Cicero /

Edited by: Ingo Gildenhard, Louise Hodgson, et al.

DE IMPERIO 28 ESSAY

The perfect general, Pompey the kid, and Mr. Experience

Cicero now explicates the reasons for his judgement that Pompey has outperformed both his contemporaries and the Romans of old. To do so, he briefly switches registers: he theorizes. In the first sentence of the paragraph, he defines, in the abstract, his ideal of the consummate military leader or perfect general. His summus imperator has four essential attributes – scientia rei militaris (‘knowledge of military affairs’), virtus (‘overall excellence’), auctoritas (‘commanding prestige’ or ‘authority’), and felicitas (‘divine blessing’). These attributes serve Cicero as blueprint for the rest of §§ 28-49. He treats each one in turn. The first quality in the list, scientia rei militaris, which is also the least complex, receives the briefest coverage: Cicero deals with it in the rest of § 28, before moving on to virtus (§§ 29-42), auctoritas (§§ 43-46), and felicitas (§§ 47-48). (Note the unequal distribution: scientia militaris receives 1 paragraph, virtus 14, auctoritas 4, and felicitas 2: is there a rationale for this?) Throughout, he aims to demonstrate that it is impossible to imagine anyone possessing any of these qualities to a higher degree than Pompey – let alone all four together. Pompey thereby emerges as the living embodiment of the perfect general.

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