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

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Ingo Gildenhard

Commentary

§ 88: Antony on the Ides of March

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1Cicero now returns to the issue of the (fake) auspices that Antony produced to challenge the validity of Dolabella’s election to the (suffect) consulship. Caesar planned to have the matter discussed at the senate meeting scheduled for the Ides of March, but his murder upset the agenda and Cicero follows the lead opened up by the assassination to dwell on Antony’s reaction: fear for his life and a panicky flight from the senate house. His apprehension was justified: no-one knew at the time whether Caesar was the only target of the conspirators. As it turned out, it was — and there seems to have been nothing for Antony to fear; but Cicero uses his escape as foil for reiterating, in § 89, a point he already made in § 86, namely that the liberators ought to have done away with Antony as well.

2 Sed ad auspicia redeamus; de quibus Idibus Martiis fuit in senatu Caesar acturus: redeamus is a present exhortative subjunctive in the first person plural: ‘but let us return…’. quibus is a connecting relative, picking up auspicia (= de eis). Apparently, Caesar had Antony’s obnuntiatio at the elections that made Dolabella a suffect consul for 44 BCE on the agenda for the senate meeting scheduled for 15 March during which he was killed.

3 Idibus Martiis: an ablative of time (‘during the senate meeting scheduled for the Ides of March’).

4 quaero: tum tu quid egisses?: the question doubles as the apodosis of an (implied) past counterfactual condition: ‘I ask you: if Caesar had had the chance to make it a matter for business, what would you have done then?’ tum and tu, nicely alliterated, are placed up front to give the personal challenge further emphasis.

5 audiebam equidem te paratum venisse, quod me de ementitis auspiciis, quibus tamen parere necesse erat, putares esse dicturum: the main verb audiebam (imperfect with iterative sense: ‘I was told more than once’) introduces an indirect statement with te as subject accusative and venisse as infinitive; paratum is a predicative complement to te. quod introduces a causal clause with putares as verb (in the subjunctive to underscore the fact that this is what Antony supposed, without any necessary basis in the facts), which introduces another indirect statement with me as subject accusative and esse dicturum as infinitive. So: ‘I was told more than once that you had come prepared because you believed that I intended to speak on the falsification of the auspices, which it was nevertheless (i.e. despite the fact that they had been falsified) necessary to obey’, sc. until the college of augurs had assessed the matter. Cicero interrelates himself and Antony syntactically here: in the main clause he is the subject of the main verb (audiebam) and Antony (te) the subject accusative of an indirect statement; in the quod-clause, Antony is the subject of the main verb (putares) and Cicero the subject accusative of an indirect statement (me).

6 equidem: with an expressed or implied first person singular, the particle equidem serves to emphasize the ego: OLD s.v. 1.

7 de ementitis auspiciis: ‘on the falsification of the auspices’: Latin frequently uses the perfect passive participle (and ementior is used in a passive sense here, despite being a deponent) to modify a (concrete) noun where English would traditionally use an abstract noun and the preposition ‘of’. Compare, for instance, ab urbe condita = ‘from the foundation of the city’ (or, increasingly, ‘from the city foundation’).

8 quibus tamen parere necesse erat: the relative pronoun quibus is in the dative governed by parere. The negative auspices remained in force until the college of augurs (or the senate) had passed a verdict, either upholding Antony’s obnuntiatio or invalidating it.

9 sustulit illum diem Fortuna rei publicae: some editors capitalize Fortuna, turning her into the goddess that watches over the Roman commonwealth. Otherwise, fortuna here simply means ‘good luck’. diem tollere, which literally means ‘to lift up = remove the day’ (Shackleton Bailey translates: ‘The Fortune of the Commonwealth struck that day out of time’) is standard idiom for ‘to prevent the senate from conducting business on the day’: OLD s.v. tollo 12b.

10 num etiam tuum de auspiciis iudicium interitus Caesaris sustulit?: the subject of the sentence is interitus. Cicero’s repetition of sustulit puns on the technical use of tollere in the previous sentence, here applied to Antony’s judgment about the auspices. As Lacey (1986: 222) notes, ‘num (expecting the answer “no”) is sarcastic, since A did abandon his objection at the meeting of the Senate on March 17’ — and the only significant event that occurred between his endorsement and subsequent dismissal of the auspices was the murder of Caesar.

11 sed incidi in id tempus quod eis rebus in quas ingressa erat oratio praevertendum est: the main verb is incidi (first person singular perfect indicative active; not to be confused with, but in form indistinguishable from, the present passive infinitive). The verb of the relative clause is the gerundive of obligation praevertendum est, which governs the dative eis rebus, with quod as subject: ‘I have fallen on that time period (i.e. the time after Caesar’s assassination), which (now) must be given precedence over those matters (eis rebus, i.e. Antony’s manipulation of the auspices), on which my speech (initially) embarked’. Cicero makes it out as if he cannot help but be sidetracked; in fact, he never comes back to the topic of the auspices in the remainder of Philippic 2.

  • 51 Contrast the rather more confined personal-political action taken by the Attic loverboys Harmodius (...)

12 quae tua fuga, quae formido praeclaro illo die, quae propter conscientiam scelerum desperatio vitae, cum ex illa fuga beneficio eorum qui te, si sanus esses, salvum esse voluerunt, clam te domum recepisti!: the main clause consists of a gleeful ascending tricolon fuga – formido – desperatio, reinforced by the triple anaphora of quae, designed to capture the actions, the emotions, and the general outlook of Antony in the moment right after the murder of Caesar: he takes flight (fuga) in panic (formido) and mortal fear for his life (desperatio vitae). The main verb (erat) is implied; tua serves as predicative complement to all three subjects. What follows is a so-called ‘inverse cum-clause’, which takes the indicative (usually in the perfect) and is used to introduce a new development that dramatically changes or ‘inverts’ the action of the main clause. We arrive at the verb of the cum-clause (te… recepisti) by way of a circuitous route: the prepositional phrase ex illa fuga picks up the beginning of the sentence; it is followed by the ablative of means beneficio eorum, which segues into a relative clause (qui… voluerunt) that comprises an indirect statement with te as subject accusative and esse as infinitive and functions as the apodosis of a conditional sequence with si sanus esses as protasis. After the bloody death of Caesar, Antony had every reason to suppose that he was next in line — there were about 60 senators in on the plot, and more than twenty lined up to share in the bloodshed: Caesar received a public ritual-sacrificial ‘send off’51 On the day, the numbers must have sparked pandemonium, and nowhere safe to turn. But by getting rid of Caesar without wiping out his principal supporters as well, the conspirators hoped to minimize bloodshed and thereby facilitate a smooth return to a republican form of government: Antony’s life seems not to have been in danger, though he couldn’t have known it. Cicero of course started to deplore not long afterwards that the assassins stopped too soon: vivit tyrannis, tyrannus occidit! (Att. 14.9.2 = 363 SB; 17 April 44: ‘the tyranny lives on, the tyrant is dead’).

13 praeclaro illo die: 15 March 44 BCE — the day the dictator died and freedom was reborn! In this instance, praeclarus truly means ‘glorious’, without a shred of irony.

14 quae propter conscientiam scelerum desperatio vitae: conscientia is a favourite notion of Cicero’s. In the sense of ‘conscience’ it plays a key role in his conception of the human being as a creature naturally endowed with an instance that enables him to judge right from wrong. In such instances, conscientia becomes an internal court of law and agent of punishment, inflicting mental torture (pangs of conscience) on the miscreant. Here the meaning of conscientia is more akin to ‘consciousness’ (without necessarily excluding the sense of ‘conscience’): Antony was a leading figure in Caesar’s (criminal, from Cicero’s point of view) regime and now fears for his life because he is fully aware that his track record turns him into a likely target on the (in the end, non-existent) hit list of the senatorial assassins.

15 beneficio eorum: Cicero leaves it unclear who these people are and what they did to help Antony escape. (Some other sources spin a flimsy yarn on how Antony fled disguised as a slave.) Cicero’s reticence here suggests that these are later novelistic elaborations.

16 si sanus esses: a gratuitous piece of spite — Cicero intimates, without any supporting evidence, that even Antony’s friends harboured qualms about his mental health. The imperfect subjunctive implies that Antony’s sanity was part of what they wished for and considered a requisite condition for helping him escape — but that was misjudged!

17 domum: an accusative of direction: ‘you in secret withdrew to your house’.

Notes

51 Contrast the rather more confined personal-political action taken by the Attic loverboys Harmodius and Aristogeiton when they killed the tyrant Hipparchus—even though the pair then mutated into the archtypal tyrannicides.

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