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

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Ingo Gildenhard

Commentary

§ 111: A Final Look at Antony’s Illoquence

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1Cicero concludes his examination of Antony’s inconsistency in handling Caesar and his legacy by lambasting him a final time for his alleged lack of eloquence: put on the spot to defend his policies Antony (so Cicero insinuates) will have nothing to say. His abject failure to articulate himself in supple and muscular speech stands in dismal contrast to the heights of eloquence achieved by his grandfather — Antony is the sad offspring of a once great family. The paragraph thus also brings to a close the competition in eloquence that runs throughout Philippic 2 from § 2 onwards.

2Quaeris placeatne mihi pulvinar esse, fastigium, flaminem: Cicero imagines Antony asking whether he approves of the divine honours awarded to Caesar — given his curious insistence that they are properly observed. The inverted word order, with the verb placeat up front, conveys a sense of challenge and surprise in Antony’s imagined interjection. The alliterations placeat – pulvinar and fastigium – flaminem underscore the mocking tone.

3mihi vero nihil istorum placet: sed tu, qui acta Caesaris defendis, quid potes dicere cur alia defendas, alia non cures?: the particle vero here emphasizes the personal pronoun mihi and reinforces the way in which Cicero continues on from the previous sentence chiastically:… placeatne mihi:: mihi… placet. His response to Antony’s imagined query amounts to a sarcastic rejection (‘As should be obvious, I approve of none of these!’), which serves him as base to revisit Antony’s inconsistent approach to Caesar’s religious-political patrimony.

4nihil istorum: strongly contemptuous, referring back to pulvinar, fastigium, and flaminem.

5sed tu: in sharp antithesis to mihi vero, reinforced by chiasmus and prolepsis (the tu is the subject of the quid-potes clause).

6quid potes dicere cur alia defendas, alia non cures: the adverb cur can be either interrogative or (as here) relative, when it is usually followed by the subjunctive (cf. defendas, cures), especially in the idiom quid est cur? (OLD s.v. cur 3): ‘what can you say on account of which…’, ‘what can you say that justifies that…’

7alia… alia…: ‘some others’, picking up acta Caesaris.

8[potes dicere nihil] nisi forte vis fateri te omnia quaestu tuo, non illius dignitate metiri: Cicero suppresses the implied answer to his rhetorical question (i.e. ‘you can say nothing’) before adding ‘the truth’ in a conditional proviso (nisi forte…). vis is the second person singular present indicative active of volo, velle, ‘to want’. It takes the supplementary infinitive fateri (a deponent), which governs an indirect statement with te as subject accusative and metiri as infinitive: ‘… unless perhaps you want to confess that you measure all things by your own profit, not by Caesar’ s honour’.

9forte: the adverb drips irony: ‘on the off-chance’ (you wish to tell the truth).

10quaestu tuo, non illius dignitate metiri: the basic meaning of metiri is ‘to measure’, and Latin expresses the standard by which something is measured — here Antony’s personal profit (quaestu) rather than the honour (dignitate) of Caesar — in the so-called ‘ablative of measurement’. quaestu tuo:: illius dignitate forms a contrastive chiasmus with non as pivot.

11quid ad haec tandem [respondebis]?: the adverb tandem is ‘used to emphasize an asseveration, expressing a strong sense of protest or (as here) impatience’ (OLD s.v. 1): ‘so, what will you reply to this?’ The verb has to be supplied: cf. below respondebisne ad haec…?

12exspecto enim eloquentiam: disertissimum cognovi avum tuum, at te etiam apertiorem in dicendo: enim gives the assertion exspecto… eloquentiam a deeply ironic appeal to interpersonal consensus (Kroon (1995: 202). Cicero then explains why he has such high expectations of Antony’s rhetorical ability: his grandfather Marcus Antonius was supremely eloquent — and Antony has a track record of being even ‘more outgoing’ in public speech, so he should be well poised to answer back eloquently now. However, a double entendre in apertiorem turns the apparent praise into an insult: in the sense of ‘open-hearted’, ‘frank’, apertus is an attribute of high praise in Cicero. See e.g. On the Commonwealth (de Republica) 3.26: de viro bono quaeritur, quem apertum et simplicem volumus esse (‘the search is for a good man, whom we want to be open and frank’) or On Duties (de Officiis) 1.109: sunt his alii multum dispares, simplices et aperti, qui nihil ex occulto, nihil de insidiis agendum putant, veritatis cultores, fraudis inimici… (‘Then there are others, quite different from these, straightforward and open, who think that nothing should be done by underhand means or treachery. They are lovers of truth, haters of fraud…’). The implication is that the speaker bares his mind (ad Familiares 1.9.22: animum… cum magnum et excelsum tum etiam apertum et simplicem — ‘a high-minded, unselfish, frank, and straightforward disposition’) or heart (de Amicitia 97: apertum pectus). But as the following sentence makes clear, with reference to Antony, Cicero understands the ‘baring’ literally, not metaphorically (apertus = nudus): unlike his grandfather, Antony once spoke buck naked — a reference to his shocking state of dishabille when addressing the people at the Lupercalia in his jockstrap.

13cognovi: the verb coordinates a pair of accusative objects (avum tuum, te) each with an attribute in predicative position. The arrangement is chiastic: disertissimum: avum tuum:: te: apertiorem (in dicendo), which reinforces the contrast between Antony and his grandfather, just as the adversative particle at placed at the centre of the design.

14disertissimum… avum tuum: Cicero already held up Antony’s grandfather Marcus Antonius (143–87 BCE) as a model of excellence towards the end of Philippic 1.34:

Utinam, M. Antoni, avum tuum meminisses! de quo tamen audisti multa ex me eaque saepissime. putasne illum immortalitatem mereri voluisse, ut propter armorum habendorum licentiam metueretur? illa erat vita, illa secunda fortuna, libertate esse parem ceteris, principem dignitate.

[Marcus Antonius, I wish you remembered your grandfather! Though of him you have heard much from me and very often. Do you think that he would have wished to earn immortality by being feared for his ability to keep an armed guard? To him life, to him prosperous fortune, was to be equal to all others in freedom and the first in distinction.]

15And in Philippic 2.42, Cicero draws a sharp contrast between Antony’s and his grandfather’s way with words: vide autem quid intersit inter te et avum tuum. ille sensim dicebat quod causae prodesset; tu cursim dicis aliena (‘observe, however, the contrast between you and your grandfather: he spoke cautiously using words that helped his case; you produce irrelevant drivel’). As van der Blom (2010: 95) elaborates: ‘Cicero often refers to the importance of choosing an exemplum within the family, especially if the family formed part of the nobility. Cicero’s appeal for the imitation of family exempla and his praise or blame of a specific choice formed part of his (alleged) efforts to steer his subject in a specific direction and, in particular, to pass a public judgement on his subject’. She discusses this strategy with specific reference to the Philippics, where Cicero more than once brings Antony’s grandfather into play — whom he had already memorialized as a paragon of eloquence in his dialogue On the Ideal Orator (de Oratore).

16etiam apertiorem: in classical Latin, ‘the comparative is often strengthened… by the insertion of etiam, even’(Gildersleeve & Lodge 190).

17ille numquam nudus est contionatus: tuum hominis simplicis pectus vidimus: Cicero now resolves the puzzle built into the previous sentence by upbraiding Antony once more for his sartorial negligence at the Lupercalia. His emulation of his grandfather in being an upfront and free-spoken (apertus) speaker found infamous expression in him going full frontal with the crowd at the Lupercalia — not a feat grandad can rival, as Cicero notes with sardonic alliteration (numquam nudus).

18tuum hominis simplicis pectus: Cicero here compresses two related constructions, the possessive adjective (tuum pectus) and the possessive genitive (hominis simplicis pectus). See Pinkster (2015: 1066): ‘Since possessive adjectives to some extent function as genitives of corresponding personal pronouns, it is not surprising to find instances where a descriptive Noun Phrase in the genitive functions as apposition with a possessive adjective’. ‘We saw your chest — the chest of a plain (sincere/simple-minded) human being’. Like apertus, simplex can have a range of meanings: in a positive sense it is a virtual synonym of apertus (‘sincere’); Cicero in fact often uses the two terms together (see the passages cited above). But it can also have the pejorative sense of ‘plain’, ‘naive’, ‘simple minded’, ‘unsophisticated’. The oscillation between a literal and a metaphorical sense also applies to pectus, which can mean both ‘chest’ and ‘personality’: so Antony revealed not just his body, but also what kind of person he is.

19vidimus: first person plural perfect active indicative. Cicero identifies with the senatorial collective that witnessed Antony’s strip-show.

20respondebisne ad haec, aut omnino hiscere audebis?: aut extends the first part of the question by rephrasing it slightly: ‘Will you reply to this, or, put differently, will you dare to open your mouth at all?’

21ecquid reperies ex tam longa oratione mea cui te respondere posse confidas?: ecquid is an interrogative pronoun in the neuter accusative, the object of reperies (second person singular future indicative active) and the antecedent of the relative pronoun cui. The assonance (ecquid cui) and alliteration (reperies respondere) might have been part of the reason why Cicero changes the construction of respondere + ad in the previous sentence to respondere + dative (cui) here. te and respondere are the subject accusative and infinitive of an indirect statement governed by confidas: ‘Will you find anything in this long speech of mine which you are confident that you can reply to?’

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