Cicero /
Philippic 2.44–50, 78–92, 100–119

Edited by Ingo Gildenhard

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Philippics 2.46 essay

After the delusional image of marital stability that concluded § 44, matters fell apart in § 45: Curio pater and Curio filius have both been reduced to tears, even though the reasons for their emotional incontinence differ drastically: the former is laid low by a bout of depression at his inability to check his son’s self-destructive infatuation with Antony (a case of senile dementia), the latter wails at Cicero’s feet in an effort to protect his beloved (call it penile dementia). For the day of reckoning appears nigh: if Curio pater were to refuse to pick up the bill, both young men might end up in exile. It is worth noting that not all of the problems that the Curio family faces are down to the lurid sex-appeal of Antony who has clearly addled the mind of Curio Junior. When patria potestas breaks down, all hell tends to break loose, and Curio Senior is in clear need of a guide who can tell him what to do: Cicero to the rescue!

In § 46, Cicero features himself as a steady and competent counselor to sort out what is frankly an over-emotional and quite unnecessary mess, created by the inability of the father to deal adequately with Antony. All he needs to do is reassert paternal authority — and Cicero tells him how best to go about it. He offers Curio Senior a lesson in paternal discipline, combining a measure of kindness (paying off his son’s debts) with a measure of severity (laying down the law on future relations with Antony, which essentially amounts to imposing a restraining order). He emboldens the Elder Curio to take an approach to the problem that is both generous and tough-minded, grounded in the best of Roman common sense, a tough but pragmatic approach that combines disciplina with what one may label humanitas (sympathy with the plight of fellow-humans, in this case a son who has temporarily lost his ways under the sinister influence of Antony) to shore up his familia. Following up on Curio Junior’s desperate pleading, he convinces the father to settle the debt of his son, however feckless he may have been (and thus enable him to grow up into a viable member of Rome’s civic community), but also to exercise his paternal powers to shut down any further contact between Curio Junior and Antony. The individual left out in the cold is Antony.

In sum: under the influence of Antony, the two Curios have failed to maintain the demeanor expected of those who belong to Rome’s ruling elite. In the last sentence of the paragraph, Cicero seamlessly pivots from Antony’s personal failings to his political crimes: he conjures a fearsome display of military force, designed to intimidate Cicero and his audience as part of the speech’s setting. Cicero here offers a representative snapshot of Antony’s corrosive impact on the fabric of Rome’s ruling elite and society at large. In nuce, this is the scenario that Cicero conjures for the speech as a whole: what Antony does to the Curio household, he is currently doing to the res publica. The analogy to Curio Senior is the senate. Cicero came to the rescue once; he offers to do so again — in fact does so with this very speech. Cicero advocates the same approach now, which he advised then: to reassert (senatorial) auctoritas and close ranks against the subversive, revolutionary madman.

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