth of the matter is more complex: Pompey offered more favourable terms of peace, in part because he did not fancy prolonged fighting on the island. See further § 35.

437a communi Cretensium: communi is the ablative singular of the neuter noun commune.

438cum in eorum insula noster imperator exercitusque esset: the cum has concessive force: ‘even though’.

439eique se omnes Cretensium civitates dedere velle dixerunt: the subject continues to be legati, the verb is dixerunt. It introduces an indirect statement with omnes ... civitates as subject accusative and velle as infinitive. dedere is a supplementary infinitive with velle, which takes the reflexive pronoun se as accusative object and ei (i.e. Pompey) as dative object: they want to hand over themselves (se) to him (ei).

440Quid? idem iste Mithridates nonne ad eundem Cn. Pompeium legatum usque in Hispaniam misit?: In 75 BC, Pompey was in Spain fighting against Sertorius (see above § 28). Mithridates reached out to Sertorius as a potential ally in his fight against Rome. See Plutarch, Life of Sertorius 23:

His negotiations with king Mithridates further argue the greatness of his mind. For when Mithridates, recovering himself from his overthrow by Sulla, like a strong wrestler that gets up to try another fall, was again endeavouring to reestablish his power in Asia, at this time the great fame of Sertorius was celebrated in all places and when the merchants who came out of the western parts of Europe, bringing these, as it were, among their other foreign wares, had filled the kingdom of Pontus with their stories of his exploits in war, Mithridates was extremely desirous to send an embassy to him, being also highly encouraged to it by the boastings of his flattering courtiers, who, comparing Mithridates to Pyrrhus, and Sertorius to Hannibal, professed that the Romans would never be able to make any considerable resistance against such great forces, and such admirable commanders, when they should be set upon on both sides at once, on one by the most warlike general, and on the other by the most powerful prince in existence. Accordingly, Mithridates sends ambassadors into Spain to Sertorius with letters and instructions, and commission to promise ships and money towards the charge of the war, if Sertorius would confirm his pretensions upon Asia, and authorize him to possess all that he had surrendered to the Romans in his treaty with Sulla. Sertorius summoned a full council which he called a senate, where, when others joyfully approved of the conditions, and were desirous immediately to accept his offer, seeing that he desired nothing of them but a name, and an empty title to places not in their power to dispose of in recompense of which they should be supplied with what they then stood most in need of Sertorius would by no means agree to it; declaring that he was willing that king Mithridates should exercise all royal power and authority over Bithynia and Cappadocia, countries accustomed to a monarchical government, and not belonging to Rome, but he could never consent that he should seize or detain a province, which, by the justest right and title, was possessed by the Romans, which Mithridates had formerly taken away from them, and had afterwards lost in open war to Fimbria, and quitted upon a treaty of peace with Sulla. For he looked upon it as his duty to enlarge the Roman possessions by his conquering arms, and not to increase his own power by the diminution of the Roman territories.

441idem iste Mithridates: the very Mithridates that the lex Manilia is about.

442nonne: the interrogative particle introduces a question expecting an answer in the affirmative.

443eum quem Pompeius legatum semper iudicavit, ii quibus erat molestum ad eum potissimum esse missum, speculatorem quam legatum iudicari maluerunt: the subject is ii, the verb maluerunt; it introduces an indirect statement with eum as subject accusative and iudicari as infinitive; speculatorem quam legatum modify eum in predicative position: ‘... that he is considered a spy rather than an ambassador’. The sentence confirms that someone from Mithridates made it to Pompey in Spain, but also that there was considerable controversy about the status of this person. Pompey claimed that the individual in question was an official ambassador tasked specifically with seeking out Pompey. Others, who found this a self-aggrandizing claim, argued that the person had no official diplomatic brief whatsoever and was rather a spy (speculatorem). But the whole sentence is odd and does not fit particularly well into Cicero’s discourse at this point: it reminds everyone that within the ruling elite Pompey’s achievements and self-promotion were highly controversial, whatever their popularity among the populace. Why should Cicero draw attention to this fact here? One could therefore consider bracketing the sentence as a marginal gloss on legatum in the previous sentence that then got included in the body of the text.

444ii quibus erat molestum ad eum potissimum esse missum: ii is the antecedent of the relative pronoun quibus (in the dative following molestum: ‘to whom it was irksome...’). It is unclear to whom Cicero is referring (as in the previous sentence he refrains from naming Pompey’s rivals), but it is not unreasonable to suppose that the consul in charge of operations in Spain, Q. Metellus Pius, was one of them. erat molestum governs an indirect statement with the subject accusative (eum = the person sent by Mithridates) suppressed and esse missum as (perfect passive) infinitive.

445ad eum: sc. Pompey.

446potissimum: potissimum is an adverb (even though it may look as if it agrees with ad eum) and underscores the notion that Mithridates’ man sought out Pompey, who only had the rank of quaestor at the time, above all others – including much higher-ranking officers, such as Quintus Metellus Pius, the consul of 80 BC, and in overall charge of the war against Sertorius until Pompey appeared on the scene.

447Potestis igitur iam constituere, Quirites, hanc auctoritatem, multis postea rebus gestis magnisque vestris iudiciis amplificatam, quantum apud illos reges, quantum apud exteras nationes valituram esse existimetis.: constituere sets up two indirect questions both introduced by quantum in asyndetic sequence. The verb of both quantum-clauses is existimetis, which governs an indirect statement with hanc auctoritatem as subject accusative and valituram esse as infinitive. For emphasis, Cicero pulls hanc auctoritatem out of the clauses into which it belongs and places it up front, right after the address to the citizens, an effect further enhanced by the participle phrase multis postea rebus gestis magnisque vestris iudiciis amplificatam. To appreciate the emphasis, economy, and elegance achieved by Cicero’s word order, it may help to write out the sentence in the painful prolixity that would result if one were to restore normal word order and avoid all ellipses:

potestis igitur iam constituere, Quirites,
quantum hanc auctoritatem, multis postea rebus gestis magnisque vestris iudiciis amplificatam, apud illos reges valituram esse existimetis,
quantum hanc auctoritatem [multis postea rebus gestis magnisque vestris iudiciis amplificatam] apud exteras nationes valituram esse existimetis.

448The placement of hanc auctoritatem and the two indirect questions introduced by quantum recall the hyperbaton quantam ... auctoritatem at the beginning of the paragraph.

449multis postea rebus gestis magnisque vestris iudiciis amplificatam: Cicero here specifies Pompey’s deeds (res gestae) and the perceptive decisions and evaluations about him made by the Roman people (vestra iudicia), which resulted in the election of Pompey to honores (‘public offices’), as the two sources that have jointly enhanced Pompey’s auctoritas. The two iudicia that stand out are Pompey’s election to the consulship of 70 BC and his appointment to fight the pirates under the lex Gabinia in 68 BC. The sentence looks back to § 43: see our commentary there. It neatly encapsulates Cicero’s attempt to weld together the past deeds of an individual and their public recognition by means of constitutional procedures (which are vested in the people) in his notion of auctoritas, thereby uniting Pompey and the populus.

450apud illos reges: Cicero refers back to Mithridates and Tigranes, whom he mentioned by name in § 45.

451valituram esse: valituram is the future active participle in the feminine accusative singular (agreeing with auctoritatem) of valeo.


  • 47 The following is adjusted from Gildenhard (2011) 268-69.
  • 48 Steel (2001) 135.

452Cicero has reached the last of the four qualities he considers essential attributes of the perfect general: after scientia rei militaris, virtus, and auctoritas, he turns his attention to felicitas, which signifies ‘divinely sponsored success’. As we already had occasion to note in our commentary on § 41, an outstanding individual’s special relationship with the gods (or, indeed, his semi-divine status) was difficult to reconcile with the principle of oligarchic equality, which underwrote the senatorial tradition of republican government. After Sulla’s dictatorship, no-one in Rome needed a reminder of this fact: in his autobiography, the autocrat professed to confer with supernatural beings rather than his consilium before making important decisions, considered himself to be in a special relationship with Aphrodite/Venus, and added the attribute ‘felix’ to his name, thereby claiming felicitas (‘divine support’) as a permanent, personal possession.48 This act of nomenclature went down in the annals of Rome as a revolting outrage. Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79), writing more than a century after the fact, still remonstrates as follows when commenting on it (Natural History 7.137):

unus hominum ad hoc aevi Felicis sibi cognomen adseruit L. Sulla, civili nempe sanguine ac patriae oppugnatione adoptatus. et quibus felicitates inductus argumentis? quod proscribere tot milia civium ac trucidare potuisset? o prava interpretatio et futuro tempore infelix!

[The only human being who has so far added ‘Felix’ to his name was L. Sulla, who, sure enough, secured it through civil bloodshed and an attack on his country. Indeed, what evidence for his luck led him on? That he had been able to put so many thousands of citizens on hit lists and have them slaughtered? A disgraceful justification, with evil consequences for the future!]

453It was precisely the fear that Pompey would turn into another Sulla (who, after all, had established his dictatorship upon his return from a war against Mithridates) that fuelled opposition to the lex Manilia and the appointment of Pompey among aristocratic circles. At the same time, divine support was an absolutely crucial element in the panegyric promotion of a military commander. In the early portion of his speech, Cicero himself had made this point, when he praised Lucullus for his virtus, but lamented the absence of fortuna from his military operations. One of the most fascinating aspects of §§ 47-48 is accordingly how Cicero tries to square the circle of claiming extraordinary felicitas for Pompey while avoiding the impression that Pompey is an alter Sulla in the making. A key ploy, at least initially, is his differentiation of felicitas into a traditional variant and its permutation (indeed perversion) by Sulla. The differences may be tabulated as follows:

Traditional felicitas

Sullan felicitas

Verbal acknowledgement

Gingerly, by others

Boastful self-ascription


Precarious quality

Secure possession


Temporary (hostage to fortune)

Permanent (fortune taken hostage) (perpetuum)

Examples from history

Maximus, Marcellus, Scipio, Marius and others

Sulla (unmentioned, but clearly implied)

454In § 47 Cicero speaks out strongly in favour of the traditional conception, within general reflections on the discursive protocols to be observed when felicitas becomes the topic of public speech. Given that felicitas belongs properly to the supernatural domain (it is a gift from the gods), human beings, he argues, should observe the same reverent respect owed to divine matters in other contexts. In the light of these considerations, Cicero brands any attempt on the part of a human being to claim felicitas for himself as an intolerable act of hubris, liable to provoke the anger of the gods. The target of his criticism is easy to idenify: Sulla. The dictator did what Cicero claims must not be done, i.e. proclaim himself felix and to consider felicitas a personal and permanent possession. Remaining conspicuously unnamed in Cicero’s list of Roman statesmen who were blessed with divine support, Sulla nevertheless looms large in these paragraphs, an exemplum malum best condemned to oblivion, a spectre called up only to be exorcised. After thus sketching out the range of possibilities, from the positive exempla of generals that were blessed with special fortune according to some divine plan (divinitus) to the unidentified exemplum malum Sulla, Cicero proceeds to suggest that Pompey is a special case that does not fit conventional categories. He does not share in Sulla’s hubris of making felicitas an aspect of his self-promotion; but his luck significantly outclasses that enjoyed by any other Roman general. Indeed, in § 48 it emerges as unprecedented and off the scale.

455Reliquum est ut de felicitate, quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest, meminisse et commemorare de altero possumus, sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum [sc. dicere], timide et pauca dicamus.: The main clause reliquum est signals the transition from the treatment of auctoritas to the last quality to be covered, felicitas. The ut-clause that follows is consecutive: it explicates what remains to be discussed. Within the ut-clause, Cicero has added a relative clause that falls into two antithetical halves juxtaposed asyndetically: (i) quam ... potest; (ii) [quam] meminisse ... possumus. The antecedent of quam is felicitate. A further subordinate clause introduced by sicut glosses the two adverbs that go with the verb of the ut-clause (dicamus), i.e. timide et pauca: ‘we speak about divinely sponsored luck in the same way as it is fit that human beings speak about the power of the gods, namely apprehensively (timide) and briefly (pauca).’ Here is the sentence set out schematically:

456Main clause: Reliquum est

457Ut-clause: ut de felicitate,

458Relative-clause: quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest, [quam] meminisse et commemorare de altero possumus,

459Sicut-clause: sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum [sc. dicere],

460Ut-clause (cont.): timide et pauca dicamus.

461The intricate syntax and the adversative asyndeton in the relative clause reflect the fact that praising someone for his felicitas is a potential minefield in late-republican Rome.

462sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum [sc. dicere]: aequum est introduces a indirect statement with homines as subject accusative; the infinitive needs to be supplied from dicamus.

463Ego enim sic existimo, Maximo, Marcello, Scipioni, Mario, et ceteris magnis imperatoribus non solum propter virtutem, sed etiam propter fortunam saepius imperia mandata atque exercitus esse commissos: the main verb is existimo, which governs an indirect statement, with imperia and exercitus as subject accusatives and mandata (sc. esse) and esse commissos as infinitives. Maximo, Marcello, Scipioni, Mario, et ceteris magnis imperatoribus are dative objects with both infinitives.

464Maximo, Marcello, Scipioni, Mario: Cicero here invokes a pantheon of Roman heroes, with high degree of ‘name recognition’(not least since Cicero proceeds in chronological order), which enables him to keep the nomenclature short and to the point:

Name as mentioned by Cicero

Full name

Dates and offices

Best known for


Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator

c. 280-203 BC
consul 233, 228, 215, 214, 209
dictator 221, 217

Managed to wear down Hannibal in Italy during the Second Punic War by consistently avoiding battle (hence cunctator = ‘the delayer’)


Marcus Claudius Marcellus

268-208 BC
consul 222, 215, 214, 210, 208

222: killed the Gallic king Viridomarus in handto-hand combat during the battle of Clastidium, winning the so-called spolia opima
212: sacked Syracuse during the Second Punic War


Publius Scipio Aemilianus Minor (‘the Younger’)

185-129 BC
consul 146, 134

146: The destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War


Gaius Marius

157-86 BC
consul 107, 104, 103, 102, 101, 100, 86

Defeat of the Germanic tribes of the Cimbri and Teutones who threatened to invade Italy

465Cicero’s inclusion of these generals adds weight of evidence to his point about good fortune as well as subtly ranking Pompey alongside (or even above) them. The inverse is also true, for one name is conspicuously absent from this list: Sulla. He was the general who hitherto had made most of felicitas in his self-promotion, but in doing so overstepped certain boundaries that Pompey, as Cicero is keen to stress, painstakingly observes.

466saepius: the comparative form of the adverb saepe; the object of comparison isn’t mentioned explicitly, hence it is best translated with ‘rather frequently’, and not ‘more often’.

467Fuit enim profecto quibusdam summis viris quaedam ad amplitudinem et ad gloriam et ad res magnas bene gerendas divinitus adiuncta fortuna: the absence of Sulla from Cicero’s list of summi viri becomes even more conspicuous, given that Sulla adopted the epithet Felix, thereby claiming permanent affinity with divinely sponsored success. This, however, took matters a step too far. What Cicero is willing to concede is the existence of some providential force (cf. divinitus) that attached fortuna (here used synonymously with felicitas) to these outstanding individuals – which is something quite different from these outstanding individuals claiming to have a special purchase on fortuna.

468ad amplitudinem et ad gloriam et ad res magnas bene gerendas: the triple ad here expresses purpose. Cicero uses a tricolon crescens, anaphora, and polysyndeton, swelling his rhetoric in line with his theme.

469De huius autem hominis felicitate, de quo nunc agimus, hac utar moderatione dicendi, non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam, sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare videamur, ne aut invisa dis immortalibus oratio nostra aut ingrata esse videatur.: After stressing how carefully one has to tread when it comes to felicitas, Cicero here specifies how he will moderate his discourse so that it meets his own protocols of restraint. The idiom recalls the beginning of the paragraph. non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam harks back to (felicitate) quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest and sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum (dicere); and sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare videamur reworks meminisse et commemorare de altero possumus. Put differently, Cicero indeed does not claim felicitas for himself, and even when he talks about the felicitas of someone else, i.e. Pompey, he does not declare it his permanent, personal possession – rather, he observes that Pompey had felicitas in the past (praeteritia meminisse) and hopes that he will have further felicitas in the future (reliqua sperare). This kind of careful calibration, he suggests, will prevent his oration from drawing the ire of the gods. (At the same time, one may wonder about the force of the praeteritio. After all, his moderation consists in the fact of not saying that Pompey holds fortune hostage: hac utar moderatione dicendi, non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam. The statement could imply, however, that Pompey’s power over fortune is a fact – only Cicero refrains from spelling this out. Something similar could be said about his use of videor. The focus on what he appears to be doing (with two uses of videor) suggests that what he is actually doing is something quite different.

470hac utar moderatione dicendi: uti (like frui, fungi, vesci, and potiri) belongs to a number of deponent verbs (best memorized as a group) that take an ablative object (here hac ... moderatione). utar is first person singular future indicative (though in form it could also be present subjunctive).

471non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam, sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare videamur: a bipartite consecutive ut-clause (hence the subjunctives dicam and videamur), with the negation non pulled up front in structural parallel to sed, to bring out the antithesis. dicam introduces an indirect statement with fortunam as subject accusative and positam esse as infinitive.

472praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare: praeterita and reliqua, the accusative objects of, respectively, meminisse and sperare, are adjectives in the neuter plural used here in lieu of nouns: ‘things that have passed’ (praeterita); ‘things that are left, i.e. will come to pass’ (reliqua).


  • 49 The following is adjusted from Gildenhard (2011) 269-70.

473Cicero continues using praeteritio to deal with Pompey’s apparent power over fortune, with even nature doing his bidding. His use of the verb obsecundare (with venti and tempestates as subjects) in particular is striking and quite unparalleled: it personifies forces of nature and endows them with a mind of their own that Pompey is somehow able to bend to his will. This remarkable hyperbole assimilates him to a divine being capable of controlling the physical environment – though in the next sentence (hoc brevissime dicam...) Cicero stresses, however obliquely, that the gods remain the ultimate source of Pompey’s luck: he is the recipient of such lavish divine favours (quot et quantas di immortales ad Cn. Pompeium detulerunt) that it would be an act of hubris for others to even dream about them. This sets up the concluding thought: Cicero suggests to the people that it would be in their interest to pray (as, he alleges, they anyway do so already) that the gods transform the felicitas he has ascribed to Pompey into its Sullan variant, by turning it into his personal and ever-lasting possession (quod ut illi proprium ac perpetuum sit). Both the salus and imperium of Rome and the man himself (homo ipse) justify such prayers – though the programmatic reference to Pompey as a human being (homo ipse) is designed to reassure those members of the audience who would have balked at Cicero’s idiom of quasi-deification. Pompey, Cicero continues to suggest, is unlike Sulla: his luck does not serve as a source of self-empowerment beyond the remits of the republican constitution, but benefits the commonwealth at large. Cicero thus manages to attribute to Pompey luck of Sullan proportions without turning it into an undesirable quality reminiscent of a tyrant. The concluding emphasis on the benefits that the Roman people derive from Pompey’s luck picks up on one of the main themes of the speech: the felicitous congruence of Pompey’s appointment to the generalship and the interests of the people.

  • 50 Welch (2008) 194.

474The section on felicitas, then, offers a precarious balancing act: it is as much about defining and delimiting ‘divine support’ as it is about claiming the quality for Pompey. Cicero makes a significant concession to the Sullan variant, trying to harness its appeal for his argument in favour of Pompey, while at the same time reworking it in a republican key. As Kathryn Welch puts it: ‘Pompey’s felicitas is a personal attribute (Sullan) but he acts in harmony with his fellow-citizens and for their benefit (not-Sullan).’50

475itaque non sum praedicaturus, quantas ille res domi militiae, terra marique, quantaque felicitate gesserit, ut eius semper voluntatibus non modo cives adsenserint, socii obtemperarint, hostes oboedierint, sed etiam venti tempestatesque obsecundarint: the main verb, non sum praedicaturus, governs the indirect question quantas ... gesserit (hence the subjunctive). quantas and quanta set up the consecutive ut-clause that concludes the sentence. Cicero enumerates four different entities who comply with Pompey’s wishes. They are arranged climactically: we start with Roman citizens (cives), move on to allies (socii), which are followed, surprisingly, by enemies (hostes), and conclude hyperbolically with forces of nature (venti tempestatesque). Cicero enhances the effect by how he places non modo (followed by a tricolon of simple subject + verb phrases) and sed etiam (the last, climactic item and the only one that features two subjects – venti tempestatesque). eius... voluntatibus and semper go with all four verbs.

476itaque non sum praedicaturus: stating that one will not talk about something while doing so is called praeteritio – the rhetorical equivalent of having your cake and eating it.

477quantas ille res domi militiae, terra marique, quantaque felicitate gesserit: quantas is an interrogative adjective agreeing with res, the accusative object of gesserit. Between accusative object, subject (ille) and verb, Cicero places a tricolon of ablative phrases: the first two (domi militae; terra marique) are locatives; the third, quanta felicitate, is an ablative of means. The arrangement is climactic: Cicero moves from ‘bipolar’ mapping of geography, which includes consideration of both social (domi militiae) and physical (terra marique) space to the abstract quality of felicitas. The -que after quanta links terra marique and quanta felicitate.

478domi militiae, terra marique: all four nouns are in the locative case. domi militiae refers to the Roman practice of dividing the world into a (demilitarized) zone of peace (domi) and a zone of (potential) warfare (militiae). Initially, the sacred boundary of the city of Rome, the pomerium, demarcated the two spheres. (The only occasion when an imperator with his soldiers was allowed to cross the pomerium was the triumph: in the course of the ritual, the general and his army would follow a prescribed route through the city to the Capitol, where he would sacrifice to Jupiter Optimus Maximus and lay down his imperium.)

479obtemperarint: the syncopated form of obtempera-ve-rint.

480venti tempestatesque obsecundarint: contrast § 40, where Cicero discusses the reasons for Pompey’s seemingly special speed of movement: he disclaims the help of the winds as well as other external factors and, with deliberate bathos, grounds Pompey’s velocity instead in his outstanding character.

481obsecundarint: the syncopated form of obsecunda-ve-rint.

482hoc brevissime dicam, neminem umquam tam impudentem fuisse, qui ab dis immortalibus tot et tantas res tacitus auderet optare, quot et quantas di immortales ad Cn. Pompeium detulerunt: after saying in praeteritio what he had allegedly no intention of saying, Cicero continues with what he will say – if very briefly (brevissime). dicam introduces an indirect statement with neminem as subject accusative and fuisse as infinitive, with tam impudentem in predicative position. tam sets up a relative clause of characteristics (hence the subjunctive of auderet).

483hoc brevissime dicam, neminem umquam tam impudentem fuisse: Latin authors frequently add a demonstrative pronoun to verbs of thinking and stating that introduce an accusative + infinitive construction to give special emphasis to the indirect statement: ‘This I shall say, however briefly, namely that nobody...’ The demonstrative pronoun is particularly pronounced here, coming as it does after a praeteritio: ‘I won’t be commenting on x; but this I will say...’

484quod ut illi proprium ac perpetuum sit, Quirites, cum communis salutis atque imperii, tum ipsius hominis causa, sicuti facitis, velle et optare debetis.: quod is a connecting relative (= et id), referring back to Pompey’s unparalleled felicitas. It is the subject of the nominal ut-clause dependent on (velle et) optare debetis; proprium ac perpetuum agree with quod in predicative position.

485cum communis salutis atque imperii, tum ipsius hominis causa: this is one long prepositional phrase dependent on the postpositive preposition causa, which governs the genitives communis salutis atque imperii and ipsius hominis. They are coordinated by cum ... tum. See our commentary on § 31.

486sicuti facitis, velle et optare debetis: Cicero takes the normative sting out of debetis (‘you ought...!’), by claiming that the people do so already anyway: sicuti facitis, namely velle et optare.


487§ 49 concludes Cicero’s discussion of the war (§§ 6-26) and the choice of general (§§ 27-49), which involved him in outlining the ideal of the perfect military commander and demonstrating that Pompey is its living embodiment. As such, the paragraph systematically revisits the main themes of the argument.

488Quare cum et bellum sit ita necessarium, ut neglegi non possit, ita magnum, ut accuratissime sit administrandum, et cum ei imperatorem praeficere possitis, in quo sit eximia belli scientia, singularis virtus, clarissima auctoritas, egregia fortuna, dubitatis Quirites, quin hoc tantum boni, quod vobis ab dis immortalibus oblatum et datum est, in rem publicam conservandam atque amplificandam conferatis?: This paragraph consists of one long sentence. It begins with an extensive cum-clause that contains within itself three further subordinate clauses: two ut-clauses and a relative clause (in quo ...). The main verb is dubitatis, which sets up the concluding quin-clause, within which we get a further relative clause (quod...).

489In the opening cum-clauses (Quare cum... egregia fortuna...) Cicero looks back to the tripartite argument he announced in § 6:

primum mihi videtur de genere belli, deinde de magnitudine, tum de imperatore deligendo esse dicendum.

490He reiterated the blueprint at the beginning of the section devoted to the choice of imperator (§ 27):

Satis mihi multa verba fecisse videor, qua re esset hoc bellum genere ipso necessarium, magnitudine periculosum. Restat ut de imperatore ad id bellum deligendo ac tantis rebus praeficiendo dicendum esse videatur.

491The design of the cum-clauses in § 49 mirrors the design of § 27: in both cases, Cicero groups together the first two items to do with the war and sets apart the choice of general as the climactic third topic to be treated. The first cum-clause covers the type and magnitude of the war, the second the appointment of the commander-in-chief:

(i) cum et bellum sit ita necessarium,
ut neglegi non possit,
[cum bellum sit] ita magnum,
ut accuratissime sit administrandum, et
(ii) cum ei imperatorem praeficere possitis,
quo sit eximia belli scientia, singularis virtus, clarissima
auctoritas, egregia fortuna...

492Cicero enhances the immediacy and vividness of his discourse by shifting from the impersonal passive constructions in the ut-clauses (neglegi non possit; sit administrandum) to a direct address of the audience in (ii): praeficere possitis. This shift generates a chiasmus of sorts: in (i) the verb in the cum clause is esse, stating a fact, whereas the verbs in the ut-clauses indicate the action to be taken; in (ii) the verb in the cum-clause indicates the action to be taken and the verb in the subsequent relative clause (in quo) is esse, stating a fact.

493§ 49 also sums up the section on the perfect general, harking back to § 28 in particular. Compare:

§ 28 (the ideal): Ego enim sic existimo, in summo imperatore quattuor has res inesse oportere: scientiam rei militaris, virtutem, auctoritatem, felicitatem.


§ 49 (its incarnation): imperatorem ..., in quo sit eximia belli scientia, singularis virtus, clarissima auctoritas, egregia fortuna

494The following table shows how Cicero reiterates key words in those paragraphs that flag up the structure of his discourse. If § 6 introduces the main themes and functions almost like a table of contents, §§ 27, 28, 49 offer repetitions, variations, and elaborations:

§ 6

§ 27

§ 28

§ 49

The type of war

de genere belli

bellum genere ipso necessarium

bellum sit ita necessarium, ut...

Its magnitude

de magnitudine [sc. belli]

[bellum] magnitudine periculosum

[bellum sit] ita magnum, ut...

The choice of general

de imperatore deligendo

de imperatore ad id bellum deligendo ac tantis rebus praeficiendo

in summo imperatore quattuor has res inesse oportere: scientiam rei militaris, virtutem, auctoritatem, felicitatem

cum ei imperatorem praeficere possitis, in quo sit eximia belli scientia, singularis virtus, clarissima auctoritas, egregia fortuna

495Note in particular how the notional perfect general of § 28 has become a flesh-and-blood exemplar in § 49 – indeed, how Pompey outdoes the theoretical specimen Cicero delineated in § 28. At the outset, he simply specified the four qualities that ought to be present in the summus imperator; by § 49 we have learned that Pompey possesses these four qualities not only in abundance, but to a unique degree: the four nouns scientia, virtus, auctoritas and felicitas/fortuna recur with reference to Pompey, each preceded by a panegyric attribute: eximia, singularis, clarissima, egregia.

496cum et bellum sit ita necessarium, ut neglegi non possit, [sc. bellum sit] ita magnum, ut accuratissime sit administrandum, et cum ...: both ut-clauses are consecutive, set up by a preceding ita. The subject throughout (of sit, possit, and sit administrandum) is bellum. The anaphora (ita... ita ...), the asyndeton (the two parts of the cum-clause follow on each other without connectives), and the ellipsis of bellum sit before magnum generates a sense of urgency, perhaps even impatience: by now Cicero has set out the indisputable facts of the matter – there is now no reason to hesitate further. Note, though, that Cicero uses connectives to coordinate the two cum-clauses: cum et ... et cum.

497et cum ei imperatorem praeficere possitis: the demonstrative pronoun ei (in the neuter dative singular) harks back to bellum. praeficere here takes both an accusative object (imperatorem) and a dative object (ei). The idiom is: ‘to put the accusative in charge of the dative’.

498in quo sit eximia belli scientia, singularis virtus, clarissima auctoritas, egregia fortuna: in quo introduces a relative clause of characteristics, hence the subjunctive (sit). By pulling the verb up front, Cicero clears space for the powerful, asyndetic enumeration of the four key qualities of his perfect general, all endowed with an amplifying attribute.

499dubitatis, Quirites, quin ...: one would expect an infinitive here, rather than a quin-clause (which is the regular construction with negated expressions of doubt).

500quin hoc tantum boni, quod vobis ab dis immortalibus oblatum et datum est, in rem publicam conservandam atque amplificandam conferatis?: Cicero here casts his audience as the lucky recipients of divine favour – and challenges them to make the most of the windfall that is Pompey, for the greater good of the commonwealth. There is a notional chain from the gods to the res publica, via Pompey and the Roman citizens: the gods (ab dis immortalibus) gift the citizens (vobis) with Pompey (who hides behind the abstract formulation hoc tantum boni), whom they in turn should not hesitate to utilize for public service (in rem publicam conservandam atque amplificandam). The one who is rhetorically in charge of the sequence di immortales > Pompey > Quirites > res publica is of course Cicero; those who get sidelined in this sequence are all the other members of Rome’s senatorial elite, which was technically in charge of handling all interactions with the divine sphere of political relevance in republican times.

501hoc tantum boni: hoc tantum is the subject of the quin-clause and the antecedent of quod. boni is a partitive genitive dependent on tantum: ‘so much of a boon’.


1 See Wilkinson (1963) 156.


3 Powell (2013) 49.

4 to syncopate = to shorten words by omitting syllables or letters in the middle. It from Greek sun- (‘with’) and kopto (‘ to cut’).

5 For a study of the memorial culture of the Roman republic see Flower (1996).

6 See esp. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 2.43: appellata est enim ex viro virtus (‘for the for excellence [virtus] is derived from the word for man [vir]’).

7 For a recent monograph on the term, see McDonnell (2006), though reviewers have argued that he unduly simplifies the evidence: see e.g. Kaster (2007).

8 Sources include Appian Bellum Civile 1.48.207ff., Velleius Paterculus 2.21.1, Florus 2.6.14.

9 Seager (2002) 194 n. 10.

10 Badian (2009) 17.

11 Plutarch, Life of Pompey 12.3.

12 We know that the triumph took place on 12 March, but the year is uncertain: 81, 80, 79 BC are all possibilities. See Seager (2002) 29 for discussion; he argues for 81 BC as the most likely date.

13 Seager (2002) 28.

14 Cole (2013) 34 n. 50

15 Weinstock (1971) 37. For Lucius Metellus, see Pliny, Natural History 7.139, for Pompey and Alexander, see Sallust, Histories 3.84 McGushin (‘ From his earliest youth, Pompeius had been persuaded by the flattery of his supporters to believe that he was the equal of king Alexander. Therefore he tried to rival Alexander’s achievements and plans’) and Plutarch, Life of Pompey 2.2, for the ritual of the triumph more generally, see Beard (2007).

16 See the Appendix in Clark (2007) 283-86.

17 Clark (2007) 214-15.

18 Brown (2003) 94.

19 Brown (2003) 104.

20 Brown (2003) 103.

21 Plutarch, Life of Pompey 12.

22 Cicero’s discussion of virtus at de Inventione 2.159, where he defines the philosophically (and very much against Roman common sense) as animi habitus naturae modo atque rationi consentaneus (‘a disposition of the mind in harmony with nature and reason’) and posits that it is comprised of four parts, i.e. prudentia (‘practical wisdom’), iustitia (‘justice’), fortitudo (‘bravery’), and temperantia (‘moderation’), is slightly different again: it betokens an attempt to impose a Greek intellectual grid of canonical excellences on the Roman notion, but again demonstrates how malleable virtus was in Roman discourse, dependent on genre and occasion.

23 McDonnell (2006) 334.

24 See further Arena (2013).

25 Note that the masculine nominative singular is exter and not (as some vocabulary lists have it) exterus.

26 Note that the meaning of cum you need here is overlooked in some vocabulary lists including those approved by OCR.

27 Morwood (1999) 86.

28 On Rome’s allies (or, rather, ‘slaves to Rome’) see the recent monograph by Myles (2013).

29 Macdonald (1986) 65

30 This paragraph is based on Gildenhard (2011) 266-67.

31 Contrast § 20, where Cicero praises the virtus, assiduitas and consilium of Lucullus; unlike Pompey’s qualities, those of Lucullus’come without distinguishing attributes.

32 Welch (2005) 326.

33 Macdonald (1986) 69.

34 Hölkeskamp (2004).

35 The following is based on Gildenhard (2011) 202-03.

36 Macdonald (1986) 69.

37 For a more detailed discussion of written v. spoken versions of Cicero’s speeches see Gildenhard (2011) 14-15, with further bibliography.

38 Radice and Steel (2014) 70.

39 Macdonald (1986) 70.

40 Plutarch, Life of Pompey 30.1.

41 Caesar, too, built up a reputation for celeritas: veni, vidi, vici, and all that! Cf. (1998), who argues that Caesar portrays himself as distilled essence of a Roman general, i.e. that celeritas is actually a desirable trait in a Roman general. The noteworthy point about the celeritas of both Pompey and Caesar then is not so much that they show celeritas as the superlative nature of their celeritas.

42 Classen (1963) 332, with reference to Cicero, Letters to Atticus 2.21.4. At Man. 13, Pompey ironically appears divine to Rome’s allies in part because of his outstanding humanitas!

43 This is a leitmotif throughout the speech; at Man. 24, for instance, Cicero makes paradoxical point that kings afflicted by misfortune can count on the sympathy of those, qui aut reges sunt aut vivunt in regno, ut iis nomen regale magnum et sanctum esse videatur (‘who are either kings themselves or the dwellers in a kingdom, as the name of king seems to them grandiose and venerable’). Rome needs a general with the same attributes, and Pompeius Magnus is an obvious choice: Gruber (1988) 24. In fact, simply by an inversion of regale and magnum in the cited Latin – ut iis nomen magnum regale et sanctum esse videatur = ‘as the name of Pompey (= Magnus) seems to them royal and venerable’ – Pompey turns into a divinely anointed king!

44 This note is based on Gildenhard (2011) 264-65

45 Welch (2005) 320-21.

46 Begemann (2012) 249 labels this rhetorical ploy ‘ad natus-formula

47 The following is adjusted from Gildenhard (2011) 268-69.

48 Steel (2001) 135.

49 The following is adjusted from Gildenhard (2011) 269-70.

50 Welch (2008) 194.

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