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

Ingo Gildenhard


§ 113: The Res Publica Has Watchers!

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  • 80 The following draws on Wirszubski (1950), Brunt (1988a), Fantham (2005), Cowan (2008), Arena (2007 (...)

1The previous paragraph ended on the dictum that only a life in harmony with the wider civic community guarantees personal safety. Cicero now explores what this general truth implies for the occasion at hand. A range of political agents (both individual and collective) and entities (populus Romanus, gubernatores rei publicae, res publica, adulescentes nobilissimi) are ready to take a stand against Antony if he persists in behaving like an enemy of the state. Cicero’s tone — set up by another instance of mihi crede — remains aggressively didactic. But the paragraph ends on another gnomic pronouncement. Cicero differentiates between (desirable) pax and (intolerable) servitus and asserts that libertas, without which there cannot be any genuine pax, is a value to die for. His discourse here rises above the level of invective and turns into a personal manifesto about the principles of communal life. His guiding ideas, which will resonate throughout his peroration, are worth a more detailed look, in particular his notion of ‘freedom’ (libertas), which has a complex historical pedigree. Cicero combines at least four different ways of thinking with and about the term:80

  • 81 See e.g. Bradley, K. R. (1994), Fitzgerald (2000), Mouritsen (2011), the papers in Bodel and Schei (...)

2(1) Legal: ancient Rome (just like ancient Greece and other cultures across the ancient Mediterranean) was a slave society, and the institution of slavery shaped every aspect of Greco-Roman life (including literature).81 The most basic meaning of libertas thus concerns the legal distinction between free persons and slaves (with ‘freed(wo)men’, i.e. individuals who had once been enslaved but gained manumission, an intermediary category). As the Digest of Justinian puts it: ‘all humans are either free or slaves’ (1.5.3: omnes homines aut liberi sunt aut servi). This fundamental social divide ultimately informs all the other meanings of libertas. The foundational importance of the distinction between free/slave for the cultural imaginary of ancient Rome invited metaphorical exploitation, even when legal status was not literally at issue. Invoking libertas implied that those deprived of it were reduced to the lowest form of existence, that of slaves. (Modern definitions often work with the idea that slavery is tantamount to ‘social death’.)

3(2) Political: in the civic sphere, two distinct understandings of libertas — one associated with the ruling elite, the other with the people — shaped the practice of politics in republican Rome:

  1. for members of Rome’s ruling elite libertas consisted primarily in the absence of a tyrant or, put differently, the preservation of oligarchic equality that ensured more or less equal opportunities to vie for offices and military commands in the pursuit of power and glory.
  2. for the citizen body more generally, libertas manifested itself primarily in a set of rights and privileges that found expression in the notion of popular sovereignty (not least in passing legislation), the exercise of suffragium (voting), the magistracy of the tribune of the plebs (tasked originally and primarily with protecting the common citizen from abuse by magistrates), and the right to provocatio (i.e. the right of each citizen to appeal to the people against a magistrate who threatened to enforce capital or physical punishment).

4With Caesar’s rise to the dictatorship and his subsequent assassination, both of these traditions fused in interesting ways: they found emblematic articulation in both Caesar’s self-promotion and that of his assassination.

5To start with Caesar: his decision to go to war, he argued, was in part designed to protect libertas, in both the elite and the popular understanding of the term. He pulls off this conceptual caper at Bellum Civile 1.22, which features himself in conversation with one of his senatorial adversaries, Lentulus Spinther:

Cuius orationem Caesar interpellat: se non maleficii causa ex prouincia egressum, sed uti se a contumeliis inimicorum defenderet, ut tribunos plebis in ea re ex civitate expulsos in suam dignitatem restitueret, ut se et populum Romanum factione paucorum oppressum in libertatem uindicaret.

[Caesar interrupts his speech, observing that he had not crossed the boundary of his province with any evil intent, but to defend himself from the insults of his enemies, to restore to their position the tribunes of the people who had been expelled from the civic community in the course of this affair, and to assert the freedom of himself and the Roman people who were oppressed by an oligarchic clique.]

  • 82 Cf. Caesar, Bellum Civile 3.91 (before the decisive battle of Pharsalos): Erat C. Crastinus evocat (...)
  • 83 See further Raaflaub (2003).
  • 84 See Cassius Dio 43.44.1 with Weinstock (1971: 142–43).

6Caesar contends that the senatorial grouping around Pompey formed an oligarchic clique that abused their power so as to deprive himself and the Roman people of their libertas. In his case, the lack of freedom consisted in the refusal of Pompey and his followers to recognize his achievements according to meritocratic criteria: Pompey, so Caesar insinuates in Bellum Civile 1.3, comported himself like a tyrant who would not tolerate a rival, thus violating the principles of oligarchic equality, equal opportunity, and the economy of merit that made up the ‘optimate’ understanding of freedom in politics. (Elsewhere, he prefers to make this point with reference to his dignitas — a notion indicating (earned) rank and standing within the ruling elite, which he here uses with reference to the constitutional status of the tribunes of the people.)82 The ‘popular’ loss of liberty (and notional enslavement of the people) manifested itself above all in the flight of some of the tribunes of the plebs (one of them Antony) from Rome to Caesar’s camp because they feared for their safety after interceding in senatorial proceedings on Caesar’s behalf: this ‘expulsion’ of magistrates charged with upholding the rights of the common citizen served Caesar as a perfect pretext to pursue his personal agenda by violent means: he could claim to be protecting the rights, privileges, and sovereignty of the Roman people.83 Caesar continued to style himself as a proponent of liberty even after gaining autocratic power. Following the Battle of Munda in 45 BCE, the senate honoured him with the title Liberator for having freed Rome from the evil of civil war.84

  • 85 For this argument see Leber (2018).

7Caesar’s assassins, of course, tried to pull off exactly the same conceptual move as the dictator: they w(h)etted their daggers to restore libertas both for themselves and the commonwealth at large, with freedom from tyranny benefitting both the ruling elite (senatus) and the people (populus Romanus). By choosing the label liberatores for the assassins, Cicero might even have been inspired by Caesar’s — from his point of view perverse — cooption of the title Liberator and the ideology of libertas as ideological veneer for his tyrannical regime. It also enabled him to maintain that the assassins freed Rome from Caesar (and are therefore deserving of the highest praise) without, however, restoring libertas to the res publica since Caesar’s underlings, in particular Antony, remain in charge.85

  • 86 See in more detail Arena (2007b).

8(3) Philosophical: after Caesar all but eliminated political libertas (as understood by Cicero), Cicero began to invest in a philosophical notion of freedom, which, in its purest form, does not require a political (or any other) context for its realization: it rests entirely in an internal disposition of virtuous self-sufficiency, embodied by the Stoic sage. Cicero elaborates the idea in his fifth Paradoxon Stoicorum, which maintains Solum sapientem esse liberum, et omnem stultum servum (‘That only the wise man is free, and that every foolish man is a slave’). The fools include all those who are beholden to desires — whether for wealth, political office, or military commands. In his treatise On Duties (de Officiis), composed at the same time as the Philippics, Cicero builds on this Stoic notion of libertas, to develop an understanding of freedom tailor-made for the political struggles of the day. This sense of liberty continues to denote primarily an individual’s ‘freedom from (enslaving) passions’, in particular the desire for glory (Off. 1.68):86

cavenda etiam est gloriae cupiditas, ut supra dixi; eripit enim libertatem, pro qua magnanimis viris omnis debet esse contentio. nec vero imperia expetenda ac potius aut non accipienda interdum aut deponenda non numquam.

[As I said before, we must also beware of desire for glory; for it robs us of liberty, and in defence of liberty a high-spirited man should stake everything. And one ought not to seek military commands; rather they ought sometimes to be declined, sometimes to be resigned.]

9In this passage, Cicero turns the individual who desires gloria and imperia (read: a potential tyrant) into a slave of his passions, while at the same time elevating libertas (both philosophical and, importantly, as we shall see, political) into a priceless good for those ‘high of spirit’. For in this treatise, Cicero imbricates philosophical reflection about the self and its disposition with politics broadly conceived as part of a larger effort to come to terms with the paradox that the same desire for glory and military commands that animated Rome’s rise to imperial greatness also caused the downfall of the libera res publica. To combat the threat of tyranny (a regime that annihilates libertas) Cicero here hammers out a civic ethics in which each individual citizen is co-responsible for protecting the community and the commonwealth from enslavement. The contemporary thrust of his philosophical reflections resonates throughout the work, as in Off. 2.23–24 — a passage worth quoting in full not least since it also offers a philosophical take on the discussion of security in the previous paragraph:

Omnium autem rerum nec aptius est quicquam ad opes tuendas ac tenendas quam diligi nec alienius quam timeri. praeclare enim Ennius ‘Quem metuunt oderunt; quem quisque odit, perisse expetit’. multorum autem odiis nullas opes posse obsistere, si antea fuit ignotum, nuper est cognitum. nec vero huius tyranni solum, quem armis oppressa pertulit civitas ac paret cum maxime mortuo interitus declarat, quantum odium hominum valeat ad pestem, sed reliquorum similes exitus tyrannorum, quorum haud fere quisquam talem interitum effugit. malus enim est custos diuturnitatis metus contraque benivolentia fidelis vel ad perpetuitatem. (24) sed iis, qui vi oppressos imperio coercent, sit sane adhibenda saevitia, ut eris in famulos, si aliter teneri non possunt; qui vero in libera civitate ita se instruunt, ut metuantur, iis nihil potest esse dementius. quamvis enim sint demersae leges alicuius opibus, quamvis timefacta libertas, emergunt tamen haec aliquando aut iudiciis tacitis aut occultis de honore suffragiis. acriores autem morsus sunt intermissae libertatis quam retentae. quod igitur latissime patet neque ad incolumitatem solum, sed etiam ad opes et potentiam valet plurimum, id amplectamur, ut metus absit, caritas retineatur. ita facillime quae volemus et privatis in rebus et in re publica consequemur. etenim qui se metui volent, a quibus metuentur, eosdem metuant ipsi necesse est.

[But, of all motives, none is better adapted to secure influence and hold it fast than love; nothing is more foreign to that end than fear. For Ennius says admirably: ‘Whom they fear they hate. And whom one hates, one hopes to see him dead.’ And we recently discovered, if it was not known before, that no amount of power can withstand the hatred of the many. The death of this tyrant, whose yoke the state endured under the constraint of armed force and whom it still obeys more humbly than ever, though he is dead, illustrates the deadly effects of popular hatred; and the same lesson is taught by the similar fate of all other despots, of whom practically no one has ever escaped such a death. For fear is but a poor safeguard of lasting power; while affection, on the other hand, may be trusted to keep it safe for ever. But those who keep subjects in check by force would of course have to employ severity — masters, for example, toward their servants, when these cannot be held in control in any other way. But those who in a free state deliberately put themselves in a position to be feared are the maddest of the mad. For let the laws be never so much overborne by some one individual’s power, let the spirit of freedom be never so intimidated, still sooner or later they assert themselves either through unvoiced public sentiment, or through secret ballots disposing of some high office of state. Freedom suppressed and again regained bites with keener fangs than freedom never endangered. Let us, then, embrace this policy, which appeals to every heart and is the strongest support not only of security but also of influence and power — namely, to banish fear and cleave to love. And thus we shall most easily secure success both in private and in public life. Furthermore, those who wish to be feared must inevitably be afraid of those whom they intimidate.]

  • 87 See e.g. Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 47, where he explores the possibility that a slave is ‘free i (...)

10To appreciate the pronounced political dimension of Cicero’s philosophy, it is important to note that the philosophical understanding of freedom, i.e. being in rational control of one’s emotions, does not inevitably lead to socio-political activism, an interest in justice, and a diehard dedication to keeping the commonwealth ‘free’. The Stoic thinker Seneca the Younger (4 BCE–65 CE), for instance, writing during the reign of the emperor Nero, uses libertas in the philosophical sense to propound the paradox that a master beholden to his passions is enslaved, whereas his slaves, if they manage to master their emotions and live according to reason, are free. Given that this philosophical freedom is freedom in its supreme form, it is immaterial for Seneca if these philosophically free individuals are legally speaking slaves or live in conditions of political servitude (under a tyrannical regime).87 By contrast, in On Duties Cicero repeatedly criticizes this kind of ‘selfcentred’ philosophical conception of freedom as not good enough: for him, self-control in the form of freedom from noxious desires forms the basis for political engagement designed to ensure the libertas of the civic community and the res publica as well.

  • 88 Caesar figures as rex and his reign as illegitimate regnum or dominatio throughout the corpus of P (...)

11In the Philippics, Cicero, from the outset, looks back in admiration to the assassination of Caesar as a blow for liberty.88 Initially, Antony gave hopeful signs that he would support the restoration of a free and peaceful citizenry and a senate unaffected by anxieties (Phil. 1.4, 31). But (according to Cicero) it soon emerged that the aimed for the same tyrannical power and position (dominatus) as Caesar, enslaving the people in a reign of fear. Against this threat, Cicero marshals the Philippics to establish a universal consensus among the assassins of Caesar (hailed as liberators — liberatores), the rest of the senate, and the people of Rome (as well as Caesar’s adoptive son Caesar Octavianus) to ensure the (political) annihilation of the fledging tyrant Antony in the name of (universal) peace and freedom. The end of Philippic 2 (starting with § 113) is the first time this agenda comes fully into focus. Libertas will remain a rallying cry throughout the rest of the corpus, as Cicero tries to muster support for the violent reconstitution of the libera res publica through the killing of any would-be tyrant, irrespective of whether he addressed the senate or the people (though with certain differences in emphasis). As Cowan (2008: 151) notes, ‘Libertas in the Philippics was used broadly enough to accommodate widely differing understandings of the term (both “optimate” and popularis visions are accounted for) and could, therefore, serve as a platform for trying to generate consensus’. Our paragraph is an excellent illustration of the way in which Cicero tries to merge the elite and the popular sense of (political) libertas: he starts out by imagining the Roman People as the political agent who will confront Antony (Eripiet et extorquebit tibi ista populus Romanus…), but then gradually shifts to the senatorial collective (utinam salvis nobis), singles out generic individuals to whom the Roman people entrust the helm of the state (habet populus Romanus ad quos gubernacula rei publicae deferat), and ends up by hailing members of the traditional senatorial elite (adulescentes nobilissimi) who will take decisive political action on behalf of the commonwealth. (The choice of adulescentes is suitably vague and can conveniently comprise both the liberators who killed Caesar and Caesar’s adoptive son Octavian — elsewhere referred to as iuvenis.)

  • 89 Wirszubski (1950: 95).

12It is important to note, however, that Cicero’s claim that the Roman People were much invested in libertas as a political ideal was by and large wishful thinking: ‘Cicero’s assertion to the contrary notwithstanding [Fam. 10.12.4; Phil. 3.32], it is on the whole true that after the assassination of Caesar the Roman People showed little enthusiasm for the cause of republican freedom’.89

13Eripiet et extorquebit tibi ista populus Romanus, utinam salvis nobis!: Cicero inverts natural word order, leading with the verbs (the futures eripiet and extorquebit — note the alliteration, enhanced by the intervening et — before adding the indirect object (tibi), the direct object (ista), and the subject (populus Romanus). The front-loading of the action is particularly pronounced because the verbs also push back the demonstrative pronoun ista, which, in referring back to armis, provides the bridge to the previous sentence. The popular uprising, so Cicero’s word order optimistically suggests, will be fell and swift.

14utinam salvis nobis!: a nominal ablative absolute salvis nobis (nominal, since it consists of an adjective (salvis) and a personal pronoun (nobis), without a participle) that the particle utinam turns into a wish: ‘I wish we [Cicero refers to himself and his senatorial peers] remain unharmed’. Translators tend to interpret the threat to the physical safety of the senators as coming from the popular uprising: ‘may we be unscathed in the process!’ (Lacey); ‘I pray that we do not perish in the process’ (Shackleton Bailey); and a feeling of unease on Cicero’s part about the people taking matters into their own hands (however welcome their disarmament of Antony’s henchmen might be) is in line with his elite prejudices elsewhere. But this reading produces an odd clash with the following sentence where Antony is clearly identified as the source of danger, and it might thus be better to understand utinam salvis nobis in the sense of ‘may we (still) be unharmed [sc. by you and your henchmen] (when that moment comes)’.

15sed quoquo modo nobiscum egeris, dum istis consiliis uteris, non potes, mihi crede, esse diuturnus: irrespective of the way in which Antony will have ended up dealing with Cicero and the senate (nobiscum — picking up utinam salvis nobis) at present (egeris is second person singular future-perfect active of ago, egi, actum), he will get his comeuppance from the people (non potes, mihi crede, esse diuturnus) if he continues his tyrannical agenda (istis consiliis is the ablative object of the deponent uteris, in the second person singular present indicative).

16etenim ista tua minime avara coniunx, quam ego sine contumelia describo, nimium diu debet populo Romano tertiam pensionem: Cicero chooses to evoke Antony’s violent death via a gratuitous insult to his wife Fulvia. The conceit here is to imagine her in significant debt to the Roman people, of which she has so far paid two of three instalments quite cheerfully (cf. the deeply ironic minime avara) through (causing) the slaughter of her first two husbands, i.e. Clodius and Curio. The third and final payment, however, i.e. the killing of Antony, is by now long overdue (cf. nimium diu; note the paronomasia minime ~ nimium). Antony, Clodius, and Curio form a disreputable set throughout the speech, with Antony in line for the same fate as Fulvia’s previous spouses. See esp. 2.11: quis autem meum consulatum praeter te et P. Clodium qui vituperaret inventus est? cuius quidem tibi fatum, sicuti C. Curioni, manet, quoniam id domi tuae est quod fuit illorum utrique fatale (‘Who was ever heard abusing my consulship except yourself and Publius Clodius, whose fate awaits you, as it awaited Gaius Curio, since you have that in your house which proved fatal to them both?’). In the Philippics, Fulvia’s hallmarks are greed (avaritia) and cruelty (crudelitas): see 1.33, 2.93, 2.95, 3.4, 3.10, 3.16–17, 4.4, 6.4, and 13.18, with Delia (1991).

17habet populus Romanus ad quos gubernacula rei publicae deferat: Cicero again places the verb upfront (‘The Roman People do have…’). He does not spell out the accusative object of habet (and antecedent of ad quos), inviting the reader to supply a word or phrase (most simply eos — or perhaps something conceptually more elaborate such as principes civitatis). The reference to politically motivated violence in the following sentence (ulta est) suggests that the liberators, and in particular Brutus and Cassius, are foremost in Cicero’s mind. But when it comes to taking on the helm of the state, he will surely also have thought of himself.

18ad quos… deferat: the subjunctive is potential — in the event of a popular uprising that would disempower Antony, there would be other (= better) statesmen around to take the tiller.

19gubernacula rei publicae: the literal meaning of gubernaculum is ‘steering-oar of a ship’, here used pars pro toto in what is known as the ‘ship-of-state metaphor’: see § 92 above.

20qui ubicumque terrarum sunt, ibi omne est rei publicae praesidium vel potius ipsa res publica, quae se adhuc tantum modo ulta est, nondum reciperavit: qui is a connecting relative (= et ii), ubicumque a relative adverb (corresponding with ibi), here construed with the partitive genitive terrarum: ‘And wherever in all the lands these men are, there is…’ In the main clause, Cicero brings into play an issue that preoccupied him greatly throughout his career: what does the res publica ultimately consist in — and where is it located?

21Depending on his genre of writing and (constantly changing) personal circumstances, he gave different answers to these questions. Initially, his geopolitical outlook on the world was emphatically Romanocentric. Unlike his military-minded senatorial peers, who vied with each other over provincial commands and considered the periphery the place where they could acquire wealth and reputation, Cicero preferred the civic setting of Rome to advance his career. During his consulship he even bargained away a potentially lucrative provincial command in return for support from his consular colleague in the suppression of Catiline’s conspiracy. In 58–57 BCE, he had to adjust his views when he was forced into exile — an experience that ruptured the way in which his personal and political identity had so far interlocked with a physical presence in Rome. Instead, he became invested in a new form of megalomania, claiming that the Roman commonwealth joined him in exile, according to the principle ubi ego, ibi res publica. The notion that one individual ‘embodied’ the commonwealth made it possible to uproot the res publica from the urban topography of power — the physical setting for the institutions and procedures that comprised Roman republican politics. (Not coincidentally, this personification of the commonwealth is a figure of thought appealing to exiles: compare the claim of Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970) during WW II that the ‘true France’ was not the regime of Nazi-collaborators located in Vichy, but his exile government and the resistance.)

22Still, Cicero was thoroughly miserable in exile and could not wait to return to Rome. When civil war broke out a few years later and Pompey planned to pull a similar stunt, taking the res publica into exile with him, Cicero strongly objected to Pompey’s decision to cede Rome and Italy to Caesar. This policy of retreat, he argued in the first letter to Atticus after the crossing of the Rubicon, ignored the salient fact that the res publica was rooted in the religious topography of the city (Att. 7.11.3 = 134 SB):

redeamus ad nostrum. per fortunas, quale tibi consilium Pompei uidetur? hoc quaero, quid urbem reliquerit; ego enim ἀπορῶ. tum nihil absurdius. urbem tu relinquas? ergo idem, si Galli uenirent. ‘non est’ inquit ‘in parietibus res publica.’ at in aris et focis. ‘fecit Themistocles.’ fluctum enim totius barbariae ferre urbs una non poterat. at idem Pericles non fecit anno fere post quinquagesimo, cum praeter moenia nihil teneret; nostri olim urbe reliqua capta arcem tamen retinuerunt.

[To come back to our friend. What do you think, for heaven’s sake, of Pompey’s line — I mean, why has he abandoned Rome? I don’t know what to make of it. At the time it looked the most senseless thing. Abandon Rome? I suppose you would have done the same if the Gauls were coming? ‘House walls’ he might answer ‘don’t make the Republic.’ But altars and hearthstones do. ‘Themistocles did it.’ Yes, because one city could not stand against the tide of the whole barbarian world. But Pericles did not half a century later, though he held nothing except the town walls. Our own forebears still held the citadel after the rest of Rome was in enemy hands.]

23In other words, he had no idea of the military realities, then — hopeless as Demosthenes.

24At the time of the Philippics, circumstances had changed yet again. The civic unrest in Rome in the wake of Caesar’s assassination forced Brutus and his fellow conspirators to leave Rome and then also Italy. As Cicero notes at Philippic 1.6: patriae liberatores urbe carebant ea cuius a cervicibus iugum servile deiecerant… (‘the liberators of their country were banished from the city whose neck they had released from slavery…’). With the centre in the violent grasp of Antony and his henchmen and the republican heroes operating on the imperial periphery, Cicero’s res publica needs to put her travelling boots back on. See Hodgson (2017: 216) (with reference to Dawes 2008: 271): ‘Whereas Phil. 1 provided concrete criticism and recommendations, this formula returns us to the realm of a wandering res publica, which “defies locality and a definite semantic meaning” and is defined more in “moral rather than constitutional” terms’.

25quae se adhuc tantum modo ulta est, nondum reciperavit: a powerful personification of the res publica, who is the subject of the reflexive ulta est and reciperavit (se is to be construed with both verbs). More commonly, human agents avenge, liberate, or restore the commonwealth (also in passive construction with implied human agency: ‘the commonwealth ought to be restored’, ‘with the commonwealth having been restored’). Here Cicero says that the commonwealth avenged itself, but has not yet regained its former strength. The relative clause raises the question whether the assassination of Caesar has been sufficient to restore the commonwealth to its pre-Caesarian form — or whether further drastic actions are required. The matter receives constant airing in his contemporary correspondence.

26habet quidem certe res publica adulescentis nobilissimos paratos defensores: Cicero again starts with the verb, reinforced by the particle quidem and the adverb certe: ‘Yes, indeed, the commonwealth does surely have…’. paratos defensores is the accusative object, with adulescentis (= adulescentes) nobilissimos in apposition: ‘defenders ready to act, young men of the most illustrious ancestry’. (nobilis denotes a person with a consul in their lineage.) The first individuals who come to mind are Cassius and Brutus (both in their early forties — but Roman age labels are quite flexible: see above 132–33), but Cicero may also have been thinking of Caesar Octavianus (23 September 63 BCE–19 August 14 CE), who was 19 at the time.

27quam volent illi cedant otio consulentes; tamen a re publica revocabuntur: volent and revocabuntur are in the future tense, cedant is in the present subjunctive: ‘Those may withdraw as they will wish, with a mind to preserving peace’. (consulentes is the present active participle in the nominative plural, used intransitively and governing the dative otio.) Cicero refers to the decision of the conspirators to withdraw from Italy out of fear that their presence would result in renewed outbreak of civil warfare. He appreciates their desire to maintain peace, but at the same time evokes the scenario of a call to arms issued by the commonwealth: tamen a re publica revocabuntur again personifies the res publica, which here appears in the ablative of agency.

28et nomen pacis dulce est et ipsa res [est] salutaris; sed inter pacem et servitutem plurimum interest: Cicero is all for peace: the word itself is sweet and the actual state (res) beneficial. But there is a world of difference (cf. the superlative plurimum) between peace and servitude. He already explored the thematic nexus of libertas / servitus and pax towards the end of Philippic 1, where he praises Antony for his initial commitment to concord and collaboration in the hours and days right after Caesar’s assassination, which freed the senate and the rest of the citizenry from fear and manifested itself not least in his willingness to hand over his son as a ‘hostage of peace’ (pacis obses) to the conspirators holed up on the Capitol (31). And in the following paragraph he programmatically endorses libertas as foundation for pax (Phil. 1.32: Tum denique liberati per viros fortissimos videbamur, quia, ut illi voluerant, libertatem pax consequebatur). It remains a permanent theme throughout the rest of the corpus. See e.g. Phil. 8.12: Sed quaeso, Calene, quid tu? servitutem pacem vocas? (‘But I ask you Calenus, what do you mean? do you call slavery peace?’).

29nomen pacis: pacis is an ‘appositional genitive’ with nomen, used instead of apposition to specify the contents of the noun on which it depends. English prefers apposition: ‘The word “peace”’.

30ipsa res: i.e. ‘peace’.

31plurimum interest: plurimum is the neuter accusative singular used adverbially, a so-called ‘internal’ or ‘adverbial’ accusative modifying the verb — here specifying the extent of the difference between pax and servitus: it could not be greater.

32pax est tranquilla libertas, servitus [est] postremum malorum omnium non modo bello sed morte etiam repellendum: postremum, the superlative of posterus here construed with the partitive genitive malorum omnium, is a (substantival) adjective in the neuter singular functioning as complement to the subject of the sentence (Pinkster 2015: 768): ‘servitude is the worst of all evils…’. It is further modified by the gerundive repellendum (‘to be rejected…’). bello and morte are most poignantly understood as ablatives of price: ‘not only at the price of war but even of death’ (Shackleton Bailey).

  • 90 See e.g. Phil. 3.29, 5.9, or 10.19. There is also a parallel discussion at de Officiis 1.57. Thoug (...)

33In 48 BCE, after Pompey’s defeat at Pharsalus and his death shortly thereafter, Cicero decided to cease fighting and return to Caesar-occupied Italy. As a result, he found himself forced to justify a conciliatory stance towards Caesar that grated with those who wanted nothing to do with Caesar and continued to fight and ended up either dead (like Cato) or in exile, banned by dictatorial edict from re-entering Italy. His uncompromising attitude towards Antony may be explained in part as an (over-) reaction to his earlier willingness to play ball with a tyrannical regime. Cicero seems to have told himself ‘Never Again!’. The possibility of tolerable subservience that he chose for himself under Caesar has ceased to be an option. In the Philippics, the alternative is stark: either death for Antony and liberty for the commonwealth or Antony triumphant and slavery and/or death for Rome. Our passage here has many parallels in the later speeches.90


80 The following draws on Wirszubski (1950), Brunt (1988a), Fantham (2005), Cowan (2008), Arena (2007b) and (2012), all with further bibliography. Some further aspects of libertas — such as its role in international relations, for instance, are less pertinent here.

81 See e.g. Bradley, K. R. (1994), Fitzgerald (2000), Mouritsen (2011), the papers in Bodel and Scheidel (2016), and Hunt (2018).

82 Cf. Caesar, Bellum Civile 3.91 (before the decisive battle of Pharsalos): Erat C. Crastinus evocatus in exercitu Caesaris, qui superiore anno apud eum primum pilum in legione X duxerat, vir singulari virtute. hic signo dato, ‘sequimini me,’ inquit, ‘manipulares mei qui fuistis, et vestro imperatori quam constituistis operam date. unum hoc proelium superest; quo confecto et ille suam dignitatem et nos nostram libertatem recuperabimus.’ [There was in Caesar’s army a reservist, G. Crastinus, Mr. Morrow, who in the previous year (get it?) had served under him as first centurion in the Tenth Legion, a man of remarkable courage. On the signal being given, he said: ‘Follow me, who have been my comrades, and give your commander your usual loyal service. This one battle alone remains; when it is over he will recover his dignity and we our liberty.’]

83 See further Raaflaub (2003).

84 See Cassius Dio 43.44.1 with Weinstock (1971: 142–43).

85 For this argument see Leber (2018).

86 See in more detail Arena (2007b).

87 See e.g. Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 47, where he explores the possibility that a slave is ‘free in spirit’ (liber animo), whereas those who are supposedly free are enslaved to various emotions and desires: alius libidini servit, alius avaritiae, alius ambitioni, omnes spei, omnes timori.

88 Caesar figures as rex and his reign as illegitimate regnum or dominatio throughout the corpus of Philippics. Conversely, from Philippic 1 onwards Cicero hails Brutus and Cassius for restoring libertas and rescuing res publica and patria from regnum, dominatio, and servitus. See e.g. Phil. 1.13: fuerit ille L. Brutus qui et ipse dominatu regio rem publicam liberavit et ad similem virtutem et simile factum stirpem iam prope in quingentesimum annum propagavit — ‘Let us say it was Lucius Brutus, who freed the Commonwealth from regal despotism and now, almost five hundred years later, has inspired his descendants to a courage and a deed like to his own…’. See further Stevenson (2008: 106).

89 Wirszubski (1950: 95).

90 See e.g. Phil. 3.29, 5.9, or 10.19. There is also a parallel discussion at de Officiis 1.57. Though Cicero also concedes — realizing his own track record — that suicide to escape a tyrannical regime, however admirable and appropriate in the case of Cato the Younger, is not necessarily the best option for everyone.