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

Ingo Gildenhard


§ 116: Caesar You Are Not!

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  • 97 For a survey of other contemporary assessments of Caesar see Griffin (2009: 3–5).

1Cicero continues to insist that Antony ought to be very much afraid for his life if he continues his pernicious politics of fear. His bodyguard, meant to keep would-be assassins at bay, will not help him in the long run — or, indeed, much longer: even those close to him will sooner than later rise up against him. What renders this apparently counterintuitive claim plausible is the spectre of Caesar: those who did him in included some who had benefitted most from his benevolence. Built into the fate of Caesar is an a-fortiori caution: if even someone like him ran foul of people who ought to have been beholden to him, Antony is all the more likely to meet a nasty end, inferior to the dead dictator as he is in every conceivable respect. Cicero drives home the point that Antony is no Caesar by launching into an enumeration of the qualities of the dead dictator, carefully tempering praise with blame. As in the de Officiis (1.26, cited above 418), Cicero figures Caesar as an outstanding talent who ended up deploying his abundant gifts to the detriment and destruction of Rome’s civic community — and so then got what he had coming.97

  • 98 For senatorial wealth and Roman politics see generally Shatzman (1975), further Andreau (1999: 139 (...)

2A key issue that Cicero struggles with in this paragraph is Caesar’s preternatural ability to render others beholden to him — through personal charm, exceptional generosity, or services rendered that put others in social and financial debt to him. Roman political culture was much invested in reciprocal relations, captured in idiom and imagery of duties, services, gratitude, expectations of reciprocity, as well as binding obligations and loyalties (beneficium, gratia, amicitia, fides, officia, obligare, etc.). Social and financial debts blurred into each other. Those who loaned out money exercised a significant degree of influence over the borrower, who was duty bound to oblige his business associate in other respects as well — beyond the repayment of the debt.98

  • 99 See Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar, 27.1 for details. Cicero, too, was a beneficiary as the reci (...)
  • 100 At pro Plancio 72, Cicero notes that soldiers are reluctant to concede that their life has been sa (...)

3Caesar purported to perform within this traditional paradigm when he distributed favours and largesse to his friends, acquaintances, and the people more generally and exploited the opportunity to generate social and financial debt through interest free loans to the hilt.99 But the most extreme form of ‘obliging’ someone is to exercise leniency towards a (conquered) enemy and spare his life. This scenario, which could only arise in situations of civil conflict, wrecked republican conventions: there is no way to ever properly pay back someone who has saved one’s life — one is forever indebted to (and hence metaphorically beholden, perhaps even enslaved, and certainly resentful of) this person.100

  • 101 See also Cicero, ad Brutum 24: Brutus wouldn’t accept a beneficium or misericordia from Antony.

4How did aristocrats deal with Caesar’s willingness to spare their lives when caught fighting against him? Some simply ignored it and returned to battle — until they were captured again. Caesar mocks such repeat captives badly in his Bellum Civile. Cato, a man of principle, resorted to a more drastic action: terminal withdrawal from the dictator. In Plutarch’s Life of Cato the Younger Cato categorically rejects the notion of begging Caesar for mercy, either directly or through intermediaries — even though he does not force others to adopt the same uncompromising stance: ‘If I were willing to be saved by grace of Caesar, I ought to go to him in person and see him alone; but I am unwilling to be under obligations to the tyrant for his illegal acts. And he acts illegally in saving, as if their master, those over whom he has no right at all to be the lord’ (66).101

5This prehistory to the Ides of March generated the awkward paradox that many of the assassins had their own lives previously spared by the very person whom they murdered. Cicero invested a lot of effort in formulating an ethics of murder, which legitimized the deed as justified — indeed required — tyrannicide, rather than the cold-blooded and ungrateful killing of a lenient benefactor. A large part of his case rests on the denial that a tyrant can engage in meaningful socio-political relationships, let alone an economy of reciprocal obligations. He stands outside any form of human community, indeed is a wild beast that is human in appearance only — a monster that ought to be killed as a matter of civic ethics. See On Duties (de Officiis) 3.32.

6Quod si non metuis viros fortis egregiosque civis, quod a corpore tuo prohibentur armis, tui te, mihi crede, diutius non ferent: quod here has adversative force ‘but if…’ and the indicative metuis implies that the protasis of the conditional sequence introduced by si captures the facts: Antony is unafraid. The second quod is causal (‘because…’). The subject of the main clause is tui (the masculine nominative plural of the possessive adjective tuus, here used as a noun): ‘your men / supporters’; the verb (ferent) is in the future tense; te is the accusative object.

7viros fortis egregiosque civis: the-que after egregios links viros and civis. The design of this majestic accusative object (placed emphatically at the end of the quod-si-clause) is chiastic (noun + adjective:: adjective + noun), here enhanced by grammar: the first phrase features a second declension noun and a third declension attribute, the second a second declension attribute and a third declension noun (fortis and civis are the alternative accusative plural forms of the third declension: = fortes, cives). The phrase constitutes a powerful hendiadys: Cicero is not referring to two distinct kinds of persons — ‘brave men and outstanding citizens’ — but persons who possess two qualities: ‘men who are brave and outstanding citizens’.

8quod a corpore tuo prohibentur armis: the subject of the quod-clause are the brave and pre-eminent citizens: ‘because they are kept away from your body by means of weapons’. Cicero’s adjustments to natural word order (which would have been quod a corpore tuo armis prohibentur) results in a dramatic postponement of the decisive armis (an ablative of means) and an iconic enactment of the meaning in the design: the verb prohibentur placed in-between a corpore tuo and armis does what it says it does, i. e. keeping the arms away from Antony’s body. Essentially, Cicero is saying: ‘without your bodyguard, Antony, you are a dead man!’ This isn’t exactly a promising premise for disarmament — and stands in latent contradiction to his earlier complaint that Antony is filling the city with armed henchmen.

9tui te… non ferent: Cicero operates with an implied antithesis between viros fortis egregiosque civis and tui, implying that Antony’s supporters lack masculinity (viros), bravery (fortis), pre-eminence (egregios), and a sound understanding of what Roman citizenship entails (civis). And even though they potentially lack all of these qualities (for otherwise they would hardly support Antony in the first place), they will — so Cicero is predicting: note the future tense of ferent — soon cease to put up with him. On what grounds does Cicero make this — as it turned out, entirely baseless — prediction? Implied here is the belief that political criminals and tyrants by definition self-destruct — a Platonic tenet that Cicero cherished as a ray of hope (however misplaced) in his darkest hours, and which seemed to have become a reality (though much later than anticipated) with the assassination of Caesar.

10mihi crede: for the phrase, see above 391.

11diutius: the comparative of the adverb diu (‘long’, ‘for a long time’): ‘longer’.

12quae est autem vita dies et noctes timere a suis?: the infinitive timere functions as a predicative noun with the copula est: ‘What kind of life is it to fear harm from/be afraid of your close associates day and night?’ Note that timeo can be construed either transitively (with the object of fear appearing in the accusative) or intransitively (as here), where the source of fear is expressed by the ablative + ab. Hence:

  • timere alicui: to fear for someone
  • timere ab aliquo: to fear harm from someone
  • timere aliquid ab aliquo: to fear something from someone
  • timere aliquem: to fear someone

13Cicero does not pursue the explosive potential of his prediction that a revolt among Antony’s underlings is imminent. Instead, by switching from second person (tui) to third person (a suis), he steps back and generalizes, posing a quasi-philosophical question about (acceptable) terms of existence. In the subsequent sentence he returns to the second person, evaluating Antony against the generic norm implied in the rhetorical question here. Cicero already posed a similar question in the first Catilinarian addressed to Catiline (1.16: Nunc vero quae tua est ista vita?). And his proto-philosophical enquiry also brings to mind Caesar’s decision to refuse a bodyguard on the grounds that he did not wish to live in constant fear for his life. See Plutarch, Life of Caesar 57.7: ‘When his friends thought it best that he should have a body-guard, and many of them volunteered for this service, he would not consent, saying that it was better to die once and for all than to be always expecting death’. A paradox ensues: the most un-tyrannical action on the part of the reigning tyrant was at least in part responsible for getting him killed. The implications of the tyrant de-tyrannizing himself and paying for it with his life are rather awkward for Cicero’s argument here, so the issue never comes properly into focus.

14dies et noctes: accusative of duration.

15nisi vero aut maioribus habes beneficiis [tuos] obligatos quam [illa beneficia quibus] ille quosdam habuit ex eis [obligatos] a quibus est interfectus, aut tu es ulla re cum eo comparandus: both Cicero’s syntax and his line of thinking are highly elliptical. In responding to the rhetorical question he just posed (‘And what sort of a life is it to be afraid day and night of one’s own?’), Cicero suppresses the (obvious) answer (‘it’s no life at all’) and application to the case at hand (‘but you are bound to lead it’). He then moots two all but impossible scenarios (one specific, one general, which leads off into a different line of argument, loosely coordinated by aut… aut), in which Antony might not have to fear violence from those close to him: ‘unless, indeed, you either have your own men bound (to you) through greater benefactions than (those by which) he [sc. Caesar] had some of those bound (to him) by whom he was killed — or are to be compared to him in any way’. (Cicero then goes on to assert that any comparison between Caesar and Antony is absurd — unlike the former, the latter entirely lacks any kind of redeeming quality).

16maioribus… beneficiis: Caesar dispensed favours and (material) handouts liberally (Cicero will provide details in a moment), but arguably the greatest benefaction he imposed on other members of Rome’s ruling elite was to spare their lives when he captured them on the battlefield — or indeed after he had won the war (unlike Sulla, there were no proscriptions, or ‘killing lists’, under Caesar — one by one, he pardoned virtually all of his adversaries). This policy of mercy is another topic to surface in the course of this paragraph. The ensuing degree of obligation is almost impossible to match.

17quosdam… ex eis a quibus: ‘some out of those by whom…’ ex eis describes the whole of which the quosdam form a part. For this use of ex (instead of a partitive genitive), see Gildersleeve & Lodge 237. Cicero here refers to those of Caesar’s assassins who were tied to him through services rendered or, indeed, friendship: ‘the reference is both to Caesarians who joined the conspiracy, such as P. and C. Servilius Casca, L. Tillius Cimber, C. Trebonius, L. Minucius Basilus, Servius Sulpicius Galba, and to those who, though Pompeians from the first, had been pardoned by Caesar, such as M. Brutus and C. Cassius’ (Denniston 1926: 171).

18a quibus: an ablative of agency with the perfect passive verb est interfectus.

19ulla re: an ablative of respect.

20fuit in illo ingenium, ratio, memoria, litterae, cura, cogitatio, diligentia: Cicero enumerates a subset of Caesar’s personal characteristics in an asyndetic list. He puts the emphasis on mental, moral, and intellectual qualities, where the difference to Antony is (according to Cicero) most pronounced. He was not the only one who singled out the special calibre of Caesar’s power of mind. Here is Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7.91:

Animi vigore praestantissimum arbitror genitum Caesarem dictatorem;
nec virtutem constantiamque nunc commemoro, nec sublimitatem
omnium capacem quae caelo continentur, sed proprium vigorem celeritatemque quodam igne volucrem. scribere aut legere, simul dictare atque audire solitum accepimus, epistulas vero tantarum rerum quaternas pariter dictare librariis.

[The most outstanding instance of innate mental vigour I take to be the dictator Caesar; and I am not now thinking of manliness and resolution, nor of a loftiness embracing all the contents of the firmament of heaven, but of native vigour and quickness winged as it were with fire. We are told that he used to write or read and dictate or listen simultaneously, and to dictate [NB!] to his secretaries four letters at once on his important affairs.]

21Cicero’s own praise of Caesar is more muted, and the style arguably recalls the threadbare register of a funeral oration: so Dufallo (2007: 54). He notes that ‘the economy of expression demonstrated by Cicero’ s praise of Caesar… is in keeping with Cicero’s own prescriptions for the Roman laudatio: delivered in the forum as a testimony to character, it has brevitatem… nudam atque inornatam (a bare and unadorned brevity); composed specifically as a funeral speech, it is ad orationis laudem minime accommodata (least suited to a display of oratorical excellence) (Cic. de Orat. 2.341)’(141).

22ingenium: most basically, ingenium refers to ‘natural disposition’ and then to ‘inherent quality or character’, or, with a greater emphasis on talent, ‘natural abilities’, especially of the mental/intellectual kind: it can specifically refer to being gifted with words, whether in rhetoric or poetry. In rhetorical theory, ingenium is a key technical term (innate talent complementing ars, or ‘exercise’, in constituting the perfect orator, the summus orator). But in the sense of ‘talent’ it refers to inherent potential rather than inherent moral excellence, and in some of his later philosophical writings Cicero laments that some of the greatest talents (ingenia) in Roman history, such as Caesar, became corrupted through the desire for power.

23ratio: the ability to use reason. Caesar valued expert knowledge and rational order. Thus Suetonius (Life of Julius Caesar 42) reports that ‘he conferred citizenship on all who practised medicine at Rome, and on all teachers of the liberal arts, to make them more desirous of living in the city and to induce others to resort to it’. As Garcea (2012: 5) points out: ‘This makes clear to us how he wished to make use of competent and highly specialized people in public life’. His legal reforms are another good example of Caesar relying on rational criteria for the pragmatic vetting of traditional bodies of knowledge (Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 44.2):

Nam de ornanda instruendaque urbe, item de tuendo ampliandoque imperio plura ac maiora in dies destinabat… ius civile ad certum modum redigere atque ex immensa diffusaque legum copia optima quaeque et necessaria in paucissimos conferre libros.

[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 reduce the civil code to fixed limits, and of the vast and prolix mass of statutes to include only the best and most essential in a limited number of volumes.]

24‘Caesar’ s aim, then, was to eliminate unnecessary and redundant legislation, resolve issues of incompatibility, bring order to the uolumina …’ Garcea (2012: 5). Most significantly, perhaps is his application of ratio to the measurement of time in his reform of the calendar (Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.14.2):

sed postea C. Caesar omnem hanc inconstantiam temporum vagam adhuc et incertam in ordinem statae definitionis coegit, adnitente sibi M. Flauio scriba, qui scriptos dies singulos ita ad dictatorem retulit ut et ordo eorum inveniri facillime posset et invento certus status perseveraret.

[But Gaius Caesar took all this chronological inconsistency, which he found still ill-sorted and fluid, and reduced it to a regular and welldefined order; in this he was assisted by the scribe Marcus Flavius, who presented a table of the individual days to Caesar in a form that allowed both their order to be determined and, once that was determined, their relative position to remain fixed.]

25memoria: memory — the ability to retain and recall data — is one of the five components of oratory, together with inventio, dispositio, elocutio, and actio. See Rhetorica ad Herennium 3.28–40. Caesar seems to have been gifted with a prodigious memory, which he used for multi-tasking.

26litterae: Caesar’s literary output was considerable. See Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 56 for an overview:

He left memoirs too of his deeds in the Gallic war and in the civil strife with Pompey; for the author of the Alexandrian, African, and Spanish Wars is unknown; some think it was Oppius, other Hirtius, who also supplied the final book of the Gallic War, which Caesar left unwritten. … He left besides a work in two volumes On Analogy, the same number of Speeches against Cato, in addition to a poem, entitled The Journey. He wrote the first of these works while crossing the Alps and returning to his army from Hither Gaul, where he had held the assizes; the second about the time of the battle of Munda, and the last one in the course of a twenty-three days’ journey from Rome to Farther Spain. Some letters of his to the senate are also preserved, and he seems to have been the first to redact such documents in the columnar form of a note-book, whereas previously consuls and generals only sent their reports written right across the sheet. There are also letters of his to Cicero, as well as to his intimates on private affairs, and in the latter, if he had anything rather confidential to say, he wrote it in cipher, that is, by so changing the order of the letters of the alphabet, that not a word could be made out. If anyone wishes to decipher these, and get at their meaning, he must substitute the fourth letter of the alphabet, namely D, for A, and so with the others. Certain writings of his early youth are also left, as Quintus Tubero says, such as the Praises of Hercules, a tragedy Oedipus, and a Collection of Apophthegms; but Augustus forbade the publication of all these minor works in a very brief and frank letter sent to Pompeius Macer, whom he had selected to set his libraries in order.

27cura: here ‘care’, in particular due and detailed attention, as applied to literary pursuits or the wellbeing of others (within this list, the emphasis is most likely on the former rather than the latter).

28cogitatio: ‘thoughtfulness’ — the ability to reflect and reach a considered view on a range of issues. Fantham (2009: 155–56) outlines the scope of the topics that came within his ken: ‘his intellectual interests included a number of areas — religion, historiography, ethnography, and political theory and ideology (such as his invention of the weapon of clemency)’. He was also much interested in language, rhetoric, geography, and natural phenomena (including astronomy).

29diligentia: a virtual synonym of cura — ‘careful and painstaking attention’, applied to such activities as literary compositions.

30res bello gesserat, quamvis rei publicae calamitosas, at tamen magnas: Cicero could not possibly pass over Caesar’s feats in war, though he mentions them in as qualified a fashion as possible: the matter-offact opening ‘deeds in war he had performed…’ is utterly devoid of any panegyric embellishment (Caesar might as well have been an insignificant foot-soldier marching along…). Before any kind of praise, Cicero condemns Caesar’s military deeds wholesale, in the strongest possible terms, as an utter calamity for the commonwealth. He does not even differentiate between his conquest of Gaul and his victory in the civil war — both his external and internal conquests are equally implicated in his destructive rise to the top. Likewise, while Caesar was still alive, Cicero considered his triumph in the civil war a blessing in disguise: a republican victory would have resulted, he was convinced, in much more post-war persecution and bloodshed. Any such nuance is here by the way. In a concessive tag-on (at tamen), Cicero ends by damning Caesar with a faint bit of praise: magnas is a run-of-the-mill attribute at the end of the sentence, strategically separated from the noun it modifies (res): the massive hyperbaton ensures that the acclaim remains a belittling afterthought that trivializes Caesar’s military achievements.

  • 102 See further Henderson (2014: 103–06).

31multos annos regnare meditatus, magno labore, magnis periculis quod cogitarat effecerat: multos annos is an accusative of duration (‘for many years’). Cicero here projects the origins of Caesar’s monarchical ambitions back into the distant past, but neither he nor modern scholars can possibly know at what point Caesar began to aim at kingship — though for biographers that tends to be a key question. Suetonius, in his Life of Julius Caesar, imagines the spectre of Alexander the Great as a key moment in Caesar’s quest for greatness (7):102

As quaestor it fell to his lot to serve in Further Spain. When he was there, while making the circuit of the assize-towns, to hold court under commission from the praetor, he came to Gades, and noticing a statue of Alexander the Great in the temple of Hercules, he heaved a sigh, and as if out of disgust with his own incapacity in having as yet done nothing noteworthy at a time of life when Alexander had already brought the world to his feet, he straightway asked for his discharge, to grasp the first opportunity for greater enterprises at Rome.

32The consensus nowadays is that this was a fairly late development in his career and only really took off after his victory in the civil war, in reaction to events. Cicero goes for a more decisive (and hence more sensational and damning) backdating, but remains prudently vague: for him, Caesar was at any rate never a ‘naturally born’ tyrant who harboured tyrannical ambitions from the get-go. Quite the contrary: he always singled him out as a formidable talent; and in Philippic 5.49 identifies failure to achieve insight into ‘true glory’ at an early stage in his career as the reason why he ended up as an autocratic demagogue — a failure compounded by the lack of rightful recognition from other constituencies of Rome’s civic community:

Ea natura rerum est, patres conscripti, ut qui sensum verae gloriae ceperit quique se ab senatu, ab equitibus Romanis populoque Romano universo senserit civem carum haberi salutaremque rei publicae, nihil cum hac gloria comparandum putet. utinam C. Caesari, patri dico, contigisset adulescenti ut esset senatui atque optimo cuique carissimus! quod cum consequi neglexisset, omnem vim ingeni, quae summa fuit in illo, in populari levitate consumpsit.

[It is natural, members of the senate, that one who has grasped the meaning of true glory, one who feels he is regarded by the senate, by the Roman knights, and by the entire Roman people as a loved citizen and beneficial to the commonwealth, should deem nothing comparable with this glory. Would it had been the fortune of Caius Caesar — the father I mean — when a young man to be very dear to the senate and every loyal citizen! Because he neglected to secure this, he wasted all the power of his intellect — and in him it was of the highest — in pandering to popular fickleness.]

33It is of course important to realize that in Philippic 5, Cicero is trying to sell Caesar Octavianus to the senate, on the grounds that unlike his adoptive father he understands what true glory consists in — and that the senate should not commit the same mistake with him as it did with Caesar, i.e. be invidiously stingy in rewarding him with the public recognition he deserves. At the same time, it is noteworthy that Cicero here and elsewhere identifies external circumstances as responsible for transmogrifying Caesar and his summum ingenium into a tyrant-figure. Even here Cicero, while repudiating Caesar’s desire to rule as king, expresses grudging admiration for the amount of effort and energy that Caesar invested in turning his misconceived dream into a reality. The ‘strenuous’ m-alliteration reinforced by anaphora (multos–meditatus–magno–magnis) provides a proper soundtrack for the point. For a similar formulation (though on a different time-scale) see § 85: meditatum et cogitatum scelus (Antony at the Lupercalia).

34cogitarat: the syncopated third person singular pluperfect indicative active form (= cogita| ve| rat).

35muneribus, monumentis, congiariis, epulis multitudinem imperitam delenierat: in this and the following sentence, Cicero outlines how Caesar managed to consolidate his reign: he ingratiated himself with the masses; and obliged friends and adversaries with material and immaterial benefactions. Plutarch, Life of Caesar 57.8, suggests that Caesar tried to generate goodwill among his fellow citizens as a substitute for a bodyguard: ‘And in the effort to surround himself with men’ s good will as the fairest and at the same time the securest protection, he again courted the people with banquets and distributions of grain, and his soldiers with newly planted colonies’. Unlike Plutarch, Cicero portrays these efforts as insidious ploys to consolidate tyrannical power. Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 38 gives an idea of the scope of the lavish expenditure that Caesar invested in generating personal loyalties:

To each and every foot-soldier of his veteran legions he gave twenty-four thousand sesterces by way of booty, over and above the two thousand apiece which he had paid them at the beginning of the civil strife. He also assigned them lands, but not side by side, to avoid dispossessing any of the former owners. To every man of the people, besides ten pecks of grain and the same number of pounds of oil, he distributed the three hundred sesterces which he had promised at first, and one hundred apiece to boot because of the delay. He also remitted a year’s rent in Rome to tenants who paid two thousand sesterces or less, and in Italy up to five hundred sesterces. He added a banquet and a dole of meat, and after his Spanish victory two dinners; for deeming that the former of these had not been served with a liberality creditable to his generosity, he gave another five days later on a most lavish scale.

36In terms of style, he continues with asyndetic enumeration and m-alliteration (muneribus, monumentis, multitudinem).

  • 103 Shatzman (1975), Veyne (1990), Lomas (2003).

37muneribus: throughout the republic, politicians tried to advance their careers through public benefactions, both ephemeral (e.g. through feasts, games, spectacles) and permanent (e. g. through buildings). A competition ensued, with aristocrats vying with each other to outdo earlier gestures of public munificence. The idea was to impress one’s name upon the collective memory, and thereby get a step up in elections to public office. There was some allowance for using state-funds for this purpose, but the resources were limited: wealthy patrons drew upon their personal fortunes, others took out massive loans, and successful generals supplemented their allocated budget through imperial plunder (manubiae) to outshine their rivals.103 Caesar started to get in on the action early. See Suetonius, Life of Caesar 10, on his activities as aedile in 65 BCE:

When aedile, Caesar decorated not only the Comitium and the Forum with its adjacent basilicas, but the Capitol as well, building temporary colonnades for the display of a part of his material. He exhibited combats with wild beasts and stage-plays too, both with his colleague and independently. The result was that Caesar alone took all the credit even for what they spent in common, and his colleague Marcus Bibulus openly said that his was the fate of Pollux: ‘For,’ said he, ‘just as the temple erected in the Forum to the twin brethren bears only the name of Castor, so the joint liberality of Caesar and myself is credited to Caesar alone.’ Caesar gave a gladiatorial show besides, but with somewhat fewer pairs of combatants than he had purposed; for the huge band which he assembled from all quarters so terrified his opponents, that a bill was passed limiting the number of gladiators which anyone was to be allowed to keep in the city.

38Suetonius explicitly states that Caesar did this to win the goodwill of the masses (and succeeded in doing so).

39monumentis: before Caesar, the title of Mr. Public Grandeur went to Pompey and his theatre complex, which he began in 61 BCE to memorialize in stone his third triumph. It included a temple dedicated to Venus Victrix, which was dedicated in 55 BCE. In the following year, Caesar, flush with booty extracted from Gaul, began construction of a new forum, no doubt partly in emulation of Pompey’s theatre complex. It was not completed in his lifetime, but that did not prevent him from initiating further building projects alongside, especially after securing victory in the civil war, such as the temple of Venus Genetrix, dedicated in 46 BCE, as part of the unfinished forum complex, or the Basilica Iulia, also dedicated in 46 BCE but again finished under Augustus. (For a full list of the works planned by Caesar, see Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 44.)

40congiariis: the term congiarium derives from congius, which denotes a measure of wine or oil, which a magistrate or similarly elevated individual distributes to his followers or the people at large. A congiarium was ‘a “gift” intended to display the giver’ s generosity and to reward and encourage the recipient’s loyalty, but not constituting formal payment for a specific service’(Kaster 1995: 311). See further Rostovtzeff (1900: 875, who notes that the character and the scope of congiaria changed significantly under Caesar: he handed out not just wine and oil, but also money as part of the triumphal celebrations in 46 BCE (see Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 38, cited above) — and monopolized the practice.

41epulis: on the word, see Donahue (2004: 7–8):

By far, the most popular term for a Roman feast is epulum. Originally a technical term for a religious meal…, the term conveyed a religious aspect from an early date through its link with two of Rome’s most ancient festivals, the Ludi Romani and Ludi Plebeii. Both ceremonies included among their festivities the epulum Iovis, a repast in honor of Jupiter, overseen by a special class of priests, the septemviri epulones. … Over time, its religious connotation diminished and epulum came to mean a luxurious secular meal offered on various occasions to large numbers.

  • 104 See e. g. Plutarch, Life of Crassus 2.2 and 12.2, and Comp. Crass. et Nic. 1.4.

42This is another area of ostentatious consumption in which Caesar distinguished himself — though he was not the only one.104 See Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 38 (cited above). As Donahue (2004: 256) notes: ‘No one was more adept at such public magnanimity, however, than Julius Caesar. Even though kingship could never be tolerated at Rome, for him the ability to act like a monarch remained very much a consideration. The beneficiaries were the plebs, who readily accepted largess from the kingly triumphator, becoming in the process instruments of his grand ambitions. There can be no doubt that the public meal played a pivotal role in this scheme, as it reached new heights during this period. To be sure, it was not an invention of Caesar’s; he simply changed the standard by extending the scope and scale of liberality at Rome, but not the principle itself’.

43multitudinem imperitam: multitudo — as opposed to plebs or populus — is a derogatory way of referring to the populace. populus is a politico-legal category that refers, in the case of populus Romanus, to all Roman citizens, whereas plebs is a social term (of course with political significance) that refers to the ‘plebeian’ component of the populus Romanus (in complement and contrast to the ‘patrician’ element; cf. the so-called ‘secession of the plebs’). By contrast, multitudo simply captures quantity, without any indication of the social, legal, or political status of those who make up the multitude. It is similar in sense to our ‘the masses’, which also implies a range of prejudices and stereotypes, well summed up by Morstein-Marx (2004: 68):

A bestialized urban mob, whose enslavement to its appetites and desperate circumstances make it incapable of reason, is one of the stock characters of the Roman political drama scripted by ancient writers. … Cicero seems — at least in public — to take a less harsh view of the People’s character as a political agent, though it is still often characterized by ‘rashness’ (temeritas) and ‘fickleness’ (levitas) … It is consistent with these conceptions of the multitude that the audiences of public meetings were frequently derided by Cicero, once out of earshot, as composed of imperiti, ‘ignoramuses,’ an adjective that adheres to references to the plebs or multitudo virtually as a formula.

44Philippic 2 is a written speech disseminated among his largely senatorial peers, so there was no need for Cicero to pay particular respect to popular feelings.

  • 105 Paschall (1939: 50–52).
  • 106 pro Cluentio 13, pro Murena 74 (cited above 424–25) where he mockingly impersonates Cato the Young (...)

45delenierat: delenire in the sense of ‘to seduce’, ‘to bewitch’ is attested from New Comedy onwards: see e.g. Plautus, Amphitruo 844 or Stichus 457.105 Cicero also uses it, as part of an imagery of enticement and corruption.106 Here the term feeds into the image of mass psychology that Cicero is peddling: the common people are happy to be bribed (‘bewitched’) by the tyrant, made compliant to his whim and will through the provision of material pleasures. Their mental powers can be infiltrated and weakened to the point of enslavement — and they are willing to acquiesce as long as they can indulge in pleasures of the body.

46suos praemiis, adversarios clementiae specie devinxerat: the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae 5.1.859, 51–54 differentiates between:

  • devincire (= astringere, alligare) legibus, necessitate (fati), where the binding happens through impersonal forces, public institutions, cosmic constraints
  • devincire beneficiis, amore, where the focus is on personal relationships, with persons tied together through services rendered and/or powerful emotional attachments
  • devincire calamitate, scelere, where the binding results in unholy alliances grounded in immorality and crime

47Cicero uses the verb in the second sense, but manages to imply that Caesar’s way of building up networks of obligations through ties that bind lacks legitimacy: he used material gifts (praemia) with his friends and immaterial favours (clementia) with his adversaries to corroborate his tyrannical power. See Santoro L’Hoir (2006: 146): ‘Cicero implies a… subtle influence [of “behind-the-scenes” control], clustering devincire with delenire, as well as specie, regnare, and servitium in a vituperative passage insinuating that by binding the people to him emotionally with specious largesse, Caesar has abused his power’. Cicero speaks from personal experience — having benefitted from both forms of generosity: he was the beneficiary of a substantial interest-free loan from Caesar and one of the first republicans Caesar pardoned. (With as liberally giving a patron as Caesar, the boundary between sui and adversarii often became blurred as he tried to turn his adversaries into supporters through material enticements.) As Mouritsen (2017: 128) puts it: ‘Caesar’ s pursuit of popular favour was noted by all ancient commentators, suggesting he may have been unusual in continuing this strategy well after the early career stages when most politicians abandoned it. But it was essentially a style, involving gestures, spectacle and generosity, as well as a public show of defiance towards the nobility. Whether it had much impact on the lives of the poor is a different matter’.

  • 107 Contrast pro Ligario 6 (a speech delivered before Caesar) where he hails Caesar’s clementia in the (...)
  • 108 See further Angel (2008).

48clementiae specie: ‘through a semblance of mercy’. Elsewhere Cicero praises Caesar highly for his commitment to clementia in the civil war (which caught everyone by surprise — not least since it stood in stark contrast to the bloodthirsty rhetoric of the republican party). At the same time, he laboured under no delusion about the strategic value of Caesar’s policy of mercy. In one of his letters he labels the clementia Caesar practised insidiosa (‘cunning’; Att. 8.16.2 = 166 SB), in another letter he shares Curio’s view that Caesar was not ‘by nature’ predisposed towards clementia and would start to behave savagely in case his policy of clemency ceased to produce the hoped-for results (Att. 10.4.8 = 195 SB:… ipsum autem non voluntate aut natura non esse crudelem, sed quod putaret popularem esse clementiam. quod si populi studium amisisset, crudelem fore ‘… and as for Caesar himself, it was not by inclination or nature that he was not cruel but because he reckoned that clemency was the popular line. If he lost favour with the public he would be cruel’). He certainly never blinked an eye when the enemies were Gauls or Germans, whom he slaughtered in genocidal numbers. In the domestic sphere, his policy of mercy also carried unwelcome ideological connotations: while clementia was in principle ‘a welcome and approved quality of character’ (Konstan 2005: 344), in the course of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey and Caesar’s dictatorship the quality, while laudable in itself, became associated with an unwelcome powerdifferential between the benefactor and the recipient, placing the latter into the debt of the former: there is no greater power than to execute a verdict over life and death — and the spared adversary will find himself caught in the inextricable bonds of an unrequitable benefaction. Such acts of mercy extended between aristocratic peers, while preferable to merciless slaughter, were at variance with the republican principle of oligarchic equality: from this point of view, ‘clementia … denoted the arbitrary mercy, bound by no law, shown by a superior to an inferior who is entirely in his power. It is the quality proper to a rex. In the free Republic there was no place for rex or regnum. The only body which could properly show clementia was the Roman people itself in its historical role of pardoning the humbled’(Earl 1967: 60). By using the noun species Cicero acknowledges that clementia as such is a positive quality, but manages to imply that Caesar’s variant is only a ‘semblance’ of the real thing — without going into details why exactly that is the case. But the context suggests that he objects to clementia Caesaris as a tool of consolidating (tyrannical) power through the generation of social debts that cannot be repaid.107 More generally, in the works written after the Ides of March 44, Cicero argues that a tyrant by definition exists outside any meaningful social bonds, not least those generated by acts of clementia and the extension of beneficia by which (some of) Caesar’s killers were bound to the dictator. This argument frees the assassins from the charge of murderous ingratitude.108

49quid multa [(verba) dicam]?: the ellipsis of dicam with quid multa?, quid plura?, ne multa, ne plura etc. is common: see OLD s.v. multus 16b: ‘why say more’, ‘to be brief’, ‘in a word’. The brachylogy often conveys emotional agitation in preparation for an upcoming punch line (as here).

50attulerat iam liberae civitati partim metu, partim patientia consuetudinem serviendi: Cicero again opts for unorthodox word order (verb – indirect object – ablatives of cause – direct object), which ensures that the key phrase consuetudinem serviendi comes at the end of the sentence.

51partim metu, partim patientia: note the alliteration; the causal ablatives specify the reasons that enabled Caesar to enslave a free commonwealth: fear and forbearance. patientia can be a positive value when referring to the ‘ability or willingness to endure hardship’. In Phil. 10, for instance, Cicero identifies this kind of patientia as a particular virtue of Brutus (who wrote a treatise De Patientia). Here, however, it connotes undue passivity — or indeed submissiveness — towards a tyrant.


97 For a survey of other contemporary assessments of Caesar see Griffin (2009: 3–5).

98 For senatorial wealth and Roman politics see generally Shatzman (1975), further Andreau (1999: 139–58) and Verboven (2002: 116–82).

99 See Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar, 27.1 for details. Cicero, too, was a beneficiary as the recipient of a loan for 800,000 HS in 54 BCE.

100 At pro Plancio 72, Cicero notes that soldiers are reluctant to concede that their life has been saved in battle by a comrade, which may happen even to the brave and hence is not in itself humiliating: ‘but they shrink from the overpowering burden of being under the same obligation to a stranger that they owe to a parent’ (sed onus beneficii reformidant, quod permagnum est alieno debere idem quod parenti). See Konstan (2016: 46) for discussion.

101 See also Cicero, ad Brutum 24: Brutus wouldn’t accept a beneficium or misericordia from Antony.

102 See further Henderson (2014: 103–06).

103 Shatzman (1975), Veyne (1990), Lomas (2003).

104 See e. g. Plutarch, Life of Crassus 2.2 and 12.2, and Comp. Crass. et Nic. 1.4.

105 Paschall (1939: 50–52).

106 pro Cluentio 13, pro Murena 74 (cited above 424–25) where he mockingly impersonates Cato the Younger objecting to the practice of wooing voters through the provision of sensual pleasures, de Oratore 1.36, de Finibus 1.33: blanditiis… voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti.

107 Contrast pro Ligario 6 (a speech delivered before Caesar) where he hails Caesar’s clementia in the most effusive terms: o clementiam admirabilem atque omnium laude, praedicatione, litteris monumentisque decorandam! (‘Ο admirable clemency, how worthy to be adorned by everyone’s praise and promotion, by being put on record in literature and monuments!’). See further Dyck (1996: 225–26).

108 See further Angel (2008).


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