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Cicero, Philippic 2, 44–50, 78–92, 100–119

Ingo Gildenhard


§ 46: Family Therapy: Cicero as Counselor

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1After the delusional image of marital stability that concluded § 44, matters fell apart in § 45: Curio pater and Curio filius have both been reduced to tears, even though the reasons for their emotional incontinence differ drastically: the former is laid low by a bout of depression at his inability to check his son’s self-destructive infatuation with Antony (a case of senile dementia), the latter wails at Cicero’s feet in an effort to protect his beloved (call it penile dementia). For the day of reckoning appears nigh: if Curio pater were to refuse to pick up the bill, both young men might end up in exile. It is worth noting that not all of the problems that the Curio family faces are down to the lurid sex-appeal of Antony who has clearly addled the mind of Curio Junior. When patria potestas breaks down, all hell tends to break loose, and Curio Senior is in clear need of a guide who can tell him what to do: Cicero to the rescue!

2In § 46, Cicero features himself as a steady and competent counselor to sort out what is frankly an over-emotional and quite unnecessary mess, created by the inability of the father to deal adequately with Antony. All he needs to do is reassert paternal authority — and Cicero tells him how best to go about it. He offers Curio Senior a lesson in paternal discipline, combining a measure of kindness (paying off his son’s debts) with a measure of severity (laying down the law on future relations with Antony, which essentially amounts to imposing a restraining order). He emboldens the Elder Curio to take an approach to the problem that is both generous and tough-minded, grounded in the best of Roman common sense, a tough but pragmatic approach that combines disciplina with what one may label humanitas (sympathy with the plight of fellow-humans, in this case a son who has temporarily lost his ways under the sinister influence of Antony) to shore up his familia. Following up on Curio Junior’s desperate pleading, he convinces the father to settle the debt of his son, however feckless he may have been (and thus enable him to grow up into a viable member of Rome’s civic community), but also to exercise his paternal powers to shut down any further contact between Curio Junior and Antony. The individual left out in the cold is Antony.

3In sum: under the influence of Antony, the two Curios have failed to maintain the demeanor expected of those who belong to Rome’s ruling elite. In the last sentence of the paragraph, Cicero seamlessly pivots from Antony’s personal failings to his political crimes: he conjures a fearsome display of military force, designed to intimidate Cicero and his audience as part of the speech’s setting. Cicero here offers a representative snapshot of Antony’s corrosive impact on the fabric of Rome’s ruling elite and society at large. In nuce, this is the scenario that Cicero conjures for the speech as a whole: what Antony does to the Curio household, he is currently doing to the res publica. The analogy to Curio Senior is the senate. Cicero came to the rescue once; he offers to do so again — in fact does so with this very speech. Cicero advocates the same approach now, which he advised then: to reassert (senatorial) auctoritas and close ranks against the subversive, revolutionary madman.

4Quo tempore ego quanta mala florentissimae familiae sedavi vel potius sustuli!: quo is a connecting relative pronoun (= eo); quo tempore an ablative of time. The adjective quanta (modifying mala) is exclamatory: ‘how many evils did I…’ florentissimae familiae is either genitive (depending on mala) or dative. Cicero systematically alliterates here (quo – quanta; florentissimae – familiae; sedavi – sustuli). The pair of verbs forms a climax: after the mild sedavi, Cicero, throwing modesty to the winds (vel potius: ah, what the heck!), decides to boast that he sorted their problems (sustuli), period.

5florentissimae familiae: the superlative seems somewhat exaggerated. The Scribonii Curiones were a relatively new presence within the ranks of Rome’s ruling elite: the first to reach the consulship was Curio pater; and by the time Cicero wrote Philippic 2, the family had again disappeared into oblivion.

6patri persuasi ut aes alienum fili dissolveret; redimeret adulescentem, summa spe et animi et ingeni praeditum, rei familiaris facultatibus eumque non modo tua familiaritate sed etiam congressione patrio iure et potestate prohiberet: Cicero continues with an alliterative jingle (patri persuasi), as he prevails upon Curio Senior to do two things (though he uses a tricolon to spell them out): to pay off his son’s debt (dissolveret) — and thereby rescue the young man from (financial) ruin (redimeret); and to cut off any further contact with Antony (prohiberet). The asyndetic juxtaposition of dissolveret and redimeret (redimeret and prohiberet are linked by the-que after eum) signals stylistically that they form one idea (action – outcome), as does the overall chiastic structure of the first two cola:

A1 aes alienum

B1 fili

C1 dissolveret,

C2 redimeret

B2 adulescentem summa spe et animi et ingeni praeditum

A2 rei familiaris facultatibus

A = debt and resources to pay it off;

B = Curio Junior, as filius and talented adulescens;

C = payment of debt and personal redemption

7Overall, the ut-clause moves from past transgressions to their cancellation for the present (dissolveret, redimeret) and advice on how to avoid further problems in the future (prohiberet).

8patri persuasi: in classical Latin persuadere takes the dative.

9aes alienum: literally, ‘(copper or bronze) money (aes) borrowed from another person (alienum)’, hence ‘debt’.

10adulescentem: Curio was in his early twenties at the time, but Roman age markers are imprecise (see above 132– 33) and adulescens fits in well with the touches from New Comedy that Cicero sprinkles throughout these paragraphs.

11summa spe et animi et ingeni praeditum: the alliterated phrase summa spe is an instrumental ablative governed by praeditum. spes here refers to Curio’s future prospects — ‘endowed with exceptional potential’. et… et… connects the two genitives animi and ingeni. animus refers to his (bold) spirit, i. e. such qualities as energy and daring; ingenium is his creative imagination, more specifically his oratorical talent.

12rei familiaris facultatibus: literally ‘with the resources of the family’s wealth’

13non modo tua familiaritate, sed etiam congressione: familiaritas refers to a strong (political) friendship, with connotations of affection and intimacy: Grillo (2015: 262), citing Hellegouarc’h (1963: 70); congressio is more hands-on: it refers to an actual encounter and can carry connotations of sexual congress. Both nouns are ablatives of separation with prohiberet.

14patrio iure et potestate: the power of the Roman paterfamilias (the so-called patria potestas), which included the ius vitae necisque, was virtually unlimited in conception, though in practice tightly hedged by societal norms and expectations: see above 150. Cicero here conjures up all three concepts in slightly unorthodox formulations. It is not entirely clear what his recommendation added to Curio Senior’s earlier attempts to bar Antony from entering the house (detailed in the previous paragraph), though the implication might be that Curio had so far abstained from exercising his full power as paterfamilias (had behaved, in other words, like one of the Greek fathers in New Comedy). He now is advised to increase the threat level: instead of just keeping Antony away, he is encouraged to threaten his son with drastic consequences if he violates the paternal prohibition.

15haec tu cum per me acta meminisses, nisi illis quos videmus gladiis confideres, maledictis me provocare ausus esses?: the sentence begins with a cum-clause, which is followed by a conditional sequence. The logic here is not entirely obvious, as one step seems to have been elided. Cicero seems to be asking: ‘when you remember…, would you have dared to…?’, while also supplying the answer: ‘[no, you would not have] — if you could not trust in those swords’.

16haec tu cum… meminisses: standard word order would be cum haec… meminisses. Cicero places the accusative object (haec) and the (strictly speaking unnecessary) second personal pronoun (tu) in front of the conjugation (cum).

17per me acta: Usually, Latin uses a / ab + ablative to express agency with passive verbs, but per + acc. is also a possibility, especially when the sense is ‘through the instrumentality of’(OLD s.v. 15). Cicero succeeded in prevailing upon Curio Senior and was therefore instrumental in ensuring the payment of Curio Junior’s debt, his ensuing redemption, and the imposition of the non-contact policy with regard to Antony. (This is what haec… acta refer to, rather than the act of persuasion.)

18nisi… confideres,… ausus esses?: Cicero addresses a question to Antony cast as mixed conditional sequence with the protasis in the imperfect subjunctive and the apodosis in the pluperfect subjunctive. (The form ausus esses is pluperfect passive subjunctive, but audeo, you will recall, is a so-called ‘semi-deponent’, i.e. has active forms, with active meanings, in the present system and passive forms, with active meanings, in the perfect system.) He pairs a past counterfactual scenario (Antony would not have dared to challenge him) with a scenario in the present that he imagines as real — for Antony’s threatening demeanor towards Cicero, see the next note.

19illis quos videmus gladiis: Cicero here caters to the conceit that he is delivering an actual oration (rather than publishing a pamphlet) and conjures the scenario that Antony and his armed henchmen surround the speaker’s platform, threatening physical violence. The hyperbaton illis… gladiis, further amplified by the placement of the antecedent after the relative clause, nicely enhances the shock-value of gladiis. The scene is reminiscent of the opening of the pro Milone.

20maledictis: the term refers us back to the exordium, where Cicero claims that Antony provoked him without cause with verbal abuse (§ 1:… ultro me maledictis lacessisti). By calling Antony’s verbal attacks maledicta, Cicero implicitly discredits Antony’s qualities as a public speaker (a theme running throughout Philippic 2). See pro Caelio 6, where Cicero first distinguishes between male dicere and accusare and then outlines two different modes of male dicere — one dull and abusive, the other witty:

aliud est male dicere, aliud accusare: accusatio crimen desiderat, rem ut definiat, hominem ut notet, argumento probet, teste confirmet; maledictio autem nihil habet propositi praeter contumeliam; quae si petulantius iactatur, convicium, si facetius, urbanitas nominatur.

[abuse is one thing, accusation is another. Accusation requires ground for a charge, to define a fact, to mark a man, to prove by argument, to establish by testimony. The only object of slander, on the other hand, is to insult; if it has a strain of coarseness, it is called abuse; if one of wit, it is called elegance.]

21All Antony has to offer is slander (maledictio); there is no substance to anything he says, and as the rest of the speech makes clear, Antony uses ‘abusive language’ (convicium) without any redeeming wit — in contrast to Cicero, who is known for his urbanitas, and the New Comic scenario he unfolds in §§ 44–46 indeed combines maledictio and urbanitas brilliantly. Etymologically, maledictis also picks up quanta mala from the beginning of the paragraph, keeping Antony in close company with evil things.