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

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Ingo Gildenhard

Commentary

§ 87: Historical Precedent Demands Antony’s Instant Execution

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1Cicero follows up on his claim in the previous paragraph that Antony ought to have been killed a long time ago. After a reference to the official entry in Rome’s calendar (the so-called fasti) on what had happened on 15 February, Cicero adds some generic abuse about Antony’s debauchery (drinking through the day with his depraved mates) before returning to his impact on the political culture of the republic: his subversion of peace (Cicero uses both otium and pax) and his destruction of the legal order (the laws and the law courts) qualify Antony for being included among the ranks of those who were expelled or killed in the past because of their tyrannical conduct or royal ambitions. In his appeal to historical exempla that call for drastic action, Cicero reworks the shtick he already used in the opening part of his first speech against Catiline.

2At etiam ascribi iussit in fastis ad Lupercalia C. Caesari dictatori perpetuo M. Antonium consulem populi iussu regnum detulisse, Caesarem uti noluisse: it is unclear who the implied subject of iussit is: Antony or Caesar? Scholars, too, are undecided. Perhaps the most likely scenario is that it was Caesar, and Cicero opts for a text that suggests Antony (without explicitly falsifying history), to keep his target under invective fire. iussit governs the impersonal passive infinitive ascribi (‘he ordered it to be inscribed…’), which in turn governs the bipartite indirect statement C. [= Gaio] Caesari… noluisse (which covers the text of the inscription), with M. Antonium and Caesarem as subject accusatives and detulisse and noluisse as infinitives.

3Here we capture the ‘Caesarian’ version of the events, though it remains unclear whether it was planned as such from the start or the product of retrospective spin. In this version, the auctor of the affair was the populus Romanus as a sovereign body of citizens giving an order (populi iussu) to its highest elected magistrate M. Antonius to offer the dictator for life (dictatori perpetuo) C. Caesar the kingship — an offer which Caesar declined. The point of the episode seems to have been to draw a fine, but important distinction between the title dictator perpetuo, awarded to Caesar by the senate, which conformed at least in name to the political culture of the Roman republic (see below on C. Caesari dictatori perpetuo) and kingship, which does not. The offer and its refusal, at least in Rome, sent a double message to Caesar’s senatorial peers, who must have thought that the title dictator perpetuo was already beyond the pale: far from being a power grab, the title of dictator for life is an exercise in self-restraint — the people wouldn’t hesitate to crown him king.

4in fastis: the masculine plural noun fasti is formed from the adjective fastus, -a, -um, ‘lawful for the transaction of business’ (not to be confused with the fourth-declension noun fastus,-ûs, m. = arrogance, pride), which in turn is formed from the indeclinable neuter noun fas = ‘that which is right and permissible by divine law’ (the opposite is nefas = sacrilege) + tus. It has three related but distinct meanings:

  1. days on which business may be transacted: in the field of civil law, the Romans distinguished between dies fasti, on which the praetor could preside over court proceedings, and dies nefasti, when no such proceedings could take place;
  2. the list of annually recurring festivals = the calendar;
  3. the list of consuls who gave their name to the year (i.e. a chronological sequence year by year, as opposed to the cyclical nature of the calendar).

5The term was therefore absolutely central to how the Romans situated themselves in time and history and, across the range of meanings it accrued over time (the combination of the calendar with the consular list dates to the first half of the second century BCE), incorporates important religious and political elements. No one was more attuned to the politics of time than Caesar — indeed, one of his most longlasting legacies consisted in the reform of the Roman calendar: see Feeney (2007). Caesar or Antony decided to put the diadem-incident permanently on record by adding an annotation to the calendar under 15 February (ad Lupercalia: ‘under the date of the Lupercalia’). Some fragments of inscribed Roman calendars survive, and none of them contains this particular text, which may owe itself either to an accident of transmission (our surviving calendars feature significant variation in outlook, especially in terms of historical annotations) or the fact that Caesar was killed soon thereafter and this particular entry never found proper dissemination.

6C. Caesari dictatori perpetuo: the office of dictator was a recognized magistracy in republican Rome (and does not inherently carry the connotations of illegitimacy and abuse of power as our English equivalent). Dictators were appointed in times or crises and emergencies, but — until Caesar — for a strictly limited period of time. Even Sulla, who was appointed dictator legibus faciundis et reipublicae constituendae causa (‘dictator for making laws and settling the constitution’), which did not carry a specified time limit, abdicated after he felt he had completed the specified task. Sulla was the most powerful strongman before Caesar; and having himself called dictator for life, Caesar thus outdoes all of his predecessors and enters unknown territory. The dative renders it ambiguous as to whether perpetuo is the adjective or the adverb, but the latter is the case. Caesar’s official title, which he assumed in late January / early February 44, was dictator perpetuo (‘dictator in perpetuity’) rather than dictator perpetuus (‘perpetual dictator’).

7populi iussu: the forth-declension noun iussus, -ûs, m. (as opposed to the second-declension noun iussum, -i, n.) only occurs in the ablative singular, usually with either a possessive adjective or (as here) a genitive; the expression has an official, formulaic feel.

8iam iam minime miror te otium perturbare, non modo urbem odisse sed etiam lucem; cum perditissimis latronibus non solum de die sed etiam in diem bibere: miror introduces a tripartite indirect statement, with te as subject accusative throughout and perturbare, odisse, and bibere as infinitives.

9otium: the opposite of negotium (business), otium, in its basic sense, means ‘freedom from business’, i.e. ‘leisure time’, ‘ease’, ‘relaxation’ (or, in a negative sense, ‘idleness’, ‘inactivity’). More generally, it came to signify a condition of ‘peaceful relations’, ‘tranquillity in civic life’ — an equivalent to pax, with otium primarily (but not exclusively) referring to the domestic sphere and pax primarily (but not exclusively) referring to Rome’s relation with external peoples as well as the gods on some kind of contractual basis (see further below on in pace). This is the meaning of the term here. (Cicero captures his ideal state of affairs with the expression ‘otium cum dignitate’, which might be glossed as ‘a state of peaceful relations in civic affairs with due respect accorded to the rightful rank and standing of each individual’.)

10non modo urbem odisse sed etiam lucem: urbs (the city of Rome) and lux (the light of day) form a climactic pairing, as Cicero ups the ante by moving from the (cosmic) city to the cosmos itself, or from a sociopolitical to an existential perspective. The transition is easy, especially if the identification of the city of Rome with the entire universe (urbs = orbis; cf. the papal blessing urbi et orbi) registers. Compare Cicero, in Catilinam 4.11: haec urbs lux orbis terrarum — ‘this city is the light of the entire world’.

  • 48 See further Habinek (1998: 69–87)
  • 49 See Housman (1896/1972: 379).

11cum perditissimis latronibus non solum de die sed etiam in diem bibere: perditus is the past participle of perdo (‘to cause ruin or destruction’) and, in the positive and, especially, (as here) the superlative one of Cicero’s favourite words of abuse. It signifies a state of moral and financial bankruptcy in which the individual concerned has lost any kind of bearing that would enable some kind of positive contribution to society. latro (‘bandit’) too is a standard term in Cicero’s invective lexicon, which he used to inveigh against Catiline and his followers: it refers to outlaws who do not abide by the socio-political protocols that govern life in a peaceful civic community.48 bibere is a conjecture for the vivere of the manuscripts, first mooted by Badham.49 It is not entirely clear what de die and in diem mean in this context: what Cicero seems to be imagining is a scenario in which Antony and his drinking buddies booze through the night into the dawn, till sun-up (de die) and then keep going into the day (in diem).

12ubi enim tu in pace consistes?: the phrasing Cicero here uses is ominous: consistes is in the future tense, which implies that at present, Rome does not have (internal) peace. He therefore applies a term designed to capture Rome’s relations with (subdued) external people to domestic politics — a development of civil war (bellum initially also referred only to Rome’s external wars until internal developments made it necessary to endow it with the attribute civile). At the same time, pax retains its wider geographical remit, implying that in a world at peace Antony has no place. Given this fluidity, it is unsurprising that what precisely pax signified — and to what state of affairs it is possible to apply the label pax — became controversial in late-republican times. See in particular Phil. 14.19–20, where Cicero, looking back, asserts that the people recall that he had, from January 43 onwards, always called Antony an enemy, always the current condition a war, had always been an adviser of genuine peace (verae pacis auctor), but hostile to the name of any ‘pestilent peace’ (nomini pestiferae pacis inimicus). See further Cornwell (2017).

13qui locus tibi in legibus et in iudiciis esse potest, quae tu, quantum in te fuit, dominatu regio sustulisti?: qui is an interrogative adjective modifying locus (‘what place can there be for you…’); the relative pronoun quae (accusative neuter plural) refers back to both legibus and iudiciis but agrees in number and gender with the closer of the two nouns.

14in legibus et in iudiciis: in a situation of domestic peace that includes respect for republican traditions and values, the basis of civic life is the rule of law, which Cicero captures with reference to laws (in legibus) and law courts (in iudiciis). Put differently, there is no place for someone like Antony in civic society.

15quantum in te fuit: quantum introduces an adverbial clause: ‘so far as it was in your power’.

16dominatu regio: the first thing to disappear under an autocratic regime is the rule of law—since the despot is above it: his whim and will become law. Cicero dwells extensively on the unpredictability of a world in which a tyrant reigns supreme. See e. g. a passage from a letter to his friend Paetus, from mid-July 46 about life under Caesar (ad Familiares 9.16.3 = 190 SB):

De illo autem quem penes est omnis potestas, nihil video quod timeam, nisi quod omnia sunt incerta cum a iure discessum est nec praestari quicquam potest quale futurum sit quod positum est in alterius voluntate, ne dicam libidine.

[As for the All-Powerful, I see no reason why I should be apprehensive, unless it be that all becomes uncertain when the path of legality has been forsaken, and that there is no guaranteeing the future of what depends on someone else’s wishes, not to say whims.]

17Essentially, Cicero here reduces the world of Rome to the will of Caesar: the future depends on the voluntas (‘will’) or, indeed, libido (‘whim’) of the dictator. Caesar’s ascendancy entails chaos for those living within the remit of his reign: omnia sunt incerta. Caesar’s ability to exercise power unrestrained by institutional or normative checks results in comprehensive uncertainty for everyone else.

  • 50 See further Chassignet (2001), Smith (2006), Flower (2006: 44–51), Kaplow (2012), who discusses th (...)

18ideone L. Tarquinius exactus [est], Sp. Cassius, Sp. Maelius, M. Manlius necati [sunt] ut multis post saeculis a M. Antonio, quod fas non est, rex Romae constitueretur?: Cicero’s outraged rhetorical question (marked as such by the enclitic-ne attached to ideo: ‘was it for this that…?’) is an incitement to murder. Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was the last legendary king of Rome, driven out in 509 BCE for his rape of Lucretia, after which the Romans adopted a republican form of government. Spurius Cassius, who was executed in 485 BCE, Spurius Maelius, who suffered the same fate in 435 BCE, and Marcus Manlius Capitolinus, who was put to death in 385 BCE, were three early-republican powerbrokers suspected of aiming for kingship. They became exempla of how (aspiring) tyrants were dealt with in Rome.50 Cicero returns to the exempla in § 114.

19multis post saeculis: an ablative of time. post is adverbial: ‘many centuries thereafter’.

20a M. Antonio: an ablative of agency with constitueretur.

21quod fas non est: Cicero asserts that, in Rome, kingship is a form of government that violates religious taboos (fas specifies what is — and what isn’t — permissible according to divine law).

22rex Romae: Romae is in the locative. The brutal juxtaposition of the antithetical rex and Roma strikes a deliberately jarring note, underscored by the alliteration.

Anmerkungen

48 See further Habinek (1998: 69–87)

49 See Housman (1896/1972: 379).

50 See further Chassignet (2001), Smith (2006), Flower (2006: 44–51), Kaplow (2012), who discusses the three figures as a trio of popularis politicians whose enemies tried to discredit their political agenda by accusing them of aiming at tyranny, and Roller (2018: 238–51).

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