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

Ingo Gildenhard


§ 107: Symbolic Strutting after Caesar

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1The paragraph falls into two halves: in the first (Quid ego… cliens esse), Cicero continues to belabour the theme of Antony’s maltreatment of local communities in Italy that happened to pique his anger, though the praeteritio-mode he now adopts suggests that he is starting to run out of steam. Halfway through, his focus turns back to Rome (interea dum tu abes… ut dissimilis esset sui), and he homes in on an event that happened in the capital during Antony’s absence: Dolabella’s destruction of the altar to Caesar erected by Amatius. The thematic link between the two halves consists in the invocation of the persons and policies that support Cicero’s republican politics.

2Roman aristocrats functioned as patrons of local communities both in Italy and beyond. The patronage system tied patrons and clients together in a reciprocal, if hierarchical economy: ‘Patrons were expected to provide a range of services: To mediate when dissension broke out, to defend the interests of the town before Senate and magistrates, to provide significant material benefactions. Some were involved in the foundation of the community; others were coopted because they owned significant estates in the territory of the client. In return, patrons expected their clients to support them at elections, to enhance their prestige, to serve as a base for recruiting soldiers and to provide bodyguard in emergencies’ (Nicols 2014: 70). These arrangements became a highly sensitive issue in the wake of Caesar’s assassination. Some evidence suggests that one of the honours proposed to Caesar before his death was the title of patron (prostates) of the City and of the whole Empire (Cassius Dio 44.48.1–2 with Nicols 2014: 65–66), which would have highlighted his autocratic monopolization of oligarchic structures of power. After the Ides of March, others vied for similar innovative nomenclature to validate their position and prestige (see e.g. Phil. 6.12). Conversely, local communities faced the tough political choice whether to side with the liberators or leading Caesarians, in the full knowledge that request for support and patronage extended to one party would alienate others, with potentially dire repercussions. Still, many Italian townships seem to have greeted the assassination of Caesar with delight — or so Cicero suggests, in a letter to Atticus (Att. 14.6.2 = 360 SB; 12 April 44):

exsultant laetitia in municipiis. dici enim non potest quanto opere gaudeant, ut ad me concurrant, ut audire cupiant mea verba de re <publica>.

[In the country towns they are jumping for joy. I cannot tell you how delighted they are, how they flock to me, how eager they are to hear what I have to say on the state of the country.]

3Cicero’s report should obviously be taken with a grain of salt: it is not surprising that those local notables who interacted with him expressed unalloyed enthusiasm. Still, the dominant factions among the Sidicini and the inhabitants of Puteoli clearly sympathized with the liberators and sought out Cassius and the two Bruti as patrons, thereby coming into the (verbal) firing line of Antony.

  • 67 For Amatius see Cic. Att. 12.49 = 292 SB (20 May 45), then Att. 14.6 = 360 SB (12 April 44), Att. (...)

4Meanwhile, in Rome, the jostling for position in a post-Caesarian world manifested itself not least in tussles over his post-mortem status. The person who took the lead in pushing the envelope here is the curious figure of Amatius, a.k.a. as Pseudo-Marius, Herophilus (a Greek speaking name), or Chamates.67 He claimed descent from C. Marius, Sulla’s opponent and kinsman of Caesar, and took the lead in fomenting religious worship of the dead (but, he argued, deified) dictator, around a column and an altar erected on the site of Caesar’s funeral pyre (Koortbojian 2013: 26–27). We can glean the considerable degree of popularity he and his cultic veneration of divus Iulius started to command from the fact that Antony had him executed shortly before his departure for Southern Italy. This pleased the republicans and Cicero just as much as it was designed to shore up Antony’s position among the Caesarians through the elimination of a rival to the prestige and affection of the people of Rome and Caesar’s veterans. Yet he left the altar and the column — as a monument to Caesar’s memory — intact, and during his sojourn away from Rome Dolabella deemed their destruction a useful symbolic gesture to enhance his own standing with the republicans (and thereby also to increase his leverage with his fellow consul Antony). Cicero already recalled this sequence of events at Philippic 1.5. Elsewhere in the speech he condemns any attempt to conceive of Caesar as a deified human to be honoured with cultic worship in the strongest possible terms — and lambasts Antony for a change of tack, triggered by the significant appeal (exploited to the utmost by Caesar Octavianus) the notion of divine Caesar commanded among the populace and the veterans. If in April Antony had pseudo-Marius executed, in early September he himself pushed through a decree that added an extra day to every supplicatio (‘thanksgiving for public successes’) dedicated to offerings to the deified Caesar.

  • 68 Feeney (1998: 108–10), further Gildenhard (2011: 255–57), on which the following pages are based.

5Cicero’s strictures against the idea that Caesar had become a god presuppose the strict divide between the human and the divine within Rome’s civic religion. Attempts at crossing the boundary, in whatever form, while feasible in theory (there existed, in principle, no religious objections to humans becoming gods — in literary texts, it happened all the time), were politically incorrect moves in the field of power, a potential threat to the republican tradition of senatorial government:68 elevating one individual, albeit post mortem, to the status of a god violated fundamental principles of oligarchic equality. Still, already long before Caesar outstanding aristocrats found it tempting to explore the boundary between human and divine (for instance by claiming a special relationship with a supernatural being) for reasons of self-promotion. Inspiration came from the Greek East, in both theory and practice. Poets and other litterateurs domesticated a variety of literary genres that explored different forms of divinity and deification; in Ennius’ oeuvre, for instance, apotheosis (of Romulus in the Annals), Pythagorean metempsychosis (the reincarnation of Homer in Ennius himself), and Euhemerism all find an airing — as well as (in the Scipio) the idea of a living (or recently deceased) Roman noble ascending to the stars.

  • 69 Habicht (1956/2017), Price (1984), Badian (1996), Mikalson (1998) (esp. ch. 3: ‘Twenty years of th (...)
  • 70 Ma (2003: 179), with reference to Price (1984); further Stevenson (1996) on the social ideals that (...)

6In the context of imperial expansion, the Romans also encountered cults that bestowed religious honours upon living rulers — a practice that had started to proliferate in the wake of Alexander the Great.69 The perceived divinity of (royal) power had little to do with the proclivity of eastern subjects to emote irrationally about their kings, as some ancient sources, including Cicero, imply. Rather the Hellenistic ruler cult constituted an ideological form and social practice by which kings justified their reign and cities negotiated their existence within the domineering presence of ‘a supra-poliadic power’.70 Given that the award of cultic honours to (potential) benefactors was part and parcel of city diplomacy, it is hardly surprising that Romans, too, received religious adulation.

  • 71 Santangelo (2005) and Flower (2006: 302, n. 41; 305, n. 7, and 306, n. 23).
  • 72 Classen (1963: 330).
  • 73 For Sulla’s (religious) self-promotion see frs. 9, 17, 20, 23 Chassignet, further Ramage (1991) an (...)
  • 74 Suet. Jul. 5–6, Plu. Caes. 5.
  • 75 Santangelo (2007: 230).

7The civil conflicts of the late republic accelerated the development of novel forms of religious self-promotion. The Gracchi claimed religious prerogatives and special divine favours for their careers and policies, and they received posthumous honours — as did Marius and Gratidianus.71 Matters came to a head with Sulla. His claim to permanent felicitas was incompatible with fundamental tenets of Rome’s civic religion since it signalled a privileged and personal relationship with the gods.72 In his autobiography, Sulla suggested that he could sidestep the protocols of Roman religio, such as collective negotiation of the meaning of divine signs; statements such as that he liked to converse in private with a daimon by night made a mockery of this principle.73 His rise to the dictatorship demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that a darling of the gods did not fit into the political culture of the republic. At the same time, his maverick self-promotion as the recipient of special supernatural support raised the stakes in the game of competitive emulation: any aristocrat who did not lay claim to similar privileges would implicitly concede that he was only second best. Others followed in pushing the boundaries of the acceptable, not least Caesar, who, in the funeral oration for his aunt, proclaimed descent from gods and kings.74 Pompey, too, promoted himself as enjoying special divine favours, deploying what had long been part of strategic diplomacy in the East as a political argument at Rome.75 And Cicero, in particular in his speeches against Catiline and the epic poem he wrote about his consulship (the de Consulatu Suo) also asserted privileged relations with the supernatural sphere.

8 Quid ego illas istius minas contumeliasque commemorem quibus invectus est in Sidicinos, vexavit Puteolanos, quod C. Cassium et Brutos patronos adoptassent?: Cicero launches into another praeteritio cast in the form of a rhetorical question. The main verb is commemorem (in the ‘deliberative’ subjunctive), followed by a bipartite relative clause (invectus est, vexavit), in asyndetic sequence introduced by quibus. The sentence finishes with a causal quod-clause, with a syncopated third person plural pluperfect subjunctive active (adopta| vi| ssent) as verb. Causal sentences with quod (quia, quoniam, quando) take the indicative in direct discourse, but the subjunctive in indirect discourse, whether explicit or — as here — implied: ‘because [so Antony said] they had adopted…’: see Gildersleeve and Lodge 349–50.

9 illas istius minas contumeliasque: the two accusative objects (linked by -que), the demonstrative adjective illas and the demonstrative pronoun istius form a phonetically well-balanced unit, with touches of alliteration (il-, is-), homoioteleuton (-las,-nas,-lias), and sound-play (minas ~-melias). The disdain built into istius stands out more prominently against a background of three words ending in-as.

10 Sidicinos: the Sidicini inhabited territory along the Liri River around their capital Teanum Sidicinum (modern day Teano).

11 Puteolanos: the Puteolani were located at the northern end of the bay of Naples. Their capital was Puteoli (modern day Pozzuoli).

12 C. Cassium et Brutos: Gaius Cassius and Marcus and Decimus Brutus (note that Brutos is in the plural) were the three leading figures among the assassins of Caesar.

13 magno quidem studio, iudicio, benevolentia, caritate [C. Cassium et Brutos patronos adoptaverunt], non, ut te et Basilum, vi et armis, et alios vestri similis quos clientis nemo habere velit, non modo illorum cliens esse: to understand the syntax here, it is necessary to import the verb and the accusative object from the previous sentence. Cicero compares and contrasts the reasons why the Sidicini and the people of Puteoli adopted Cassius and the Bruti as their patrons (detailed in four causal ablatives in asyndetic sequence at the beginning of the sentence) with the reason why other, unnamed communities ‘preferred’ Antony and Basilus: vi et armis — as a result of force of arms. He concludes the sentence by turning Antony and Basilus into representatives of a larger ilk (et alios vestri similis), which no one wishes to have as clients, let alone as patrons.

14 magno quidem studio, iudicio, benevolentia, caritate: ‘out of great devotion, esteem (for this sense of iudicium, see OLD s.v. 10), goodwill, and affection’: the reason for this outpour of positive emotion is the fact that Cassius and the two Bruti freed the commonwealth from tyranny. iudicium, which emphasizes considered judgement and free decisionmaking, offers a sharp contrast to the use of physical force by Antony and his ilk.

15 Basilum: the reference is to M. Satrius, who acquired the cognomen Basilus when he was adopted by his maternal uncle L. Minucius Basilus; according to Cicero, On Duties (de Officiis) 3.74, he became a patron of the Picenian and Sabine territory (patronum agri Piceni et Sabini), which Cicero considered a disgrace (o turpem notam temporum illorum), apparently by employing the same means as Antony to get what he wanted — the threat of physical violence.

16 alios vestri similis: similis is accusative plural agreeing with alios (= similes). The genitive vestri, which depends on similis, refers back to Antony and Basilus: ‘others similar to you (pl.).

17 quos clientis nemo habere velit, non modo illorum cliens esse: ‘whom no-one wishes to have as clients (clientis is accusative plural = clientes), let alone be a client of theirs’. With non modo (‘not to speak of, let alone’: OLD s.v. 2b; here ‘curiously used for nedum’: Denniston (1926: 165), Cicero partly falls out of the syntax of the relative clause introduced by quos, continuing with the demonstrative pronoun illorum (rather than a second relative pronoun), but carrying over subject (nemo) and verb (velit): quos clientis nemo habere velit [et quorum] cliens (nemo) esse (velit). He lands a double punch, not just disqualifying Antony as a desirable patronus, but also hitting below the belt by haughtily assessing (and dismissing) him as a potential cliens.

18 interea dum tu abes, qui dies ille collegae tuo fuit, cum illud quod venerari solebas bustum in foro evertit!: dum + present indicative (here abes) captures an on-going situation in the course of which a single event occurs, quite irrespective of the tense of the main verb (here the perfect fuit): OLD s.v. dum 3b: ‘during the time that’, ‘while’. Retaining the present tense in English would sound weird, but a noun phrase could do the trick: ‘Meanwhile, during your absence, what a day that was for your colleague, when…’

19 illud… bustum: illud agrees with bustum, which is the antecedent of the relative pronoun quod and the accusative object of evertit. The monument that Amatius and his followers erected seems to have consisted of a column made of Numidian marble inscribed with PARENTI PATRIAE (‘To the Father of the Country’) (see Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 85) and an altar (ara) for sacrifices (Cic. Fam. 11.2.2 = 329 SB). Cicero’s consistent reference to the monument as a bustum (which means ‘funeral pyre’ or ‘tomb’) in his Philippics (see already Phil. 1.30) is therefore polemical: it was designed to bring to mind the botched funeral and the half-burnt corpse (see §§ 90–91) and emphasize Caesar’s mortality: the dictator is dead and done, rather than dead and deified.

20 qua re tibi nuntiata, ut constabat inter eos qui una fuerunt, concidisti: Cicero lines up his unanimous eyewitnesses first (ut constabat… fuerunt) before specifying what they saw: that Antony collapsed upon hearing the news. Why he should do so is a puzzle: with his execution of pseudo-Marius, he had done his bit to suppress the cultic worship of Caesar. The news that Dolabella had taken a further step will have been unwelcome, but not sufficiently so to justify a collapse on the spot. Perhaps Cicero simply hams up Antony’s mental instability — or he wishes to suggest that Antony is emotionally invested in the veneration of a dead person. Philippic 2, after all, postdates Antony’s endorsement of Caesar’s deification on 1 September, and Cicero wouldn’t have thought twice of falsely superimposing the implications of recent developments onto the events in spring if this served his invective purpose.

21 qua re tibi nuntiata: qua is a connecting relative (= et ea) modifying re; the whole phrase is an ablative absolute.

22 quid evenerit postea nescio — metum credo valuisse et arma; collegam quidem de caelo detraxisti effecistique non tu quidem etiam nunc ut similis tui [esset], sed certe [effecisti] ut dissimilis esset sui: the previous sentence suggests radical differences between Antony and Dolabella, even though Cicero knew all too well that they were very much in cahoots during the period in question. He now feigns ignorance, before speculating about the reason why Dolabella, after trying to increase his republican credentials with the destruction of the place of Caesar’s worship, continued to collaborate closely with Antony. As a result, Dolabella, shortly after elevating himself to the stars (or being praised to the sky by people like Cicero: see Fam. 9.14 = 326 SB and Att. 14.15–16 = 369–370 SB), comes back down to earth in terms of republican esteem, and while he is not quite as bad as Antony, his close association with Antony means that he is no longer his old self.

23 quid evenerit postea nescio: nescio governs an indirect question (quid… postea), hence the (perfect) subjunctive evenerit.

24 metum credo valuisse et arma: credo governs an indirect statement with metum and arma — in husteron proteron: the threat of physical violence (arma) induces fear (metum) — as subject accusatives and valuisse as infinitive. As his correspondence shows, Cicero knows that the reasons he gives here are false: Antony won Dolabella over by paying off his debts with public money. See Att. 14.18 = 373 SB and 16.15.1 = 426 SB.

25 effecistique non tu quidem etiam nunc ut similis tui [esset], sed certe [effecisti] ut dissimilis esset sui: and (while) you indeed (tu quidem) did not achieve even now (etiam nunc) that he became like you (tui is the genitive of the personal pronoun in the second person singular depending on similis), you certainly (certe) did manage that he became unlike himself (sui is the genitive of the personal pronoun in the third person singular depending on dissimilis). Cicero is trying to grade political villainy, suggesting that Antony has a corrupting influence on someone of sound moral and political fibre. He perverts Dolabella’s true identity — though falls short of turning him into a spitting image of himself.


67 For Amatius see Cic. Att. 12.49 = 292 SB (20 May 45), then Att. 14.6 = 360 SB (12 April 44), Att. 14.7 = 361 SB and 14.8 = 362 SB (15 April 44) and, for his names, Deniaux (2003).

68 Feeney (1998: 108–10), further Gildenhard (2011: 255–57), on which the following pages are based.

69 Habicht (1956/2017), Price (1984), Badian (1996), Mikalson (1998) (esp. ch. 3: ‘Twenty years of the divine Demetrios Poliorcetes’), and Chaniotis (2003). Flower (2006: 31–34) offers a useful reminder that the transition from deified human to disgraced dead could be a quick one.

70 Ma (2003: 179), with reference to Price (1984); further Stevenson (1996) on the social ideals that informed the elevation of human beings to divine status, Ma (1999/2002) and Chaniotis (2003).

71 Santangelo (2005) and Flower (2006: 302, n. 41; 305, n. 7, and 306, n. 23).

72 Classen (1963: 330).

73 For Sulla’s (religious) self-promotion see frs. 9, 17, 20, 23 Chassignet, further Ramage (1991) and Lewis (1991) (1993: 665–69).

74 Suet. Jul. 5–6, Plu. Caes. 5.

75 Santangelo (2007: 230).