Quem enim imperātōrem possumus ūllō in numerō putāre, cuius in exercitū centuriātūs vēneant atque vēnierint? Quid hunc hominem māgnum aut amplum dē rē pūblicā cōgitāre, quī pecūniam ex aerāriō dēprōmptam ad bellum administrandum aut propter cupiditātem prōvinciae magistrātibus dīvīserit aut propter avāritiam Rōmae in quaestū relīquerit? Vestra admurmurātiō facit, Quirītēs, ut agnōscere videāminī, quī haec fēcerint; ego autem nōminō nēminem; quā rē īrāscī mihi nēmō poterit, nisi quī ante dē sē voluerit cōnfitērī. Itaque propter hanc avāritiam imperātōrum quantās calamitātēs, quōcumque ventum sit, nostrī exercitūs ferant, quis ignōrat? 

37: SPQR confidential

This follows on from Cicero’s announcement at the end of the previous paragraph that Pompey’s ‘soft qualities’ stand out with particular clarity when compared to the behaviour of others in similar positions of power...[full essay]

Study Questions:

  • Parse centuriatus.
  • Identify and explain the mood of veneant atque venierint.
  • What is the main verb of the sentence quid hunc hominem magnum aut amplum de re publica cogitare...? (NB: it needs to be supplied from the previous sentence.) What construction does it govern?
  • Identify and explain the mood of diviserit and reliquerit.
  • What case is Romae?
  • Parse, and explain the syntax of, videamini.
  • Parse voluerit.
  • What weirdo form is ventum est?
  • Identify and explain the mood of ferant.
  • Vestra admurmuratio: how do you explain Cicero’s reference to unrest in the audience? Did he anticipate this murmur of outraged assent when drafting the speech? Did he add this bit after delivery, before disseminating the speech in writing – and how can we be sure that the admurmuratio actually happened? What is the effect of having a gesture to the original performance-context in the written version of the speech?
  • Can you think of contemporary figures that (don’t) live up to Cicero’s injunction that public officials ought to magnum et amplum de re publica cogitare?

Stylistic Appreciation:

How does Cicero generate an atmosphere of outraged collusion with his audience?

Discussion Point:

What are the mechanisms by which ancient and modern governments ensure the proper use of public funds by elected officials? What laws against bribery and embezzlement existed in ancient Rome – as compared to contemporary Britain?

Quem enim imperatorem possumus ullo in numero putare, cuius in exercitu centuriatus veneant atque venierint?: The main verb of the sentence is possumus, which takes the object infinitive putare. putare governs the accusatives Quem ... imperatorem. Quem is either an interrogative adjective (‘which general can we believe to be of any esteem...?’) or an interrogative pronoun, with imperatorem in predicative position (‘whom can we believe to be a general of any esteem...?’)

ullo in numero: the phrasing of (in) numero with a pronominal adjective (in this case ullus) is idiomatic: OLD s.v. numerus 11a. in aliquo (nullo) numero (haberi) means ‘(to be held) of some (no) account/esteem’. Cicero’s question here is rhetorical: one cannot consider a general who sells posts in his army to be ‘of any account/esteem’ – that is, he is no general at all.

cuius in exercitu centuriatus veneant atque venierint?: cuius is a possessive genitive in the masculine singular of the relative pronoun, dependent on exercitu and referring back to imperatorem: ‘in whose army...’ The subject of the relative clause is centuriatus (a 4th-declension noun here in the nominative masculine plural). The verbs are veneant (3rd person plural present subjunctive active [in form, but passive in meaning]) and venierint (3rd person plural perfect subjunctive active [in form, but passive in meaning]), from veneo, -ire, -ii (-itum), which functions as the passive to vendo (‘to sell’) – ‘to be sold’. veneo is easily confused with venio, venire, veni, ventum (‘to come’). In the perfect active subjunctive the forms of the two verbs are indeed identical, but the 3rd person plural present subjunctive active of venio would be veniant. veneant atque venierint are in the subjunctive because the relative clause is one of characteristic: ‘a general of the sort who...’.

centuriatus: the nominative masculine plural of the 4th-declension noun centuriatus, -us, i.e. ‘office of the centurion’ – a relatively well remunerated position in the Roman army.

quid hunc hominem magnum aut amplum de re publica cogitare, qui pecuniam ex aerario depromptam ad bellum administrandum aut propter cupiditatem provinciae magistratibus diviserit aut propter avaritiam Romae in quaestu reliquerit?: The main verb (possumus) and its object infinitive (putare) need to be supplied from the previous sentence. putare introduces an indirect statement with hunc hominem as subject accusative and cogitare as infinitive. magnum aut amplum agree with quid: ‘What [matter] grand and edifying can we believe this man to be thinking about the state, who...’

qui introduces another relative clause of characteristic, which explains the subjunctives diviserit and reliquerit. They are in the perfect: Cicero is referring to apparently well-known incidences in the past. pecuniam is the accusative object of both diviserit and reliquerit, coordinated by autaut. At issue are two forms of corrupting passion – cupiditas (‘desire for power and glory’) and avaritia (‘greed, i.e. desire for wealth’) – that lead to illegal use of public funds: bribery and embezzlement. What makes the clause difficult to take in is the participle depromptam, which agrees with pecuniam and governs the phrases ex aerario and ad bellum administrandum:

  • qui
  • pecuniam [ex aerario depromptam ad bellum administrandum]
  • aut propter cupiditatem provinciae magistratibus
  • diviserit
  • aut propter avaritiam Romae in quaestu
  • reliquerit?

qui pecuniam ... magistratibus diviserit: the construction of dividere here is ‘to distribute an accusative object (pecuniam) among recipients in the dative (magistratibus)’.

pecuniam ex aerario depromptam ad bellum administrandum: depromptam is the perfect passive participle of depromere in the accusative feminine singular agreeing with pecuniam. It governs the prepositional phrases ex aerario and ad bellum administrandum. The preposition ad here expresses purpose: ‘for war to-be-waged’, ‘in order to wage war’.

ex aerario: an aerarius is someone who works in copper or other precious metals (aes, aeris, n.). The adjective aerarius refers to something that pertains to, or is made of copper, bronze, etc. Hence the Latin phrase for treasury, i.e. aerarium stabulum – ‘a dwelling/stable (stabulum) pertaining to precious metal’. stabulum was considered redundant, hence the freestanding aerarium, i.e. ‘a place where precious metal is kept’ – or, specifically, the place in the temple of Saturn at Rome, where the state treasury was located, or, simply, ‘the treasury’. In the late republic, the urban quaestors were in charge of its administration, overseen by the senate. They would provide funds for magistrates or pro-magistrates to finance their military operations, on the understanding that such funds would be invested in the best public interest, rather than for illegal private benefits.

propter cupiditatem provinciae: provinciae is an objective genitive dependent on propter cupiditatem. As Macdonald points out, ‘this must mean “ambition to retain his province” rather than “obtain a province”.’36

Romae: a locative (‘in Rome’).

Vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites, ut agnoscere videamini, qui haec fecerint: literally, Cicero says: ‘your murmuring of disapproval, citizens, makes it that you seem to recognize [those], who have done these things’. ‘makes it’, of course, is awkward English – ‘shows’ or ‘demonstrates’ is much more elegant. Cicero elides the accusative object of agnoscere (eos), which is also the antecedent of the relative pronoun qui. qui haec fecerint is an indirect question dependent on agnoscere: hence the subjunctive. Note that Cicero treads very carefully here, by means of one of his favourite hedges: the use of videor. He does not say, factually and brutally, ut agnoscatis (‘that you recognize’) but ut agnoscere videamini (‘that you seem to recognize’).

Vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites: Cicero here makes it out that he is reacting spontaneously to the audience. Instances such as these raise the question of the relationship between three different versions of the same speech: (a) what Cicero prepared beforehand (though he would have spoken freely, rather than read from a script); (b) what he said during the oral delivery of the speech; (c) the version disseminated in writing afterwards. Did Cicero anticipate an admurmuratio from the audience at this moment already in the planning phase? Did the admurmuratio arise spontaneously and Cicero captured the moment in the written version? Was there perhaps no admurmuratio during the delivery at all, but Cicero kept, or added it, in the published version to convey a sense of ‘life delivery’ and interactivity for those who encountered the speech in writing? We simply do not know.37

ego autem nomino neminem; quare irasci mihi nemo poterit, nisi qui ante de se voluerit confiteri: Cicero here introduces a comment on his own behalf, which almost sounds like a parenthesis.

ego autem nomino neminem: Cicero implies that his audience knows very well whom he is referring to, but still refrains from naming names. The autem, then, has adversative force: despite the fact that everyone knows whom I am talking about, Cicero is saying, I (notice the emphatic use of the personal pronoun ego), for my part, keep my hands clean and will abstain from explicit mudslinging. nomino neminem constitutes a deft paronomasia, which partly makes up for the anti-climactic neminem. Imagine Cicero to pause ever so slightly after nomino – raising the expectation that he is about to crucify rhetorically a corrupt aristocrat; perhaps some members in the audience are beginning to sweat nervously at this point – only to let the air out with the categorical neminem.

quare irasci mihi nemo poterit, nisi qui ante de se voluerit confiteri: poterit is future, voluerit future perfect. Cicero argues that since he has not named anyone, nobody will be able to be angry with him unless that person ‘will have wanted’ to out himself as guilty beforehand. nisi does not introduce a conditional clause; it has a limiting function – ‘except he, who...’. The antecedent of the relative pronoun (is) is elided.

ante: used adverbially: ‘beforehand’.

Itaque propter hanc avaritiam imperatorum quantas calamitates ... nostri exercitus ferant, quis ignorat?: The main clause is the question quis ignorat, which governs the indirect question introduced by the interrogative adjective quantas: hence the subjunctive of ferant. propter hanc avaritiam imperatorum belongs into the indirect question, but is pulled up-front for emphasis.

Itaque: the connective itaque (‘hence’, ‘therefore’) introduces a sentence or thought that emerges from, and stands in some sort of causal relation to, what comes before. Here, though, the link is not with the immediately preceding (ego autem nomino neminem; quare irasci mihi nemo poterit, nisi qui ante de se voluerit confiteri) but the prior vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites, ut agnoscere videamini, qui haec fecerint. It thus reinforces the sense of ego ... confiteri as a parenthetical aside.

quocumque ventum est: only verbs that take an accusative object in their active forms have a complete passive (they are so-called ‘transitive verbs’). Verbs that are ‘intransitive’, i.e. don’t take an accusative object, only form an impersonal passive in the third person singular. venio, venire, veni, ventum (‘to come’) is intransitive, and ventum est is its impersonal perfect passive. Its use here stresses the action and obfuscates agency: Cicero could have said quocumque venerunt [sc. nostri exercitus]. Another nuance to note is the indicative (ventum est): given that the indefinite relative clause is part of the indirect question, Cicero could have used the subjunctive by assimilation; but he retains the indicative to enhance the graphic nature of his rhetoric: the disgraceful conduct of Roman armies is an indisputable matter of fact.

36 Macdonald (1986) 69.

37 For a more detailed discussion of written v. spoken versions of Cicero’s speeches see Gildenhard (2011) 14-15, with further bibliography.


possum, posse, potuī, [potis + sum], irr., n.: be able, can, have power; have influence, avail.

centuriātus, -ūs, [centuriō], m.: office of centurion, centurionship.

vēneō, -īre, -īvī or -iī, -ītum, [vēnum, sale, + ], irr., n.: go to sale, be sold.

rēs pūblica, reī pūblicae, f.: see pūblicus.

aerārium, -ī, [aerārius], n.: treasury; the public treasure, finances. The Roman treasury was a part of the temple of Saturn in the Forum, in which public funds were kept.

dēprōmō, -prōmere, -prōmpsī, -prōmptum, [dē + prōmō], 3, a.: draw out, bring forth, fetch; derive, obtain.

administrō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [ad + ministrō, from minister], 1, a.: manage, control, handle, administer, regulate; direct, guide, serve.

cupiditās, -ātis, [cupidus], f.: desire, eagerness, passion; greed, covetousness, cupidity, lust.

magistrātus, -ūs, [magister], m.: office of magistrate, civil office, magistracy; by metonymy, magistrate, public officer.

avāritia, -ae, [avārus], f.: greed, avarice, covetousness.

Rōma, -ae, f.: Rome.

quaestus, -ūs, [quaerō], m.: gain, acquisition; profit, advantage, interest; business, employment, occupation.

admurmurātiō, -ōnis, [admurmurō], f.: murmuring, murmur of a crowd, expressing approval or dissent.

Quirītēs, -ium, [Curēs, an ancient town of the Sabines], m., pl.: originally people of Cures; after the union of the Sabines with the Romans, Roman citizens, Quirītēs; sometimes in sing., Quirīs, -ītis, a Roman citizen, Quirite.

agnōscō, -nōscere, -nōvī, -nitum, [ad + gnōscō], 3, a.: discern, recognize, identify; acknowledge; perceive, know by; perceive the meaning of, understand.

nōminō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [nōmen], 1, a.: call by name, name; render famous, make renowned; nominate, designate; mention, report; accuse, charge.

quā rē, adverbial phrase, inter.: by what means? whereby? how? on what account? wherefore? why? rel., wherefore, and for that reason, therefore; by reason of which, so that.

quantus, -a, -um, adj., inter.: how great? how much? rel., as great as, as much as. tantus — quantus, as great as, as much as.

calamitās, -ātis, f.: loss, damage, hurt; calamity, misfortune, ruin, disaster, adversity.

quōcumque [quō + -cumque], adv.: whithersoever, to whatever place.

veniō, -īre, vēnī, ventum, 4, n.: come; come into, enter; approach; spring; result, occur.

ignōrō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [cf. ignārus], 1, a. and n.: not know, be unacquainted with, be ignorant.

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Suggested Citation

Ingo Gildenhard, Louise Hodgson, et al., Cicero, On Pompey’s Command (De Imperio), 27–49. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-78374-080-2. DCC edition, 2016.http://dcc.dickinson.edu/cicero-de-imperio/37