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

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Ingo Gildenhard

Commentary

§ 118: Here I Stand. I Can Do Naught Else

Texte intégral

1Cicero now works towards a rousing conclusion by shifting the focus from Antony back to himself: he combines a personal profession with the notion of self-sacrifice for the benefit of the wider community, intertwining liberty and death.

2Certatim posthac, mihi crede, ad hoc opus curretur neque occasionis tarditas exspectabitur: Cicero proceeds to answer the rhetorical question he posed at the end of the previous paragraph, suggesting that Antony will soon face an attack of men vying with each other to kill him. The alliterated certatim… curretur (an impersonal passive in the future: ‘there will be an emulous onrush to perform this task’) underscores both the speed of the assault and the indiscriminate hatred among the populace, which Cicero further reinforces in the (somewhat tautological and compressed) follow-up clause, which literally means ‘the lateness of an opportunity will not be waited for’. In other words: ‘no-one will wait for an opportunity to present itself; they’ll take action now’.

3posthac: ‘from now on’. Cicero seems to be hoping, rather optimistically, that the delivery (or the perusal) of his speech will stir everyone into taking violent action against Antony right away.

4mihi crede: for the phrase see above 391.

5ad hoc opus: the killing of Antony the tyrant.

6respice, quaeso, aliquando rem publicam, M. Antoni: in sentences expressing commands, aliquando signifies ‘now at last’, ‘while there is time’, ‘before it is too late’: see OLD s.v. 5. Cicero urges Antony to make a U-turn in his attitude towards the commonwealth — for his own sake. Unless he (finally) starts heeding the welfare of the res publica, he will end up dead. So he is not begging on behalf of the commonwealth — rather, showing some consideration for the commonwealth is the only way for Antony to save his skin.

7quaeso: in parenthesis, here added to lend the imperative respice even greater urgency: ‘I implore you’ — for your own sake just as much as that of everyone else.

8quibus ortus sis, non quibuscum vivas, considera: Cicero exhorts Antony to comport himself in line with the illustrious representatives of his family tree rather than the rabble with whom he has ended up living, not least his wife Fulvia and his brother Lucius. Cicero inveighs against both throughout Philippic 2. The rhetoric of the rotten fruit of a glorious tree is a familiar weapon in the rhetorical arsenal of the homo novus, who uses the notion of generational decline to attack the established nobility and their conceit that they pass down ancestral excellence from generation to generation. The second person singular present imperative considera governs two indirect questions (hence the subjunctives ortus sis and vivas). orior, in the sense ‘to be born of’, ‘to descend from’, can be construed with the prepositions ab and ex or (as here) with the plain ablative (quibus).

9quibuscum: = cum quibus.

10mecum [age], ut voles: redi cum re publica in gratiam: the opening of the sentence is elliptical. It is possible to supply redi in gratiam with mecum from what follows (‘reconcile yourself with me whenever you wish — but reconcile yourself now with the state’) or a more general imperative like age: ‘treat me as you like — but reconcile yourself with the state’). redi is the second person singular present imperative active of redeo, redire. redire in gratiam is idiomatic: ‘to become reconciled (with)’ (Cf. reducere in gratiam = to reconcile). gratia here signifies ‘goodwill between two parties’.

11sed de te tu videris; ego de me ipse profitebor: videris is second person singular future perfect active of video, indicating future anterior value but with a hortatory touch: ‘but it will have been / is up to you to see to yourself’. This use of the so-called futurum exactum ‘is idiomatic Latin to express that one leaves a debatable point to others to decide, and will continue with an idea about which one is certain oneself. In other words, it is a formula indicating something like “it is immaterial to me”’ (Bremmer and Formisano 2012: 171; cf. Kühner-Stegmann II. 1, 149). By contrast profitebor is in the simple future. The contrastive use of the second and first personal pronouns (de te tu – ego de me), further reinforced by the chiastic design and the addition of the reflexive ipse, could not be more pronounced. Right after dismissing Antony, Cicero indulges in a proto-Lutherian moment: he professes his civic creed.

12defendi rem publicam adulescens, non deseram [rem publicam] senex: defendi is the first person singular perfect indicative active (note that the present passive infinitive looks identical); deseram is in the simple future. It is rather remarkable that Cicero labels himself an adulescens with reference to the year 63 BCE (the year of his consulship, when he quashed the conspiracy of Catiline): he was 43 years old at the time. But Roman age-labels were fluid: adulescens here captures Cicero’s life before the onset of old age (senectus), when he becomes a senex. And Cicero wants to convey the image of an entire life spent in civic service.

13contempsi Catilinae gladios, non pertimescam [gladios] tuos: Cicero claimed that he was a target for assassination for Catiline and his followers (see e.g. Cat. 1.11). Juvenal alludes to the sentence in Satire 10.114–26, a passage in which he also praises Philippic 2 as ‘immortal’ (divina):

Eloquium ac famam Demosthenis aut Ciceronis
incipit optare et totis quinquatribus optat [115]
quisquis adhuc uno parcam colit asse Minervam,
quem sequitur custos angustae vernula capsae.
eloquio sed uterque perit orator, utrumque
largus et exundans leto dedit ingenii fons.
ingenio manus est et cervix caesa, nec umquam [120]
sanguine causidici maduerunt rostra pusilli.
‘o fortunatam natam me consule Romam’:
Antoni gladios potuit contemnere si sic
omnia dixisset. ridenda poemata malo
quam te, conspicuae divina Philippica famae, [125]
volveris a prima quae proxima.

[The eloquence and reputation of Demosthenes or Cicero is what boys keep on praying for throughout the spring holidays, every boy who goes to school accompanied by a house slave to guard his narrow satchel and who still worships thrifty Minerva with a single tiny coin. But it was because of their eloquence that both orators died. It was the abundant, overflowing gush of talent that sent both to their deaths. It was talent that had its hands and neck severed. The rostrum was never drenched in the blood of a feeble advocate. ‘O Rome, you are fortunate, born in my consulate.’He could have laughed at Antony’s swords if everything he said had been like this. I prefer his ridiculous verses to you, immortal Philippic, next to the first on the roll, with your distinguished reputation.]

14quin etiam corpus libenter obtulerim, si repraesentari morte mea libertas civitatis potest, ut aliquando dolor populi Romani [id] pariat quod iam diu parturit!: Cicero now amplifies and corroborates (see OLD s.v. quin 3a: ‘and moreover’) his record of public service by pronouncing his willingness to sacrifice himself gladly (the subjunctive obtulerim is potential: ‘I would gladly offer my body/life’) if his death were to ensure the revival of freedom (or, literally: ‘if the freedom of the community could be re-established through my death’). He concludes with a lyrically elusive consecutive ut-clause: ‘so that finally the pain of the Roman people gives birth to (parere) what they have for so long carried in the womb/been in labour for (parturire)’. In this image, Cicero’s self-sacrifice (devotio) will cause the Roman people such pain that they will finally manage to restore/give birth to libertas for good. (Since the assassination of Caesar, which did away with the tyrant but did not quite restore libertas, they were ‘in labour’ with it: Cicero’s violent death would induce birth.) A good way to wind up any speech — but spot on for one where ‘delivery’ has been delayed for quite a while. But now (iam diu) begins the onslaught in earnest, with Phil. 3 coming up next, and then, for ever, within our box set of the dozen CDs of Phil. (with a few more to come, but not to reach us (?)).

15pariat… parturit: Cicero here strikes a notably feminine note in his otherwise pronounced masculine discourse. As Myers (2003: 337) observes: ‘With this feminine metaphor of the womb and birth, Cicero ends the vitriolic Second Philippic against Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius) by calling for a return to the republic even at the expense of his own life. As both a productive and generative act, this climactic moment, in which the male body politic fuses with the politic of the female body, operates as the nexus of masculine and feminine, public and private, and oration and circulated pamphlet in the Roman society of the first century BCE. Moreover, of all the female allusions Cicero employs in the Second Philippic, it is the only one that focuses on the feminine as the potential for rebirth, rejuvenation, and renewal of what had been the Roman republic’. She offers three possible readings of this remarkable imagery (348): (i) Cicero fashions himself as a pregnant (fe)male: ‘Tied to Cicero’ s invocation of his death, the phrase means that Cicero is the woman dying in childbirth to offer new life to the republic, because the Roman practice was to cut out the fetus if a woman died in labor’[this interpretation seems difficult to reconcile with the fact that the (labour-) pangs are experienced by the Roman people]; (ii) Cicero conceives of himself as a metaphorical midwife who, through his selfsacrifice, helps the populus Romanus give birth to a free commonwealth; (iii) as paterfamilias (and pater patriae) he is the one to legally recognize liberty as the offspring of the people (in Roman culture, ‘the power and continuation of family name lies in the father’ s recognition of the child, not in the mother’s delivery’).

16Extra information:
However we read this imagery, its presence here offers an opportune moment to recall that Roman oratory (whether delivered in a public space or distributed through backstage channels in pamphlet form) was a gendered practice. See Richlin (1997: 91): ‘A full study of the issue [sc. the interrelation of gender and rhetoric in ancient Rome] would have to consider the nature of the forum as gendered space; the socialization of Roman citizen boys into manhood through the study of rhetoric; the rhetorical handbooks as guides to gender construction; the subject matter of the extant rhetorical exercises; the analogy between gender and geography in the Atticist-Asianist debate; the relation between Greeks, Romans, and others in the rhetorical schools; the contrast between Greek ideas of the meaning of rhetoric and Roman ideas; and the ways in which womanhood is constructed in Roman culture through exclusion from rhetoric’.

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