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

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Ingo Gildenhard

Commentary

§ 82: Antony Galloping after Caesar Only to Hold his Horses

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1This transitional paragraph begins by portraying Antony as Caesar’s lackey who is unable to do anything during his consulship without first asking his colleague for guidance — even if this involves running after Caesar’s litter. This utter lack of independence serves as foil for his conduct during the election of Dolabella to the suffect consulship over which Caesar presided, though initially it appeared that Antony would hold his peace: Cicero gives a quick blow-by-blow of the different stages of a late-republican voting assembly, while noting that Antony missed every single opportunity during the proceedings to voice his pre-announced religious objections.

  • 36 Roman voting practice is a minefield. For a first accessible orientation, try Valentina Arena’s ar (...)
  • 37 Classics comes from classis: it is the study of those texts or authors — designated ‘classical’ — (...)

2To make sense of the second half of the paragraph, we need to establish how one specific voting assembly worked, the so-called comitia centuriata, which was used to elect the higher magistrates (here a suffect consul).36 Rome’s population of citizens was distributed into so-called classes on the basis of an assessment of the wealth of each individual (with an eye to the ability to arm himself for military service), called census.37 For voting purposes, people within each class were grouped into ‘centuries’. The wealthier the class, the higher the number of centuries it received. Thus of the 193 centuries in the comitia centuriata, 83 belonged to the first class and 104 to the second to the fifth class taken together, with 6 centuries formed from the ancient clan tribes Tities, Ramnes, and Luceres making up the rest. Voting took place by these units. Simple majority determined which way a specific century voted. The overall outcome was determined by a simple majority of centuries, which meant that the first candidate who got the votes of 97 centuries would win the election. The system was clearly skewed in favour of the wealthy, though recent scholarship has argued against the consensus of earlier literature that the lower classes were not entirely disenfranchised: see Yakobson (1999).

3On the day of the election of consuls and praetors (those magistracies endowed with imperium, i.e. the right to command an army), the order of voting included a complex procedure as follows (Taylor 1966: 84):

  1. Lots were drawn to determine which of the centuriate units (centuriae) from the first class (prima classis) would cast their votes first. This centuria was labeled centuria praerogativa. (praerogativus literally means ‘that is asked before others for their opinion’ or, specifically, ‘that votes first’; our ‘prerogative’ comes from it.)
  2. The members of the designated centuria praerogativa would cast their votes and the outcome would be announced.
  3. The remaining centuriae of the first class (prima classis) cast their votes.
  4. The so-called six suffragia (the six centuries formed from the clan tribes Tities, Ramnes, and Luceres) cast their votes.
  5. The lower classes cast their votes, in order.

4In the case of Dolabella’s election, there was no rival candidate, hence, on the basis of simple majority, the election would be over well before any of the lower classes got to cast their votes. He would have received the vote of the centuria praerogativa (1), the rest of the prima classis (1 + 82), the six suffragia (1 + 82 + 6), and would have reached the magic number of 97 after eight centuries from the secunda classis had cast their vote (1 + 82 + 6 + 8).

5Itaque ex illo die recordamini eius usque ad Idus Martias consulatum: recordamini is the second person plural imperative (identical with the indicative) of the deponent recordor. Cicero exhorts his audience to recall Antony’s conduct in the period stretching from the calends of January (ex illo die) right up to (usque ad) the Ides of March 44 BCE.

6eius… consulatum: Cicero delays consulatum, the key noun and accusative object of recordamini on which eius, the genitive of the demonstrative pronoun is, (= Antony) depends, until the very end, perhaps for ironic effect. Along the lines of his earlier suggestion that Antony is not a ‘real’ consul, here the design of the sentence drives a wedge between Antony (eius) and the consulship (consulatum).

7usque ad Idus Martias: Idus, -uum (‘Ides’) is a feminine plural noun of the fourth declension, here in the accusative plural following the preposition ad. In the Roman calendar, the Ides fell on the 15th day of March, May, July, and October and the 13th day of the other months. It was the day when payment of interest was due. Martius (here in the feminine accusative plural, modifying Idus) is the adjective to the god Mars, but also came to signify the month over which the god presides, i.e. March. In light of what happened on the Ides of March 44 BCE, the phrase has an ominous ring.

8quis umquam apparitor tam humilis, tam abiectus?: Cicero suppresses the verb (erat). An apparitor was a (free) public functionary (such as a lictor) who attended on a Roman magistrate. Put differently, Antony’s conduct was more subservient than that of those whose role it was to be subservient. In a status-conscious society such as Rome, his obsequious incompetence debased both himself and the office of the consulship.

9nihil ipse poterat; omnia rogabat; caput in aversam lecticam inserens, beneficia quae venderet a collega petebat: Cicero claims that Antony’s incompetence had no limits: he proved himself capable of — nothing. (nihil is an internal accusative with poterat: see OLD s. v. possum 8.) He therefore has to ask Caesar’s approval for everything — which entails running after the litter of the fast-moving dictator (the adjective aversam implies that he is behind). And once he manages to get an audience of sorts (head in, butt out: the resulting image is entirely undignified), the outcome is — corruption. He seeks favours from Caesar — here referred to mockingly if technically correct as his ‘colleague’ (collega) in the consulship — in order to sell them: quae venderet is a relative clause of purpose (hence the subjunctive). Use of market language (buying and selling) in the context of distributing beneficia is crass: it deliberately ignores euphemistic protocols centred on ideas of goodwill, friendship and generosity that were commonly employed to obfuscate the economic realities of the nepotistic exchange of services at the heart of Rome’s patronage system.

10caput in aversam lecticam inserens: it might initially be tempting to take this as a Latin gloss on the phenomenon of ‘brown-nosing’ (what with Antony sticking his head in via the backside of the litter) and thus also a sly gesture to Caesar’s rumored pathic tendencies (‘queen of Bithynia’ and all that), but the OLD entry on insero contains no encouragement along those lines.

11ecce Dolabellae comitiorum dies: in classical Latin the particle ecce is construed with the nominative (dies). ‘Insofar as it [sc. ecce] has a definable meaning, it is that of expressing immediacy and engagement, in relation to happenings, people or thoughts, whether visible or not’(Dionisotti 2007: 83). Here ecce is used for dramatic effect to encourage the audience to visualize the day (dies) of the voting assemblies (comitia) organized to elect Dolabella to the consulship. The effect is enhanced by the absence of a verb.

12(i) sortitio praerogativae [centuriae fit]; quiescit. (ii) renuntiatur: tacet. (iii) prima classis vocatur, (iv) renuntiatur. (v) deinde, ita ut assolet [fieri], suffragia [fiunt]; (vi) tum secunda classis [vocatur]: Cicero details the stages of the election process, each of which ran its course without Antony saying anything:

  1. sortitio praerogativae [ centuriae fit]: ‘The drawing of lots (sortitio) to establish the centuria with the right to vote first (praerogativae) happened’. Cicero uses extremely condensed language, though the moment in the process he refers to will have been understood by anyone familiar with Roman voting procedure. In the comitia centuriata, the Roman people were divided into units (centuriae) for the purpose of voting, which were in turn grouped and ranked according to wealth. The lot was used to establish which centuria from the ‘first class’ (prima classis) had the right to cast the first vote. This is what the noun sortitio refers to. praerogativae is an adjective in the feminine genitive singular modifying an implied centuriae (‘the drawing of lots of the centuria who had the right to vote first’). Cicero suppresses the verb (fit).
  2. renuntiatur: ‘the result of how that centuria voted is announced’
  3. prima classis vocatur: ‘the rest of the first class is called to the vote’
  4. renuntiatur: ‘the result of how the rest of the first class voted is announced’
  5. deinde, ita ut assolet [fieri], suffragia [fiunt]: ‘the voting of six special equestrian centuriae (= suffragia) happened as is customary’(for the ellipsis of facere and fieri with possum and assolet (less frequently with solet) see Kühner-Stegmann 2.554)
  6. tum secunda classis [vocatur]: ‘the second class is called to the vote’

13Cicero continues with terse, paratactic, highly elliptical prose, to give an impression of how smoothly the election unfolded, in reaching its foregone conclusion. The clockwork nature of the proceedings even squeezes out the refrain ‘and he remained silent’ — though we of course need to imagine a quiescit or a tacet also after stages (iii), (iv), (v), and (vi). The Latin here is trying to reproduce what Cicero verbalizes in the following sentence, i.e. that the various stages of the voting process happened more quickly than he was able to put them into words.

14quae omnia sunt citius facta quam dixi: quae is a connecting relative (= et ea). citius is the comparative adverb of citus, ‘quick, fast’ (cf. the Olympic motto: citius, altius, fortius).

Notas

36 Roman voting practice is a minefield. For a first accessible orientation, try Valentina Arena’s article ‘Elections in the Late Roman Republic: How Did They Work?’, in Historyextra,https://www.historyextra.com/period/roman/elections-inthe-late-roman-republic-how-did-they-work/

37 Classics comes from classis: it is the study of those texts or authors — designated ‘classical’ — who are deemed to belong to the ‘first class’ of literary production because of their allegedly timeless quality and relevance.

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