Cicero /

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

DE IMPERIO 44 ESSAY

Case study I: the socio-economics of Pompey’s auctoritas

After the introductory paragraph on auctoritas, Cicero now offers the circumstances surrounding the passing of the lex Gabinia (the bill proposed by the tribune Aulus Gabinius in the previous year, which gave Pompey the extraordinary command against the pirates) as an illustration of Pompey’s auctoritas. He proceeds in three steps:

  • (i) An vero ... imperatorem depoposcit?: a rhetorical question that invokes scenes from the legendary day on which the lex Gabinia was passed, asserts its universal fame (in the same idiom in which Cicero earlier described the ubiquitous presence of piracy in the Mediterranean), and recalls the tremendous popular support this piece of legislation enjoyed;
  • (ii) Itaque ... exempla sumantur: a moment of exhortative reflection, in which Cicero reiterates what this paragraph is about: the demonstration of quantum auctoritas valet in bello (the theory) with specific reference to Pompey (its application).
  • (iii) qui quo ... efficere potuisset: description of the economic consequences of Pompey’s appointment.

Neither the syntax nor the phrasing in this paragraph is necessarily straightforward.

[Extra information: Dio Cassius imagines Catulus, the old patrician war-horse, as making several pertinent points against the bill proposed by Gabinius: firstly, that the concentration of too much power in individuals’ hands had led to the war between Sulla and the Marians; secondly, that power-sharing gave the Roman elite as a whole more experience; thirdly, that there were plenty of pro-magistrates around who could do the job instead of Pompey; and fourthly, that the office of dictator already existed to deal with crises. These arguments applied just as much to the lex Manilia, which gave Pompey yet more power and authority, but Cicero is eager to stress that the lex Gabinia was a miraculous success. Merely by mentioning the Gabinian law, therefore, Cicero implies that Catulus and Hortensius – the opponents of the present piece of legislation – are wrong now because they were wrong then. Pompey, after all, defeated the pirates in three months to popular acclaim.]

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