Cicero /

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

DE IMPERIO 42 ESSAY

Peace for our time

In the previous paragraph, Cicero started with four sentences that dealt with Pompey’s temperantia, constituted also stylistically as a unit by the quadruple anaphora of nunc. In the last sentence of § 41, he moved on to facilitas – a switch in focus marked by the particles Iam vero – which he treats in one sentence. § 42 continues this approach: we get another list of sentences, introduced by either iam or vero, to do with (mainly) ‘soft’ virtutes:

  • (i) Iam quantum consilio, quantum dicendi gravitate et copia valeat, in quo ipso inest quaedam dignitas imperatoria, vos, Quirites, hoc ipso ex loco saepe cognovistis.
  • (ii) Fidem vero eius quantam inter socios existimari putatis, quam hostes omnes omnium generum sanctissimam iudicarint?
  • (iii) Humanitate iam tanta est, ut difficile dictu sit, utrum hostes magis virtutem eius pugnantes timuerint an mansuetudinem victi dilexerint.

Consilium is a quality Cicero included in his list of virtutes imperatoriae commonly recognized as such (see § 29: labor in negotiis, fortitudo in periculis, industria in agendo, celeritas in conficiendo, consilium in providendo). Like facilitas, fides and humanitas figure in the list of handmaidens to martial virtus Cicero enumerated in § 36: Ac primum quanta innocentia debent esse imperatores! quanta deinde in omnibus rebus temperantia! quanta fide, quanta facilitate, quanto ingenio, quanta humanitate! In that list, innocentia and temperantia took pride of place, corresponding to the lengthy treatment they receive in §§ 36-41, whereas fides, facilitas, ingenium, and humanitas occur in the form of a checklist, corresponding to their swift treatment in §§ 41-42. A word on ingenium and dicendi gravitas et copia: if you recall, we expressed a certain amount of bafflement in our commentary on § 36 that Cicero included ingenium in his list of virtutes. And he does indeed not mention the term again in his discussion of the perfect general. Instead, what we get here in § 42 is the somewhat surprising inclusion of powerful oratory among the qualities that define the summus imperator. We mentioned at the time that ingenium is a key technical term in rhetorical theory (innate talent complementing ars, or ‘exercise’, in constituting the perfect orator, the summus orator); and it now emerges that Cicero included a reference to ingenium to set up his pitch for dicendi gravitas et copia as an important characteristic of an outstanding military leader. Once we see this correspondence, all the virtutes mentioned in § 36 are accounted for, and the reference to oratory no longer comes (entirely) out of the blue.

In his sentence on humanitas, Cicero claims that Rome’s enemies are as appreciative of Pompey’s virtus (here used unequivocally in its ‘primary’ meaning of ‘martial prowess’) while fighting as they are of his mild disposition (mansuetudo) when defeated. He thereby elegantly sums up the full spectrum of virtutes, from tough-as-nail courage on the battlefield to humane treatment of vanquished foes, that he covered in §§ 29-42 and claimed for Pompey’s rich portfolio of excellences – just before the final, concluding sentence of his discussion of virtus, in which he argues the paradoxical point that putting this uniquely able individual in charge of war will soon result in permanent peace, a boon of such proportions that it resembles a divine charter: et quisquam dubitabit quin huic hoc tantum bellum permittendum sit, qui ad omnia nostrae memoriae bella conficienda divino quodam consilio natus esse videatur?

Article Nav
Citation Block