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

Ingo Gildenhard


§ 115: Looking for the Taste of (Genuine) Glory…

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1In his treatise On Duties, Cicero explains the reasons for the catastrophic self-laceration of republican Rome as follows (Off. 1.26):

Maxime autem adducuntur plerique ut eos iustitiae capiat oblivio cum in imperiorum honorum gloriae cupiditatem inciderunt. Quod enim est apud Ennium: ‘nulla sancta societas nec fides regni est’, id latius patet. Nam quidquid eius modi est in quo non possint plures excellere, in eo fit plerumque tanta contentio ut difficillimum sit servare ‘sanctam societatem’. Declaravit id modo temeritas C. Caesaris, qui omnia iura divina et humana pervertit propter eum quem sibi ipse opinionis errore finxerat principatum. Est autem in hoc genere molestum, quod in maximis animis splendidissimisque ingeniis plerumque existunt honoris imperii potentiae gloriae cupiditates.

[Above all, however, most are brought to the point of becoming oblivious to the demands of justice when they lapse into desire for military commands, political offices, and glory. Ennius’words ‘No inviolate community nor trust exists under kingship’ have a wider application. Any aspect, in which it is impossible for many to be pre-eminent, tends to generate such competition that it becomes exceedingly difficult to preserve an ‘inviolate community’. The rashness of Gaius Caesar has demonstrated this recently: he overthrew all divine and human laws on account of the single rule that he had imagined for himself out of an erroneous belief. What irritates in this scenario is the fact that often the desires for public office, military command, raw power, and glory exist in the greatest souls and the most outstanding talents.]

2Cicero’s argument here unfolds against the backdrop of Rome’s political culture, which he evokes at both the beginning and the end of the passage: imperia (military commands) and honores (public offices) are the two principal means of attracting praise (laus) and acquiring renown (gloria), a core ambition of Rome’s ruling elite. Yet, shockingly, he presents these desirables and their pursuit as fostering civil strife (cf. tanta contentio), the rise of a single ruler (principatus), and the perversion of anything that is right and just. In effect, Cicero here questions nothing less than the basic principles of Roman republican culture, defined as it was by competition among members of the elite for magistracies, military commands, and battlefield glory: in his view, this desire for political success and public recognition of excellence undermines the bonds that hold civic communities together once it becomes oblivious to the demands of justice. Proceeding from the general to the specific, he first introduces the spectre of kingship or tyranny by means of a quotation from Ennius, before invoking recent Roman history and the breakdown of the libera res publica through Caesar’s bloody usurpation of power. In his passionate, yet utterly misguided pursuit of single rule he rashly overturned all divine and human laws; his despotism thereby emerges as irreconcilably at variance with, indeed destructive of, the basic qualities that unite and animate a commonwealth: sancta societas and fides.

  • 94 See Tusc. 3.2–6 with Gildenhard (2007: 167–87) and Off. 2.31–38 with Dyck (1996).
  • 95 See further Long (1995), Christian (2008: 157–60), Gildenhard (2011), Ch. 5: ‘Definition and the P (...)

3According to Cicero, then, the ultimate root of the evils affecting Roman politics are the wrongheaded priorities, mistaken beliefs in what is desirable, and blatant ignorance of what truly matters (cf. opinione erroris ~ erroneous belief) that affect and poison the conduct of his senatorial peers, who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of misguided glory. The (rhetorical) distinction between gloria as conventionally, but — so Cicero argues — wrongly, conceived and ‘true glory’ (vera gloria, vera laus) enables him to invalidate the cultural certainties that his fellow citizens lived (and died) by. He gave the matter sustained discussion in several of his philosophical writings, including the Tusculan Disputations, the de Officiis, and, presumably, the lost de Gloria.94 It figures prominently in the speech on behalf of Marcellus — a piece of epideictic rhetoric that gives thanks to Caesar in person for pardoning Marcellus, one of his most inveterate enemies, a [blatantly un-civic] act which Cicero hails as ‘truly’ much more glorious than any of Caesar’s [really laudable] military victories. And it is a constant presence in the Philippics, from the first oration onwards. Addressing Antony’s colleague in the consulship Dolabella towards the end of the speech, he is willing to grant the consular duo, nobiles homines that they are and motivated by great aspirations, that they do not aim (as some wrongly suppose) ‘for wealth obtained by violence and power unendurable by the Roman people’ (opes violentas et populo Romano minime ferendam potentiam); rather, they genuinely desire the affection of their fellowcitizens and glory (caritatem civium et gloriam) (1.29). He then proceeds to (re-) define gloria as follows (1.29):95

Est autem gloria laus recte factorum magnorumque in rem publicam meritorum, quae cum optimi cuiusque, tum etiam multitudinis testimonio comprobatur.

[Glory, moreover, consists in the public acclaim derived from honorable deeds and great services benefiting the commonwealth, approved by the testimony of the best and also by that of the multitude.]

4This definition of gloria, which places the emphasis squarely on civic ethics rather than martial prowess in insisting that deeds only result in renown (gloria) if they meet moral criteria (cf. recte factorum), benefit the commonwealth, and find the approval of the elite and the people at large, is strikingly unorthodox. Unfortunately, Antony, says Cicero, only has a dim understanding of what true glory entails: he acquired some when he abolished the office of dictator, but then squandered it all in his ignorance (Phil. 1.33):

Num te, cum haec pro salute rei publicae tanta gessisses, fortunae tuae, num amplitudinis, num claritatis, num gloriae paenitebat? unde igitur subito tanta ista mutatio?… illud magis vereor, ne, ignorans verum iter gloriae, gloriosum putes plus te unum posse quam omnes et metui a civibus tuis quam diligi malis. quod si ita putas, totam ignoras viam gloriae. carum esse civem, bene de re publica mereri, laudari, coli,

5diligi gloriosum est; metui vero et in odio esse invidiosum, detestabile, imbecillum, caducum.

[Did you, after these great achievements for the welfare of the commonwealth, regret your fortune, your distinction, your renown, your glory? Why, then, did you experience such a sudden and significant change of heart?… What I more fear is that, blind to the true path of glory, you may think it glorious to possess in your single self more power than all, and to be feared by your fellow-citizens. If you think so, you are totally ignorant of the true way to glory. To be a citizen dear to all, to deserve well of the commonwealth, to be praised, courted, loved, is glorious; but to be feared and an object of hatred is invidious, detestable, a proof of weakness and decay.]

6In contrast, the assassins know what true glory consists in (Phil. 2.5, 33, 86, 114, 117) — as does Caesar Octavianus, unlike his adoptive father (Phil. 5.49). Cicero closes rank against Antony around the notion of two variants of glory — genuine renown (such as that enjoyed by the liberators) that thrives in a functioning commonwealth and its perverse counterfeit pursued by Caesar and now Antony, which is based on a confusion of power and glory.

7In our paragraph, Cicero replays the ending of the first Philippic: he again begins by praising Antony for abolishing the office of dictator, only to dwell on his subsequent U-turn, caused by his pathological inability to grasp the true nature of glory.

8 Recordare igitur illum, M. Antoni, diem quo dictaturam sustulisti: recordare is the second person imperative singular of the deponent recordor, going with the vocative M. Antoni. The antecedent of the relative pronoun quo (an ablative of time) is diem: ‘Recall that day on which…’. For Antony’s motion that outlawed the act of proposing anyone to be appointed dictator see § 91 above.

9 pone ante oculos laetitiam senatus populique Romani, confer [eam] cum hac nundinatione tua tuorumque: Cicero delivers two further imperative blows (pone, confer) in asyndetic sequence, inviting him to visualize (pone ante oculos) the joy he managed to spark when he scrapped the dictatorship and compare it to his disgraceful pursuit of tyrannical self-enrichment shortly thereafter: he refers to Antony putting the res publica up for sale for personal gain (see § 92 above). His close friends and relatives profited from the process as well (§ 93: sunt ea quidem innumerabilia quae a tuis emebantur non insciente te: ‘the items bought by persons close to you, and not without your knowledge, are innumerable’). laetitiam is the accusative object of both imperatives. The comparison is either (a) compressed or (b) imprecise. (a) Cicero asks Antony to compare joy with an (unspecified) negative emotion such as grief (dolor) at the trafficking (nundinatio) in favours that he and those close to him engaged in after the Ides of March. (b) Cicero compares the emotional reaction to a laudable deed (laetitia) with a contemptible action (nundinatio).

10The governing word of tuorum is nundinatione: the -que after tuorum thus coordinates the possessive adjective tua and the possessive genitive tuorum. This is one of only six instances in which Cicero ends a sentence on the enclitic -que (Kraus 1992: 321).

  • 96 Laetitia in this sense later became an element of imperial ideology: see Noreña (2011: 171–74): ‘t (...)

11In his philosophical dialogue Tusculan Disputations, Cicero classifies ‘excessive’ (gestiens) laetitia (together with aegritudo, metus, and libido) as a mental disturbance to be avoided (Tusc. 4.8, elaborated at 4.13). In his orations, he tends to be rather less po-faced about emotions, and ‘joy’ (laetitia — though not the excessive variety) becomes another criterion for dividing the world into ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’. Cicero is here in part responding to Antony’s assertion that he experienced heinous and homicidal glee (laetitia) at the deaths of Clodius (2.21: at laetatus sum. quid ergo? in tanta laetitia cunctae civitatis me unum tristem esse oportebat?) and Caesar (2.29: tu autem, omnium stultissime, non intellegis, si, id quod me arguis, voluisse interfici Caesarem crimen sit, etiam laetatum esse morte Caesaris crimen esse?). Instead, he endorses a salvific variant of reciprocal joyfulness on the part of both public benefactors and their beneficiaries, which he already outlined at the end of the first Philippic. See Phil. 1.30 (addressing Dolabella): Quem potes recordari in vita illuxisse tibi diem laetiorem, quam cum, expiatio foro, dissipato concursu impiorum, principibus sceleris poena affectis, urbe incendio et caedis metu liberata, te domum recepisti? (‘What day can you recall in life that shone upon you more joyously than that in which, when the Forum had been purged, concourse of impious wretches scattered, the ringleaders of the crime punished, the city delivered from burning and the fear of massacre, you betook yourself home?’) There were moments when Antony participated in this economy: when he surrendered his son as hostage to the conspirators, the senate and the people of Rome were overjoyed (Phil. 1.32: quo senatus die laetior, quo populus Romanus?). But he has since then lost his way, exulting over the destruction of normal senatorial proceedings (§ 109); and he remains unaffected by the joy of right-minded citizens over civic-minded actions.96

12 senatus populique Romani: senatus populusque Romanus (here in the genitive singular dependent on laetitiam) is how Rome’s political community self-identified. The City Council of Rome (Comune di Roma) still uses SPQR as its official emblem today: you’ll find it embossed on all manhole covers, for instance.

13 tum intelleges, quantum inter lucrum et laudem intersit: the interrogative adverb quantum (how much?) introduces an indirect question (hence the subjunctive intersit). There are various ways to reproduce the deftly alliterated phrase lucrum et laudem in English: gain and glory, profit and plaudits, riches and renown, cash and kudos, lucre and laudation, Mammon and merit… It’s the same principle of verbal homophony / conceptual polarity as ‘chalk and cheese’. As Lacey (1986: 241) notes, ‘laudem starts a series of echoes’: see verae laudis gustatum, laus, laudo in the following sentences.

14 sed nimirum, ut quidam morbo aliquo et sensus stupore suavitatem cibi non sentiunt, sic libidinosi, avari, facinerosi verae laudis gustatum non habent: Cicero launches into an analogy (ut… sic): just as people whose taste buds are affected by illness have lost the ability to savour food, so various kinds of scumbags are unable to appreciate true glory. The diagnosis of socio-pathologies is a standard move in Cicero’s invective repertory. quidam (masculine nominative plural: ‘some’) is the subject of the well-crafted ut-clause: note the chiastic hendiadys morbo aliquo et sensus stupore, the persistent s-alliteration (sensus, stupore, suavitatem, sentiunt) and the figura etymologica (sensus… sentiunt). quidam correlates with the three adjectives in asyndetic sequence used as nouns in the sic-clause: libidinosi (‘the libidinous’), avari (‘the greedy’), and facinerosi (‘the criminal’).

15 morbo aliquo et sensus stupore: morbo and stupore are causal ablatives best understood as a hendiadys: ‘because of numbness of perception caused by some disease’. The two nouns are modified, respectively, by a pronominal adjective (aliquo) and an adnominal genitive (sensus): the arrangement is chiastic.

16 sed si te laus adlicere ad recte faciendum non potest, ne metus quidem a foedissimis factis potest avocare?: the conditional sequence cast as a rhetorical question offers Antony two possible reasons for behaving in a civic-minded fashion: in the (negated) si-clause Cicero mentions the ideal scenario only to rule it out: it consists in the prospect of renown (laus) exercising sufficient positive pull towards acting in the right way (adlicere ad). Conversely, the apodosis outlines the minimalist alternative of acceptable behaviour, i.e. fear (of punishment) holding Antony back from the vilest deeds (a… avocare correlates with adlicere ad…), which, so the rhetorical question implies, Antony does not meet either. The superlative foedissimis is deliberate: Cicero does not even demand abstention from foeda facta, just those that are vile in the extreme. The figura etymologica is profoundly pessimistic: ad recte faciendum is mentioned as a counterfactual possibility, the foedissima facta are established facts.

17 Extra information:
Cicero’s choice of adlicere to capture the attraction of laus to which Antony is not susceptible is curious since it is a verb he elsewhere associates with dubious sensual pleasure. See for instance pro Murena 74, where he mockingly impersonates Cato the Younger objecting to the practice of wooing voters through the provision of sensual pleasures:

At enim agit mecum austere et Stoice Cato, negat verum esse adlici benivolentiam cibo, negat iudicium hominum in magistratibus mandandis corrumpi voluptatibus oportere. ergo, ad cenam petitionis causa si quis vocat, condemnetur? ‘Quippe’ inquit ‘tu mihi summum imperium, tu summam auctoritatem, tu gubernacula rei publicae petas fovendis hominum sensibus et deleniendis animis et adhibendis voluptatibus? utrum lenocinium’ inquit ‘a grege delicatae iuventutis, an orbis terrarum imperium a populo Romano petebas?’

[Cato, however, deals sternly with me like a true Stoic. He says that it is wrong to promote good-will with food and warp men’s judgement by means of pleasure in an election of magistrates. Are we then to condemn everyone who gives an invitation to dinner for this purpose? ‘Am I,’ he says, ‘going to have you seek supreme power, supreme authority, the very government of the State by pandering to men’ s senses, bewitching their minds and plying them with pleasures? Were you asking,’ he says, ‘a gang of spoilt youths for a job as a pimp or the Roman people for world dominion?’]

18As Fantham (2013: 180) notes: ‘the accumulation of strong sensual vocabulary like adlicere and delenire, associated with pleasure, reinforces the contrast between the solemn metaphor of gubernacula and the image of the pander appealing to susceptible young men’.

19 iudicia non metuis? si propter innocentiam [non metuis], laudo; sin propter vim [non metuis], non intellegis, qui isto modo iudicia non timeat, ei quid timendum sit?: Cicero imagines a gesture of dismissal on Antony’s part in response to the threat of legal proceedings. In turn, he once more affirms his ethics of praise, contrasting personal integrity (innocentia), which entails laus, with the reliance on the illegitimate use of physical force (vis). He ends by stressing that Antony’s trust in vis is misplaced: as history shows, strongman-politics results in violent resistance. ei is dative of authorship (with the gerundive timendum sit) and the antecedent of qui. Translate in the following order: non intellegis quid ei timendum sit (indirect question), qui…. Dependence on vis, far from quelling fear, ought to generate it.


94 See Tusc. 3.2–6 with Gildenhard (2007: 167–87) and Off. 2.31–38 with Dyck (1996).

95 See further Long (1995), Christian (2008: 157–60), Gildenhard (2011), Ch. 5: ‘Definition and the Politics of Truth’, and Chang (2013: 110–34).

96 Laetitia in this sense later became an element of imperial ideology: see Noreña (2011: 171–74): ‘the “happiness” of the emperor and that of the empire’ s inhabitants, intimately connected through this constellation of concepts [sc. felicitas, hilaritas, laetitia], helped to maintain the notional community of interests between emperor and subject’.


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