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

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Ingo Gildenhard

Commentary

§ 50: With Caesar in Gaul: Profligacy and Profiteering

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1In § 47 Cicero announced that he intends to treat the portion of Antony’s biography that falls in-between his depravities as a teenager and the role he played in the civil war cursorily: ad haec enim quae in civili bello, in maximis rei publicae miseriis fecit, et ad ea quae cotidie facit, festinat animus. Barely three paragraphs later, we reach this moment. The first half of § 50 (quaestor es factus… viri tui similis esses) traces Antony’s return to Caesar in Gaul after his election to the quaestorship in the autumn of 52 and his return to stand for election to another magistracy, the tribuneship. Antony succeeded in getting himself elected and entered office on 10 December 50. A few weeks later, on 10 January 49, Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army.

2Cicero gets much invective mileage out of Antony’s role in plunging Rome into civil war. To prep his readers properly, he pauses portentously for an impassioned address to his senatorial audience (accipite nunc, quaeso… reperieties). The address, which makes up the rest of the paragraph, introduces a lengthy assessment of a decision Antony made as a tribune of the people in the increasingly convulsive negotiations over Caesar’s status (and his demands) that preceded the outbreak of war. When Antony and some of his colleagues in office, who had used their position as tribunes to represent Caesar’s interests, including the veto of certain senatorial measures designed to rein in the strongman, felt that their safety had become compromised, they fled Rome to join Caesar at Ravenna. This offered Caesar the perfect pretext to initiate hostilities — he could spin his aggression as motivated by the desire to safeguard the constitutional rights of the tribunes of the people, i.e. to defend republican traditions against the tyrannical exercise of power by an oligarchic clique around Pompey. In §§ 51–55 (not part of the set text) Cicero dwells at length on this momentous action by the pro-Caesarian tribunes, and in particular Antony, turning Antony into the ultimate cause of Rome’s collapse into civil conflict and constitutional chaos.

3quaestor es factus: deinde continuo sine senatus consulto, sine sorte, sine lege ad Caesarem cucurristi: after his election, Antony ‘almost immediately’ (continuo) returned to Caesar in Gaul. Cicero represents the departure as an outrageous breach of constitutional protocols: the asyndetic tricolon, reinforced powerfully by the triple anaphora of the preposition sine (further enhanced by the alliteration with senatus and sorte) gives the impression that Antony trampled upon tradition in his rush from the city. This was not the case. To understand Cicero’s spin here requires some understanding of the procedure that governed the assignment of elected quaestors to provinces. As Linderski and Kaminska-Linderski (1974: 221) explain, quaestors could be assigned directly to a specific province by senatorial decree (senatus consultum); allocation of the remaining ones would happen by lot (sorte) on the date of their entry into the office. They accordingly reconstruct the events in 51 as follows:

  • Autumn 52: Antony gets elected to the quaestorship; Caesar requests that he be assigned to him.
  • Shortly after the election: Antony leaves Rome to join Caesar in Gaul, assuming, rightly, that his assignment to Caesar by senatorial decree is a mere formality.
  • Shortly after his departure: the senate passes a senatus consultum that indeed ratifies Antony’s assignment to Caesar’s provinces. (See Linderski and Kaminska-Linderski (1974: 220–21): ‘Cicero does not say that such a decree was not passed | at all; indeed the implication is that it was in fact carried out but only after Antonius had already left the city’ |‘Cicero does not say that such a decree was not passed | at all; indeed the implication is that it was in fact carried out but only after Antonius had already left the city’).
  • December 52: those quaestors as yet unassigned are distributed to provinces by lot.

4The sentence thus offers a brilliant illustration of Cicero’s gift for spin, i.e. the ability to twist unobjectionable facts and harmless truths into invective, without lying outright. Antony did indeed rush to Caesar sine senatus consulto [Cicero simply fails to mention that such a decree was supplied shortly thereafter], sine sorte [true, of course, but utterly unobjectionable: Antony had no need to wait for the sortitio provinciarum since he was about to be assigned a province by senatorial decree], and sine lege [a vague phrase that is technically true, gives the impression of constitutional outrage, but does not really apply in any meaningful way to the case at hand]. What was ‘a minor constitutional impropriety’ (Antony leaving Rome without waiting for the official passing of the senatorial decree, which anyway ‘was a matter of administrative routine’: Linderski and Kaminska-Linderski 1974: 221) gets turned into eloquent outrage at Antony’s alleged depravity.

5continuo: the temporal adverb is worth pausing over: ‘The word is commonly rendered as “immediately”; Cicero, however, … uses it often to indicate that between two closely connected events no other event occurred bearing upon them. Thus the length of time indicated by continuo may vary considerably, as is also true of other similar expressions like mox and nuper. The exact meaning of the passage would be that in the period of time between Antonius’election and his departure from Rome no decree of the senate was passed concerning the quaestorian provinces and no sortitio provinciarum took place’ (Linderski and Kaminska-Linderski 1974: 220).

6senatus consulto: senatus (a fourth declension noun) is genitive singular, depending on consulto.

7sine sorte: for sorting out the lot in republican Rome, see Rosenstein (1995).

8sine lege: ‘without any legal justification’ (Linderski and Kaminska-Linderski, 1974: 220, n. 37).

9ad Caesarem cucurristi: the passage here anticipates another, more consequential flight to Caesar — on the eve of civil war in January 49 BCE. Cicero will shortly shift his focus from the domestic to the civic sphere, using (Antony’s two flights to) Caesar as a bridge.

10id enim unum in terris egestatis, aeris alieni, nequitiae perditis vitae rationibus perfugium esse ducebas: the pronoun id has a somewhat vague reference (‘being in Gaul with Caesar’), as Cicero continues his geopolitical vilification of Antony from the previous paragraph. In § 48, we encountered Antony adrift, without a moral or geographical centre, and here we get more of the same. Caesar’s headquarters are the only place on earth able to afford Antony protection against the consequences of his vices and profligacy. ducere here has the sense ‘to consider, believe, think, reckon’ (OLD s.v. 30) and governs an indirect statement with id unum as subject accusative, esse as infinitive, and perfugium as predicative complement.

11id… unum: unum modifies id in predicative attribution; English here prefers the adverb rather than the adjective: ‘this alone’ rather than ‘this one’ (see Gildersleeve & Lodge 204–6).

12in terris: terra in the plural can refer, as here, to ‘the earth with all that it contains, the known or inhabited world’ (OLD s.v. 9).

13egestatis, aeris alieni, nequitiae… perfugium: the OLD s.v. perfugium 2a lists this passage as an example of perfugium being construed with genitives that indicate the items that receive protection, but that doesn’t sound quite right. It’s not that Antony wishes to protect his penury, debt, and moral worthlessness — quite the contrary, as the next sentence makes clear. The genitives are better understood as qualities or circumstances that require Antony to seek protection. (See e.g. Div. 2.150: perfugium videtur omnium laborum ac sollicitudinum esse somnus — ‘Sleep is regarded as a refuge from every toil and care’.)

14egestatis: the lexeme egestas (‘extreme poverty’, ‘destitution’) carries opprobrium. The late-antique commentary on Virgil that goes under the name Servius Auctus notes a propos Georgics 1.146: peior est egestas, quam paupertas: paupertas enim honesta esse potest, egestas enim turpis est (‘egestas is worse than paupertas: for paupertas can be honourable, egestas is shameful’). Unsurprisingly, Cicero exploits its pejorative connotations for his invective agenda: ‘The word egestas has a bad odour in the public orations of Cicero…; for him and his aristocratic audiences it denoted one of the prime causes of political radicalism’ (Jocelyn 1967: 398). In the speech de Provinciis Consularibus, for instance, he vilifies the scelus, cupiditas, egestas, audacia of the two consuls of 58, Piso and Gabinius (43). See also Philippic 2.62: cogebat egestas.

15nequitiae: nequitia is a catch-all term applied to persons of bad moral fiber (‘worthlessness’) that manifests itself in such characteristics as idleness (in this sense it becomes a calling card of the elegiac lover), negligence, vileness, profligacy, or wickedness. (In his Tusculan Disputations 3.17–18, Cicero defines nequitia as the antonym of frugalitas and offers a faux-etymological explication of the term.)

16perfugium: in his Bellum Civile (if not before), Caesar fashioned himself as offering a place of safety to those in distress. At Bellum Civile 1.6, he notably writes of events in early January 49, i.e. just before the outbreak of the civil war: profugiunt statim ex urbe tribuni plebis seseque ad Caesarem conferunt: ‘instantly, the tribunes of the people fled from the city and went to Caesar’. One of the tribunes was of course Antony. See also Sallust, Bellum Catilinae 54.3, in his contrastive comparison of Caesar and Cato: Caesar dando sublevando ignoscundo, Cato nihil largiundo gloriam adeptus est. in altero miseris perfugium erat, in altero malis pernicies (‘Caesar gained glory by giving, helping, and forgiving; Cato by never stooping to bribery. One was a refuge for the unfortunate, the other a scourge for the wicked’). For Sallust, both Caesar’s support for the wretched (those who had fallen on hard times without their fault) and Cato’s uncompromising attitude towards evil-doers seem positive qualities; Cicero is less forgiving. For him, the perfugium that Caesar offers to someone like Antony discredits the future dictator as well. Later on in the speech, he makes the point explicitly, in language that recalls the present passage (§ 78): habebat hoc omnino Caesar: quem plane perditum aere alieno egentemque, si eundem nequam hominem audacemque cognorat, hunc in familiaritatem libentissime recipiebat (‘This was entirely Caesar’ s way: when a man was utterly ruined by debt and in want, if he recognised in that man an audacious rascal, he most willingly admitted him into his friendship’).

17perditis vitae rationibus: Cicero uses the expression perdita ratio (as antonym to bona ratio) at in Catilinam 2.25, in the sense of ‘reckless (perdita) guiding principle’ (ratio): see Dyck (2008: 159). Here the meaning seems to be: ‘after you have ruined any (possibility for a) normal way of life’. (See OLD s. v. ratio 13: ratio vitae ~ ‘a plan or pattern of life’, i.e. a way of life that conforms to rational and socially acceptable principles).

18ibi te cum et illius largitionibus et tuis rapinis explevisses, si hoc est explere, haurire quod statim effundas, advolasti egens ad tribunatum, ut in eo magistratu, si posses, viri tui similis esses: the period begins with a temporal cum-clause (ibi te cum… explevisses), attached to which is a si-clause that segues into a quod-clause (si hoc est… effundas); then comes the main clause (advolasti egens ad tribunatum), followed by a purpose clause introduced by ut; embedded therein is another si-clause (si posses). Cicero keeps Antony in constant motion: in his frenetic profligacy, the wastrel somehow manages to gorge himself rich in Gaul through Caesar’s munificence and his own criminal exploitations only to instantly regurgitate all of his newfound wealth and fly back to the capital in the same state of disgraceful penury in which he left it (an ‘achievement’ marked by the figura etymologica egestatis… egens ).

19illius largitionibus: like its near synonym liberalitas, largitio (‘generosity’), the noun to the adjective largus (‘munificent, bountiful, lavish’) and the deponent largior,-iri,-itus (‘to give generously, bestow, lavish’, but also ‘to give presents corruptly, engage in bribery’) could be used in both a positive and a negative sense. A generous spirit, perhaps even the openhanded distribution of personal wealth among the less fortunate, are in principal praiseworthy qualities, but in late-republican Rome (and elsewhere), the bestowal of largesse by powerful members of the ruling elite among peers and subordinates also constituted a form of expenditure with an obvious political motivation: it generated ties that bound the recipients into an economy of services via an ethics of reciprocity. And no-one was more adept in buying in personal loyalty than Caesar. His ‘generosity to his lieutenants and troops… was notorious in his own day, naturally arousing suspicions among his peers and rivals’ (Pelling (2011: 214), with reference to Cic. Att. 7.11.9 (130), 8.14.1 (164), Fam. 7.13.1 (36), Phil. 2.50 and 116, and Catullus 29.3). In some places, Cicero differentiates between positive liberalitas and negative largitio, while conceding that in practice it is often impossible to tell the two apart: see e.g. On the Ideal Orator (de Oratore) 2.105: de ambitu raro illud datur, ut possis liberalitatem atque benignitatem ab ambitu atque largitione seiungere — ‘in cases involving bribery at elections it is rarely possible to distinguish open-handedness and generosity from bribery and corruption’). But in his On Duties (de Officiis), Cicero condemns liberalitas in the sense of the unfettered use of resources: to build up networks of friends grounded in material obligations is a proto-tyrannical feature corrosive of oligarchic equality within Rome’s senatorial elite. (A third term of similar semantic range as liberalitas and largitio, i.e. munificentia, ‘seems to have escaped any connotations of bribery, even though it often pertains to gifts of significant proportions made by the politically powerful’: Forbis 1996: 34. See further Coffee 2016: 82–85).

20Extra information:
Catullus 29 offers a ‘no-holds barred’ critique of the sleaze economy by which Rome’s generals (in this case Pompey and Caesar) bled dry conquered people not least to subsidize revolting, if loyal, underlings at Rome (in this case Mamurra, whom Catullus elsewhere calls ‘Rome’ s greatest dick’). Note the reference to sinistra liberalitas in line 15.

21tuis rapinis: one of the ‘perks’ of being in cahoots with a successful general was the opportunity to profit from imperial exploitation through plunder and booty (which of course also funded the largitio of the commander).

22si hoc est explere, haurire quod statim effundas: hoc est = id est, with the infinitive explere as predicative complement, which is then glossed in apposition by haurire quod statim effundas: ‘if this is what is meant by explere (“to stuff oneself full”), namely to gulp down (haurire) what one then instantly regurgitates’.

23ut in eo magistratu, si posses, viri tui similis esses: Curio, Antony’s ‘husband’ (that’s the meaning of viri tui, a little splatter of invective bile in the spirit of 2.44–47), preceded him in the tribuneship, holding it in 50 BCE.

24accipite nunc, quaeso, non ea quae ipse in se atque in domesticum decus impure et intemperanter [fecit], sed quae in nos fortunasque nostras, id est in universam rem publicam, impie ac nefarie fecerit: the sentence is not easy to construe given that we have a relative clause that lacks a verb (non ea quae… intemperanter), followed by an indirect question (quae… fecerit). Some scholars have detected an anacoluthon here, i.e. an unexpected discontinuity of syntactical structure: see Ramsey (2003: 309). But as Roland Mayer (2005: 200) has shown, the syntax can be made to work without us needing to suppose a change of construction: ‘Accipite governs two objects, first ea quae …, then an indirect question, which grammatically considered is a noun-clause. That the relative clause implicitly borrows its indicative verb, fecit, from the subjunctive verb of the indirect question, fecerit, is certainly nonchalant, but the syntax of the sentence has not gone off the rails’. Quite the contrary: the relative clause and the indirect question correlate Antony’s disastrous personal track-record in the domestic sphere (just covered) with his calamitous impact on the commonwealth (about to come into focus). Cicero here makes use of ‘the powerful idea that a man’ s public behaviour will be all of a piece with his conduct in the private sphere’: Treggiari (1997). Analogous design aids the (climactic) transition: in both subordinate clauses, Cicero uses pleonastic phrasing to specify the target of Antony’s brutish and brutalizing behaviour (in se atque in domesticum decus ~ in nos fortunasque nostras) and indicate its nature (impure et intemperanter ~ impie ac nefarie), given further coherence by anaphora (quadruple use of the preposition in + accusative) and alliteration (see underlining).

  • 21 ‘Coordonné à se, domesticum decus exprime l’enjeu de la conduite d’Antoine pour son entourage, qui (...)

25in se atque in domesticum decus: see Thomas (2007: 96): ‘In connection with a se, domesticum decus sets out the stakes of Antony’s behaviour for those who keep his company: even such a florentissima familia as the Curiones (Phil. 2.46) risks a loss of social esteem. Such fear is the reason why domesticum decus designates “domestic honour”, that is, the exact opposite of dedecus (“shame”). The loss of decus has an important role to play: it is one of the consequences of Antony’s political monstrosity, which is at the core of the second Philippic’.21

26impure et intemperanter: the basic meaning of impurus is ‘unclean’, ‘filthy’, ‘foul’ and is a standard epithet that Cicero attaches to his enemies. See e.g. in Catilinam 2.23: in his gregibus omnes aleatores, omnes adulteri, omnes impuri impudicique versantur. It can — but does not have to — have religious connotations (see e.g. Cic. Dom. 104: quam (sc. religionem) tu impurissime taeterrimeque violasti). Here it sets up the climactic use of impie in the indirect question — just as intemperanter prepares the ground for nefarie. (Cicero also uses it of Antony at Phil. 1.12.)

27in nos fortunasque nostras: ‘against us and our fortunes’, with fortunae carrying the sense of ‘prosperous living conditions’

28id est in universam rem publicam: universa res publica means ‘the whole / entire commonwealth’ and often figures as the catch-all frame of reference that concludes the enumeration of more specific items that form part of the public sphere (here nos and fortunae nostrae). Ramsey (2003: 235) suggests that ‘id est is here corrective, equivalent to uel potius [‘or rather’]’, but the sense is arguably stronger if one takes id est as a simple specification: it would then cater to the deeply engrained habit of Rome’s senatorial elite to identify their own well-being with that of the res publica as a whole. For a more elaborate example see in Catilinam 4.24 (the final paragraph of the speech, addressed to the people): quapropter de summa salute vestra populique Romani, de vestris coniugibus ac liberis, de aris ac focis, de fanis atque templis de totius urbis tectis ac sedibus, de imperio ac libertate, de salute Italiae, de universa re publica decernite diligenter, ut instituistis, ac fortiter (‘With the care, therefore, and the courage that you have displayed from the beginning, take your decision upon the salvation of yourselves and of the Roman people, upon your wives and children, your altars and hearths, your shrines and temples, the buildings and homes of the entire city, your dominion and your freedom, the safety of Italy and upon the whole Republic’).

29impie ac nefarie: the two terms reiterate and intensify impure et intemperanter: ‘impure’ has become ‘impious’; and ‘reckless’ has been upgraded to ‘blasphemous’. (nefarie derives from nefas, which means ‘an offence against divine law, an impious act, sacrilege’.) Antony now is a full-blown religious criminal.

30ab huius enim scelere omnium malorum principium natum [esse] reperietis: ab scelere is an ablative of origin with natum: ‘you will find that the beginning of all evils arose from the crime of this man!’

Notes

21 ‘Coordonné à se, domesticum decus exprime l’enjeu de la conduite d’Antoine pour son entourage, qui risque de ne plus mériter la considération générale alors qu’il s’agit d’une florentissima familia (2, 46). Cette crainte fait que domesticum decus désigne ainsi l’“honneur domestique”, soit l’exact inverse de dedecus. La perte du decus a son importance car elle est un des effets de cette monstruosité politique d’Antoine sur laquelle est centrée la seconde Philippique’.

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