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

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Ingo Gildenhard

Commentary

§ 119: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!

Texte intégral

1Cicero clinches the account with his public service — and a twin focus on liberty and death. The final thought (or wish) of Philippic 2 is one of cosmic justice: that the fate of the individual reflects the nature of his actions within the public sphere. Those who invested much in the commonwealth ought to see their efforts rewarded; those who harmed the civic community ought to suffer accordingly. Much to Cicero’s regret, reality proved recalcitrant to this principle: throughout much of his career, and certainly for the final two decades, he had to cope with the unpalatable scenario that those who acted on behalf of the res publica suffered (through exile and other forms of humiliation, as well as death), whereas perpetrators of the worst transgressions seemed to get off scot free: Piso and Gabinius, Clodius (until his death in 52), Caesar (until his death in 44). At best, the wheels of cosmic justice were working slowly.

2Etenim si abhinc annos prope viginti hoc ipso in templo negavi posse mortem immaturam esse consulari, quanto verius nunc negabo [posse mortem immaturam esse] seni!: Cicero concluded the previous paragraph by recalling his attitude during the conspiracy of Catiline: defendi rem publicam adulescens, non deseram senex; contempsi Catilinae gladios, non pertimescam tuos. Now he uses a logical conditional sequence (with both verbs in the indicative) to explain this assertion in the form of an a-fortiori argument, with his past actions (detailed in the si-clause) as premise for the conclusions to be drawn about his attitude and actions now.

3negavi introduces an indirect statement with mortem immaturam as subject accusative, posse as verb, esse as supplementary infinitive with posse, and the dative consulari dependent on immaturam (‘… premature for someone of consular rank…’). In the apodosis, Cicero reiterates the finite verb (switching from perfect to future), but elides much of the indirect statement negabo governs: it is represented only by the dative seni (from senex), which has a syntactical position identical to consulari. The rest — posse mortem immaturam esse — has to be supplied from the protasis.

4The sentence is designed to strengthen the notion of Cicero as a warrior on behalf of the commonwealth throughout his adult years: the two biographical markers used in the previous paragraph, adulescens and senex, recur in slight variation (consulari – seni); and his defiance of the ‘swords of Catiline’ receives chronological (abhinc annos prope viginti) and spatial (hoc ipso in templo) specification, as Cicero gestures back to the opening of the speech and also recalls a moment in his Fourth Speech against Catiline.

5The temporal specification annos prope viginti at the opening of the concluding paragraph gestures back to the initial sentence of the speech (§ 1):

Quonam meo fato, patres conscripti, fieri dicam, ut nemo his annis viginti rei publicae fuerit hostis, qui non bellum eodem tempore mihi quoque indixerit?

[To what fate of mine, senators, should I attribute it that in these twenty years no man has been the enemy of the commonwealth without also declaring war on me at the same time?]

6He then singles out Catiline and Clodius — but ignores Caesar, whom he considered a hostis rei publicae rather than a personal enemy. Put differently, he construes a historical arch from the hour of his greatest triumph, the suppression of the Catilinarian conspiracy in 63, the year when he held the consulship, to the present hour — his (last) stand against a prospective tyrant. Cicero begins the concluding paragraph of the speech by citing himself (in Catilinam 4.3):

Quare, patres conscripti, consulite vobis, prospicite patriae, conservate vos, coniuges, liberos fortunasque vestras, populi Romani nomen salutemque defendite; mihi parcere ac de me cogitare desinite. nam primum debeo sperare omnis deos, qui huic urbi praesident, pro eo mihi, ac mereor, relaturos esse gratiam; deinde, si quid obtigerit, aequo animo paratoque moriar. nam neque turpis mors forti viro potest accidere neque immatura consulari nec misera sapienti.

[Take thought for yourselves, therefore, gentlemen; look to the preservation of your fatherland, save yourselves, your wives, your children and your fortunes, defend the name of the Roman people and their very existence; stop protecting me and cease your concern for me. Firstly, I am bound to hope that all the gods who watch over this city will recompense me as I deserve; and secondly, if anything happens to me, I shall die calm and resigned. A brave man’s death cannot bring dishonour, a consul’s cannot be before its time, a philosopher’s cannot bring sorrow.]

7abhinc annos prope viginti: abhinc, followed by the accusative of extent in time annos prope viginti, specifies the dating point: ‘almost (prope) twenty years ago (abhinc)’, i.e. 5 December 63 BCE, the day when he delivered the Fourth Catilinarian.

8hoc ipso in templo: the temple of Concord.

9mortem immaturam: for anyone who has reached the consulship, the apex of the cursus honorum and guaranteeing entry into the collective memory of the res publica, death can no longer be considered premature. For the topos (here inverted) see Nielson (1997: 198–202).

10quanto verius: quanto is an ablative of the degree of difference, verius the comparative form of the adverb vere: ‘how much more truthfully…’

11mihi vero, patres conscripti, iam etiam optanda mors est, perfuncto rebus eis quas adeptus sum quasque gessi: the subject is mors, the gerundive optanda… est the verb. mihi is a dative of agency with the gerundive, deftly linked to mors by alliteration. perfuncto is a perfect passive participle in the dative, modifying mihi. The deponent perfungi (like uti and frui, the simplex fungi, vesci, and potiri) takes an ablative object — here rebus eis; the res in question are further detailed in the two relatives clauses (linked by the-que after the second quas) quas adeptus sum and quas gessi. This splitting of res in what amounts to a husteron proteron (res quas adeptus sum refers to the honours he attained, res quas gessi to the deeds for which he received those honours) renders a literal translation difficult: ‘Death, senators, is now even something to be wished for by me, given all the things I have accomplished — the honours I attained, the deeds (res gestae) I performed’. Essentially, Cicero is now delivering his own funeral oration.

12duo modo haec opto, unum ut moriens populum Romanum liberum relinquam — hoc mihi maius ab dis immortalibus dari nihil potest — alterum ut ita cuique eveniat ut de re publica quisque mereatur: Cicero concludes the speech with a twofold prayer: ‘I pray for the following two things only (modo), first (unum), that…, second (alterum), that…’. In between the two parts, Cicero includes a parenthetical gloss on the first (hoc… potest): it signals that he subordinates his desire for (cosmic) justice on the level of the individual to his ardent wish that freedom be restored to the Roman people.

13moriens: circumstantial present active participle in the nominative masculine singular modifying the subject of the ut-clause (‘I’). Cicero is reaching the end: of the speech, of his life. And he looks beyond his own demise to the prospect of a revival of freedom for the Roman people, which he tries to help bring about in a spirit of self-sacrifice.

14liberum: in predicative position: ‘… that I leave the Roman people free’.

15hoc mihi maius ab dis immortalibus dari nihil potest: the subject of the parenthesis is nihil, which takes maius as predicative complement. hoc, which refers back to the Roman people being free (again) by the time Cicero dies, is an ablative of comparison with the comparative maius. Literally: ‘nothing can be given to me by the immortal gods greater than this’. Cicero foregrounds hoc mihi maius by front position and alliteration.

16ut ita cuique eveniat ut de re publica quisque mereatur: literally: ‘that for each man (cuique) it turns out in such a way as each (quisque) behaves towards the commonwealth’. The first ut follows opto and is substantive (I pray that…), the second ut correlates with the preceding ita. Here construed with the dative of the person affected (cuique), evenio is value-neutral: the thing that happens can be good, bad, or neutral. Cicero prays that whatever happens to an individual reflects his (dis-) service to the commonwealth. It’s what he has coming.

17Extra information:
Cicero revisits the theme of just rewards in the last Philippic: at Phil. 14.19 he imagines the Roman people enquiring about each senator’s views to judge him accordingly: ita de quoque, ut quemque meritum arbitrantur, existiment (‘they hold each in the opinion they believe he merits’).