[109] At iste, quī senātū nōn egēret, neque dēsīderāvit quemquam et potius discessū nostrō laetātus est statimque illa mīrābilia facinora effēcit. quī chīrographa Caesaris dēfendisset lucrī suī causā, is lēgēs Caesaris eāsque praeclārās, ut rem pūblicam concutere posset, ēvertit. numerum annōrum prōvinciīs prōrogāvit; īdemque, cum āctōrum Caesaris dēfēnsor esse dēbēret, et in pūblicīs et in prīvātīs rēbus ācta Caesaris rescidit. in pūblicīs nihil est lēge gravius; in prīvātīs firmissimum est testāmentum. lēgēs aliās sine prōmulgātiōne sustulit, aliās ut tolleret prōmulgāvit. testāmentum irritum fēcit, quod etiam īnfimīs cīvibus semper obtentum est. signa, tabulās, quās pōpulō Caesar ūnā cum hortīs lēgāvit, eās hic partim in hortōs Pompēī dēportāvit, partim in vīllam Scīpiōnis.

Playing Fast and Loose with Caesar’s Legislation

Scholarly opinion on Caesar’s stature as a ‘statesman’ is divided (as opposed to his unanimously acknowledged genius as a military strategist and commander). Many feel that he did not have a (or any) viable vision for the Roman commonwealth beyond installing himself as quasi-omnipotent dictator. Be that as it may, he did initiate a significant programme of innovations and reforms across various cultural spheres (not least the calendar), including a slate of legislative measures. In the years 49–44 BCE a large number of laws were passed (proposed by different magistrates who of course did so with the dictator’s approval and encouragement) that ranged from the taxation of provinces to the award of citizenship to non-Roman communities to legislation dealing with Pompeian exiles to social and economic measures, such as land distributions.77 After the Ides of March, the continuing validity of Caesar’s legislative legacy was part of the compromise struck between Caesarians and the self-styled liberators — a by and large uncontroversial item of business given the chaos that would have ensued if the realities put in place under Caesar’s watch over the last half decade had suddenly lost their legal foundation. More problematic was the question of what to do with those of Caesar’s plans and policies that had remained work-in-progress. Earlier in the speech, Cicero berated Antony for his nefarious handling of Caesar’s archive that contained his unpublished acta, claiming that Antony feigned Caesarian authorship for any kind of measure that served his interests. In the light of this track record of insisting that Caesar’s word (oral, written, drafted, or invented) was — or had to become — law, Antony’s disrespect for certain aspects of Caesar’s legislative record emerges as hypocritical. This is the invective angle Cicero explores in the present paragraph, lambasting his adversary for his ‘optional’ commitment to Caesar’s legacy and testament: Antony, Cicero claims, gives overriding importance to Caesar’s acts when it suits him, but thinks nothing of doing away with those of his measures he deems inconvenient. But, as Matijević (2006) convincingly shows, the issue here is not so much (or just as much) Antony falsifying Caesar’s acta as Cicero falsifying Antony’s handling of Caesar’s acta. [study questions]

At iste, qui senatu non egeret, neque desideravit quemquam et potius discessu nostro laetatus est statimque illa mirabilia facinora effecit: after his picture of frightened senators at the end of § 108, Cicero now refocuses on Antony (with evident distaste, expressed by the adversative particle at and the contemptuous demonstrative pronoun iste): far from being upset by a depleted senate, Antony exulted in the opportunity to push through his nefarious agenda — and did so at once (statim): ‘But this man here, since he had no need of a senate, did not miss anyone (of us), and rather rejoiced at our departure, and immediately proceeded to those stunning exploits of his’. The connectives here take some sorting: Cicero, unusually, correlates neque with -que (after statim) rather than et. (The et potius discessu nostro laetatus estcontinues, and glosses, neque desideravit quemquam.)

qui senatu non egeretsenatu is an ablative of separation with egeret (the imperfect subjunctive in a relative clause with causal force).

discessu nostro laetatus estlaetor here governs the ablative discessu nostro (‘he took delight in our departure’).

illa mirabilia facinora effecit: the noun facinus, which is etymologically related to the verb facio (hence facinora effecitforms a so-called figura etymologica), can have the neutral meaning of ‘deed’ or ‘act’ (‘something that has been done’); here, though, the sense is ‘misdeed’, ‘crime’, or ‘outrage’. mirabilis [from the deponent miror, -ari, -atus: ‘to be surprised, amazed, or bewildered + bilis] has the value-neutral meaning of ‘causing wonder’, ‘extraordinary’.

qui chirographa Caesaris defendisset lucri sui causa, is leges Caesaris easque praeclaras, ut rem publicam concutere posset, evertitqui might look like a connecting relative, but it is not: it introduces a — concessive: hence the pluperfect subjunctive defendisset — relative clause with is as antecedent: ‘this man, who / even though he had defended Caesar’s holographs for his personal profit…’ Cicero here targets Antony’s contradictory approach towards the legacy of Caesar: handwritten drafts are treated like Scripture cast in stone when they bring Antony financial benefits (for instance through bribes by those you would like to see them published), whereas any piece of legislation he finds inconvenient is unceremoniously binned, even if it has already been put on permanent record.

leges Caesaris easque praeclaras: the -que after eas introduces a gloss on leges; the sense is: ‘even though they were excellent’. Cicero uses the same adjective with reference to Caesar’s legislation at Phil. 1.18 (cited above): leges multas … et praeclaras (focalized through Caesar).

ut rem publicam concutere posset: the purpose-clause strikes an odd and aggressive chord: Cicero makes it out as if causing upheaval of the commonwealth for its own sake is Antony’s overriding motivation.

numerum annorum provinciis prorogavit: Cicero here singles out a law that regulated the length of provincial governorships. prorogo is a technical term here with the sense of ‘to extend a term of office’. The need to create so-called ‘pro-magistrates’, i.e. magistrates that had completed their term in office but then moved on to administrative positions ‘on behalf of’ (pro) a magistrate emerged in the context of Rome’s imperial expansion when two consuls ceased to suffice to cover the needs for military leadership. But prolonged pro-magistracies, as attractive as they were for those holding them, also constituted a huge problem for the senatorial oligarchy — as (not least) the case of Caesar showed, who used his terms as pro-consul (initially five years, then extended, in 55 BCE, for another five-year period) to build up an invincible army loyal to him above all. It is somewhat ironic that in 46 BCE Caesar passed a law, the Lex Iulia de provinciis, which restricted the tenure of such position to one year for ex-praetors and two years for ex-consuls — no doubt in part to keep potential rivals in check. Yet Antony, looking ahead to his own pro-consulship, passed a law in the summer of 44 BCE, the Lex (Antonia?) de provinciis consularibus, that extended his (and Dolabella’s) period as pro-consuls to five years, thus overriding Caesar’s legislation. Since he was unable to get the law approved in the senate, he had the tribunes of the plebs (one of whom was his brother Lucius) pass the law in the comitia tributa by plebiscite. For a slightly fuller account see Phil. 5.7 (tribuni plebis tulerunt de provinciis contra acta C. Caesaris: ille biennium, hic sexennium — ‘The tribunes of the plebs proposed a law concerning the provinces which ran counter to the acts of Gaius Caesar: he had fixed a two-year tenure, Antony a six-year’) with Manuwald (2007: 577–78).

idemque, cum actorum Caesaris defensor esse deberet, et in publicis et in privatis rebus acta Caesaris rescidit: the main verb — rescidit — here has the technical sense of ‘rescinding something officially decreed’, such as a law. The cum-clause is concessive (‘even though…’). Cicero now proceeds to identify the various areas in which Antony was busy undoing Caesar’s arrangements. Here he differentiates between res publicae and res privatae; in the following sentence, he identifies laws (leges) as the most important element of res publicae and a testament (testamentum) as the most important element of res privatae, before proceeding to give examples of how Antony attacked Caesar’s leges and arrangements set down in his testament.

actorum Caesaris defensor: ‘Verbal agent nouns in -tor [here: defensor], socalled nomina agentis, can take objective genitives [here: actorum]’, where ‘the genitive denotes the entity defended, more rarely the danger defended against’ Devine and Stephens (2006: 343, 346).

in publicis [rebus] nihil est lege gravius; in privatis [rebus] firmissimum est testamentum: Cicero here draws an analogy between the status of law in the public sphere and the status of a testament in personal affairs, moving on from a comparative (gravius; lege is an ablative of comparison) to a superlative (firmissimum).

leges alias sine promulgatione sustulit, alias ut tolleret [novas leges] promulgavit: the sentence picks up in publicis nihil est lege gravius: ‘as for [Caesar’s] laws, some he annulled without prior public notice (promulgatio), to annul others, he gave public notice [of new legislation]’.

promulgare (noun: promulgatio) is a technical term from Roman law. See Kaster (2006: 425): ‘The public reading and posting of any proposed piece of legislation: the proposal had to receive this publicity on at least three successive market days (nundinae) before an assembly could be convened for a vote’ that would turn the bill into law. In terms of syntax, we get two sentences in asyndetic sequence, but the elliptical and unbalanced nature of Cicero’s prose conjures the chaos that Antony (so Cicero suggests) is causing in Rome’s legal sphere. Note in particular the antithesis of sine promulgatione and promulgavit, which underscores that whatever Antony does in terms of legislation undoes Caesar’s legal arrangements; and the slippage from leges alias, the accusative object of the main verb sustulit, to alias [leges], which is the accusative object of the subordinate clause introduced by ut. The facts are much less sensational: it is true that the plebiscite that extended the pro-consulships of Antony and Dolabella violated the restrictions imposed by Caesar’s Lex Iulia de provinciis; but that does not mean that it rendered Caesar’s legislation void. The new laws that Antony proposed also did not constitute an assault on Caesar’s legal order, but formed the kind of adjustments to existing legislation that a consul might be expected to make. As Ramsey (2003: 124) explains with reference to a piece of Caesarian legislation that regulated jury service: ‘Caesar’s lex iudiciaria of 46 eliminated the lowest of the three classes from which juries were drawn (tribuni aerarii) and limited jury service to senators and equites (Suet. Iul. 41.2; Dio 43.25.1). Antony’s law establishing a third panel may have been designed to address a resulting shortage of jurors’.

testamentum irritum fecit, quod etiam infimis civibus semper obtentum est: the sentence picks up in privatis firmissimum est testamentum. Cicero here refers overdramatically to the tussle that followed the unsealing and reading of Caesar’s will after the Ides of March (for which see the report in Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar, 82–83):

Fuerat animus coniuratis corpus occisi in Tiberim trahere, bona publicare, acta rescindere, sed metu Marci Antoni consulis et magistri equitum Lepidi destiterunt. postulante ergo Lucio Pisone socero testamentum eius aperitur recitaturque in Antoni domo, quod Idibus Septembribus proximis in Lavicano suo fecerat demandaveratque virgini Vestali maximae.

[The conspirators had intended after slaying him to drag his body to the Tiber, confiscate his property, and revoke his decrees; but they desisted through fear of the consul Marcus Antonius and Lepidus, the master of the horse. Then at the request of his father-in-law Lucius Piso, the will was unsealed and read in Antony’s house, which Caesar had made on the preceding Ides of September (= 13 September 45) at his place near Lavicum, and put in the care of the chief of the Vestal Virgins.]

While Antony did his best to obstruct execution of those provisions that he disliked, he never claimed the will as such to be ‘invalid’: irritum is Ciceronian hyperbole. One particular grievance for Antony was Caesar’s nomination of Octavian as his heir and executor. See Plutarch, Life of Antony, 16:

While matters went thus in Rome, the young Caesar, Caesar’s niece’s son, and by testament left his heir, arrived at Rome from Apollonia, where he was when his uncle was killed. The first thing he did was to visit Antony, as his father’s friend. He spoke to him concerning the money that was in his hands, and reminded him of the legacy Caesar had made of seventy-five drachmas of every Roman citizen. Antony, at first, laughing at such discourse from so young a man, told him he wished he were in his health, and that he wanted good counsel and good friends to tell him the burden of being executor to Caesar would sit very uneasy upon his young shoulders. This was no answer to him; and, when he persisted in demanding the property, Antony went on treating him injuriously both in word and deed, opposed him when he stood for the tribune’s office, and, when he was taking steps for the dedication of his father’s golden chair, as had been enacted, he threatened to send him to prison if he did not give over soliciting the people. This made the young Caesar apply himself to Cicero, and all those that hated Antony…

quod etiam infimis civibus semper obtentum est: the antecedent of quod is testamentumetiam here means ‘even’: ‘Caesar’s will he annulled — a thing, which has always been upheld even for citizens of the lowest social rank’. infimus is the superlative of inferus, and infimis civibus is in the dative of advantage.

signa, tabulas, quas populo Caesar una cum hortis legavit, eas hic partim in hortos Pompei deportavit, partim in villam Scipionis: In his will, Caesar bequeathed (legavit) the so-called Horti Caesaris trans Tiberim (‘The Gardens of Caesar across the Tiber’) to the Roman People. Already before his death, he used this estate to stage public entertainments, such as feasts for the entire populace: the garden parties in his Horti consciously rivaled the enjoyments on offer in the Horti Pompeiani, which were most likely part of the plot of land on the Campus Martius that also included Pompey’s house and his theater: see Russell (2016: 162) with references to further literature. In the wake of Pompey’s death, this complex passed into the possession of Antony, and Cicero claims that Antony, after Caesar too lost his life, plundered the Horti Caesaris trans Tiberim to prettify two places he had acquired when properties of Pompey and his followers were auctioned off, the Horti Pompeiani and the villa of Scipio, thereby essentially despoiling the Roman people. See further Wood (2010: 78):

The Horti Caesaris trans Tiberim should be seen as a direct challenge to the Horti Pompeiani. Positioned on the river’s right bank along with a series of other aristocratic holdings, it was essentially a private estate and the venue where Caesar hosted Cleopatra in 45 B.C. (Cic. Att. 15.15.2). However, in attempting to outmanoeuvre Pompey, Caesar is known to have hosted a grand public banquet in his horti trans Tiberim also in 45 B.C. (Val. Max. 9.15.1), where according to Dio (43.42.1) he feasted the entire populace. The true extent of Dio’s assertion may be questionable, but it certainly exemplified Caesar’s exploitation of the communal meal as a popular measure (Plut. Caes. 5.5, 55.2, 57.5; Suet. Iul. 26.2). Additionally, it underlines the extent of Caesar’s horti in that it was capable of hosting such a grand, large scale spectacle. As with Pompey’s horti, Caesar’s expansive gardens would have afforded Rome’s poorest citizens a visual treat, surrounded by numerous statues, paintings and other works of art within verdant grounds on the banks of the Tiber, allowing them to bask in the ambience of their surroundings away from the chaos of Rome beyond. It is significant that while Pompey’s horti passed on to Mark Antony and in turn Agrippa, Caesar chose to will his estate and all its enclosed artworks to the Roman people on his death (Cic. Phil. 2.109; Dio Cass. 44.35.3; Suet. Iul. 83.2). This would have been a conscious ploy, intended to counter the daily access offered by the Horti Pompeiani in Caesar’s lifetime.

egeō egēre eguī: to need (+ gen./abl.), lack, want; require, be without

potius: rather, more

discessus discessūs m.: departure

laetor laetārī laetātus sum: to be glad/joyful/delighted; rejoice; be fond (of), delight in; flourish (on/in)

mīrābilis –e: wonderful, extraordinary

chīrographum –ī n.: one’s handwriting; document in someone’s own hand, manuscript.

Caesar Caesaris m.: Caesar; often Julius Caesar or Augustus Caesar

lucrum lucrī n.: gain, profit

praeclārus –a –um: very clear; splendid; famous; bright, illustrious; noble, distinguished

concutiō –cutere –cussī –cussus: shake, beat, strike; terrify; disturb, distract

ēvertō ēvertere ēvertī ēversus: to overturn, overthrow

prō–rogō –āre: to prolong, continue, extend, protract

āctum –ī n.: deed, a transaction, law; written record, official record of (e.g.) senate proceedings

dēfēnsor dēfēnsōris m.: defender, protector

rescindō –ere –scidī –scissus: to tear off or away; cancel, rescind; rase, tear down; lay open

fīrmus –a –um: firm/steady; substantial/solid/secure/safe; strong/robust/sturdy/stout/durable; loyal/staunch/true/constant; stable/mature; valid/convincing/well founded

testāmentum testāmentī n.: will, testament

prōmulgātio -ōnis f.: a public proclamation, an open proposition, a promulgation

prōmulgō –āre: to bring forward publicly, propose openly, publish, promulgate

irritus (inritus) –a –um: invalid, void

obtineō obtinēre obtinuī obtentus: to get hold of; maintain; obtain; hold fast, occupy, posess; prevail

tabula tabulae f.: writing tablet (wax covered board); records (pl.); document, deed, will; list; plank/board, flat piece of wood; door panel; counting/playing/notice board; picture, painting; wood panel for painting; metal/stone tablet/panel w/text

ūnā: together, together with; at the same time, along with

hortus hortī m.: garden

legō legāre legāvī legātus: to bequeath, will; entrust, send as an envoy, choose as a deputy

partim: partly, for the most part; mostly [partim ... partim => some ... others]

Pompēius –iī m.: a cognomen; esp. (but not only) Pompey the Great

dēportō dēportāre dēportāvī dēportātus: to bring, convey (to); carry along/down (current); transport; take/bring home

vīlla vīllae f.: farm/country home/estate; large country residence/seat, villa; village

Scīpiō Scīpiōnis m.: Scipio

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Suggested Citation

Ingo Gildenhard, Cicero: Philippic 2.44–50, 78–92, 100–119. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2020. ISBN: 978-1-947822-12-2.