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

Ingo Gildenhard


§ 103: Antony’s Enrichment Activities

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1Rome’s civil-war years saw a drastic redistribution of wealth, as the victorious warlords oversaw the confiscation of property and land owned by those who ended up on the losing side of history. It was one of the ways by which the winners were able to reward the loyalty of their supporters, many of whom (according to Cicero) joined Caesar’s cause precisely in the expectation that it would prove financially beneficial. As he says in Philippic 4.9 about Antony and his followers:

sed spes rapiendi atque praedandi obcaecat animos eorum, quos non bonorum donatio, non agrorum adsignatio, non illa infinita hasta satiavit; qui sibi urbem, qui bona et fortunas civium ad praedam proposuerunt.

[But hope of pillage and plunder blind the minds of men whom no gift of property, no assignment of lands, nor that never-ending auction [sc. of property confiscated from Pompey and his supporters] has sated; men that have set before themselves for plunder the city and the goods and fortunes of its citizens.]

  • 62 For Varro see Dahlmann (1935), Rawson (1985), Dix and Houston (2006: 673–75) (on his library), Dru (...)

2In this paragraph and the following two, Cicero focuses on the property of Marcus Terentius Varro, in part because Varro, in terms of literary standing in late republican Rome second only to Cicero and the acknowledged ‘polymath of the Roman World’, was a particularly illustrious Pompeian, whose live(lihood) and property came under threat in the civil war period.62 Here are some brief biographical details:

3• c. 116: born into an established senatorial family

4• Education: wide-ranging, including in Greek culture (L. Aelius, the Academic philosopher Antiochus)

5• 67: commander in Pompey’s campaign against the pirates

6• 49: declares for Pompey and commands the republican forces in Spain

7• 48: surrenders to Caesar near Corduba, gets pardoned and released; he joins the Pompeian forces again at Dyrrhachium; after Pompey’s defeat at Pharsalus, Varro (just like Cicero) gives up active resistance and withdraws from public life

8• 47: while Caesar is in Egypt, Antony tries to get his hands on Varro’s villa near Casinum, but Caesar objects

  • 63 Credit for setting up the first public library in Rome goes to Asinius Pollio.

9• 45: reconciliation with Caesar upon Caesar’s return to Rome; gets put in charge of establishing and stocking what would have been Rome’s first public libraries with Greek and Roman books, a project that never came to fruition.63 See Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 44:

Nam de ornanda instruendaque urbe, item de tuendo ampliandoque imperio plura ac maiora in dies destinabat:… bibliothecas Graecas Latinasque quas maximas posset publicare data Marco Varroni cura comparandarum ac digerendarum.

[In particular, for the adornment and convenience of the city, also for the protection and extension of the Empire, he formed more projects and more extensive ones every day:… to open to the public the greatest possible libraries of Greek and Latin books, assigning to Marcus Varro the charge of procuring and classifying them.]

  • 64 Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 3.10.17, with Hemelrijk (1999: 257, n. 168) and Houston (2014: 31–32 (...)

10• 43: Antony has him put on the list of the proscribed — he gets spared Cicero’s fate through the intervention of Fufius Calenus who manages to hide Varro from the henchmen (Appian, Bellum Civile 4.203); his library, though, gets plundered64

11• 27: dies, 90 years of age

12Varro was one of the most learned men of Rome, the antiquarian par excellence, who produced a massive literary oeuvre. One of his writings, the De Re Rustica (3.5) contains a detailed description of his property at Casinum (the dialogue was written in the 30s, so Caesar must have ensured that he got it back). §§ 103–05 revolve around this estate, with Cicero, for invective purposes, deliberately and confusingly skipping back and forth between two occasions several years apart:

  1. Sometime in 47 BCE, Antony attempted to confiscate Varro’s property. The attempt failed because Caesar, who was fighting in Alexandria at the time and whom Antony consulted by letter, withheld his approval.
  2. During his sojourn in Southern Italy in April/May 44 BCE, Antony and his entourage visited Varro’s villa and enjoyed some (enforced?) hospitality.

13What does Cicero make of this?

  • § 103a: Ab hac perturbatione… liberavisti: reference to the visit of 44 BCE, but with the (false) insinuation that Antony came to confiscate the property (as he had tried to do in 47 BCE)
  • § 103b: Varronis quidem… praeconis audivit: rejection of the notion (held by nobody) that any part of Varro’s property was ever confiscated and sold at auction
  • § 103c: misisse… magnum fuit: reference to Antony’s unsuccessful attempt to confiscate Varro’s property back in 47 BCE
  • § 104a: quis vero audivit… detractam: renewed rejection of the notion (held by nobody) that any part of Varro’s property was ever confiscated and sold at auction
  • § 104b: quid? si etiam scripsit ad te Caesar… temeritatis tuae: renewed reference to Antony’s unsuccessful attempt to confiscate Varro’s property back in 47 BCE
  • § 104c–105a: At quam multos dies… scorta inter matres familias versabantur: description of the disgraceful conduct of Antony and his mates during their visit at Varro’s villa in 44 BCE

14Put differently, Cicero uses an initial reference to Antony’s visit at Varro’s villa in 44 BCE to slip back in time and rehearse the tussle over ownership that happened in 47 BCE. This enables him (a) to draw, yet again, a sharp contrast between Caesar and Antony; (b) to recall a failure by Antony; (c) to insinuate that during his recent visit Antony behaved as if he owned the property.

15Ab hac perturbatione religionum advolas in M. Varronis, sanctissimi atque integerrimi viri, fundum Casinatem: Cicero already relied on advolare for the purpose of negative characterization in § 50. ad + volare — literally ‘to fly towards’, but also used in military contexts to signify ‘to rush to the attack’, ‘to swoop down on’ — generates the dehumanizing image of Antony rapaciously ‘swooping in on and snatching up’ Varro’s estate in his greedy claws, with the significant hyperbaton in… fundum highlighting both the distance and the speed of the descent. Positioned neatly in-between the two prepositional phrases ab… and in …, advolas further suggests restless agitation of the compulsive kind: Antony seems beset by the obsession to perpetrate one outrage after another in quick succession. When Roman aristocrats travelled in foreign parts, they would routinely rely on the hospitality extended by senatorial peers, even those with whom relations were fraught. So it is not at all unusual that Antony and his entourage, while in the area, stayed a while at Varro’s villa. Cicero himself records a similar visit paid to him by Caesar in December 45 in a letter to Atticus (Att. 13.52 = 353 SB), noting that Caesar is not the kind of guest one is keen to host twice.

16M. Varronis, sanctissimi atque integerrimi viri: embedded within in… fundum Casinatem is the name and a longish appreciation in apposition of the victim. Cicero hails the moral integrity and unblemished record of Marcus Terentius Varro in superlatives. The use of vir (especially in the context of the metaphorical assimilation of Antony to a monstrous bird of prey) is not accidental either: ‘Cicero’s speeches make it evident that vir is a term of utmost respect which he applies to Rome’s foremost senators and magistrates. That the word is not to be thrown about at random is evident from a letter to Atticus about the late dictator in which Cicero bristles that he heard “that tyrant” called clarissimum virum in a public meeting (Att. 15.20.2). To Cicero, a man who has misused his power is unworthy of the time-honoured epithet’ (Santoro L’Hoir 1992: 13).

17quo iure, quo ore [advolas]? ‘Eodem [iure / ore]’, inquies, ‘quo in heredum L. Rubri [praedia advolavi / invasi], quo in heredum L. Turseli praedia [advolavi / invasi], quo in reliquas innumerabiles possessiones [advolavi / invasi]’: By suspending with further verbs after the advolas of the previous sentence, but continuing the syntax of ‘[elided verb] + in + accusative’in Antony’s imagined response, Cicero has Antony buy into the idiom of his attack and thus agree with the accusation of greedy land-grabbing. (Mayor (1861: 144) suggests that a ‘more general notion’ such as invasi ought to be supplied from advolas.) Cicero here sets up an analogy between Antony’s insolence in sequestering the property of Varro and the unrestrained greed that informed his desire to benefit from legacies, to the point of short-changing their next of kin. Lucius Rubrius and Lucius Turselius, it seems, composed testaments that left their landed property (praedia: neuter accusative plural after the preposition in) to Antony, instead of their natural heirs: both heredum (genitive plural of heres) depend on praedia (the first implied), L. Rubri depends on the first heredum, L. Turseli on the second: ‘… I snatched up the properties of the heirs of L. Rubrius and the heirs of L. Turselius’.

18quo iure, quo ore?: the two questions pull in opposite direction: quo iure (‘by what right?’) requires a negative answer (‘you had no right at all!’), whereas quo ore (‘with what face?’) issues a protest against the expression on Antony’s face (a mixture of greed and cheek?) he wore during the confiscation. Nisbet (1960: 103) notes that quo ore? ‘does not combine well with quo iure?, and the difficulty is increased by the following sentence’. He suggests reading quo more?.

19inquies: second person singular future indicative active (‘you will say’).

20L. Rubri… L. Turseli: we know from §§ 40–41 that Lucius Rubrius was an inhabitant of Casinum; perhaps the same applies to Lucius Turselius as well, though the two individuals are otherwise unknown.

21et si ab hasta [in eas possessiones invasisti / advolavisti ‖ eas possessiones emisti], valeat hasta, valeant tabulae modo [ut sint tabulae] Caesaris, non tuae, [eae] quibus debuisti, non [eae] quibus tu te liberavisti: ‘If you took possession of them at a public auction, let the auction stand/be valid, let the sale-books stand — only provided they are Caesar’ s, not your own, those through which you were in debt, not those through which you freed yourself of debt’. The sentence is difficult, not least because of frequent ellipsis, and best tackled bit by bit:

  • et si… valeat hasta: the opening conditional sequence is mixed, with an (implied) perfect indicative in the protasis (positing a past fact), followed in the apodosis by a third-person present hortatory subjunctive (valeat) to express a concession that Cicero is making now. The verb and related accusatives in the si-clause are again elided and need to be provided from context. Mayor (1861: 144) supplies invasisti, Ramsey (2003: 313) emisti.
  • valeant… tuae: a second third-person present hortatory subjunctive (valeant) segues in asyndeton, followed by a highly elliptical qualification introduced by modo. For modo ut… = ‘only provided that…’, also with ellipsis of verb, see OLD s.v. modo 4.
  • quibus debuisti… liberavisti: at the end of the sentence, the (implied) antecedents (eae) of the two relative pronouns quibus stand in apposition to tabulae, with quibus debuisti picking up tabulae Caesaris, which registered Antony in deep debt, and quibus tu te liberavisti picking up tabulae tuae, showing Antony debt-free owing to his illegal enrichments.

22ab hasta: ‘from the public auction of confiscated property’. At a public auction a spear was stuck in the ground — the hasta thus ‘is the characteristic sign of auctions and hence functions as a metonymy for the allotment of possessions by auction’ (Manuwald 2007: 515).

23valeant tabulae: on the meaning of tabulae, see Denniston (1926: 164): ‘Tabulae means here the bills of sale at an auction; but the mention of the word suggests one of its other meanings, “accounts”, and Cicero goes off at a tangent: “When I uphold the validity of ‘tabulae’, I mean Caesar’s accounts, in which you are entered as owing money for the property of Pompey which you bought and never paid for; not the accounts which you falsified at the temple of Ops, in order to get money to free yourself from debt”’.

24Varronis quidem Casinatem fundum quis venisse dicit, quis hastam istius venditionis vidit, quis vocem praeconis audivit?: a tricolon, reinforced by the triple anaphora of quis, of three pugnacious rhetorical questions. dicit governs an indirect statement with fundum as subject accusative and venisse as verb. The placement of Varronis quidem Casinatem fundum before the interrogative pronoun quis brings out the full contrastive force of quidem: ‘As far as the estate of Varro at Casinum is concerned, who says that it was ever up for sale…?’

25venisse: perfect infinitive of veneo, active in form but passive in meaning (‘to be for sale’), NOT of venio (‘to come’) even though the forms are indistinguishable. veneo functions as the passive to vendo (‘to sell’).

26misisse te dicis Alexandriam [aliquem] qui emeret a Caesare; ipsum enim expectare magnum fuit: dicis introduces an indirect statement with te as subject accusative and misisse as verb. The accusative object (and antecedent of the relative pronoun qui) is implied. Alexandriam is an accusative of direction (without preposition since Alexandria is a city). The subjunctive in the relative clause (emeret) expresses purpose. Cicero follows up this imagined interjection and explanation by Antony with a highly sarcastic meta-comment set up by enim (Kroon 1995: 180) that mockingly ‘explains’ the apparent motivation for Antony’s dispatch of an agent to Alexandria: ‘it would of course (enim) have been difficult to wait for Caesar[’s return]!’

27ipsum: referring to Caesar.

28magnum fuit: for the indicative (where the English calls for a subjunctive) see Gildersleeve & Lodge 167–68: ‘The Latin language expresses possibility and power, obligation and necessity, and abstract relations generally, as facts; whereas, our translation often implies the failure to realise’. One of their examples, Cicero, de Natura Deorum 2.159, offers a good parallel to our passage: longum est persequi utilitate asinorum — ‘it would be tedious to rehearse the useful qualities of asses (I will not do it)’.


62 For Varro see Dahlmann (1935), Rawson (1985), Dix and Houston (2006: 673–75) (on his library), Drummond (2013), and, most recently, Butterfield (2015).

63 Credit for setting up the first public library in Rome goes to Asinius Pollio.

64 Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 3.10.17, with Hemelrijk (1999: 257, n. 168) and Houston (2014: 31–32).