[113] Ēripiet et extorquēbit tibi ista populus Rōmānus, utinam salvīs nōbīs! sed quōquō modō nōbīscum ēgeris, dum istīs cōnsiliīs ūteris, nōn potes, mihi crēde, esse diuturnus. etenim ista tua minimē avārā coniūnx, quam ego sine contumēliā dēscrībō, nimium diū dēbet populō Rōmānō tertiam pēnsiōnem. habet populus Rōmānus ad quōs gubernācula reī pūblicae dēferat: quī ubicumque terrārum sunt, ibi omne est reī pūblicae praesidium vel potius ipsa rēs pūblica, quae sē adhūc tantum modo ulta est, nōndum reciperāvit. habet quidem certē rēs pūblica adulēscentīs nōbilissimōs parātōs dēfēnsōrēs. quam volent illī cēdant ōtiō cōnsulentēs; tamen ā rē pūblicā revocābuntur. et nōmen pācis dulce est et ipsa rēs salūtāris; sed inter pācem et servitūtem plūrimum interest. pāx est tranquilla lībertās, servitūs postrēmum malōrum omnium nōn modo bellō sed morte etiam repellendum.

The Res Publica Has Watchers!

The previous paragraph ended on the dictum that only a life in harmony with the wider civic community guarantees personal safety. Cicero now explores what this general truth implies for the occasion at hand. A range of political agents (both individual and collective) and entities (populus Romanusgubernatores rei publicaeres publicaadulescentes nobilissimi) are ready to take a stand against Antony if he persists in behaving like an enemy of the state. Cicero’s tone — set up by another instance of mihi crede — remains aggressively didactic. But the paragraph ends on another gnomic pronouncement. Cicero differentiates between (desirable) pax and (intolerable) servitus and asserts that libertas, without which there cannot be any genuine pax, is a value to die for. His discourse here rises above the level of invective and turns into a personal manifesto about the principles of communal life. His guiding ideas, which will resonate throughout his peroration, are worth a more detailed look, in particular his notion of ‘freedom’ (libertas), which has a complex historical pedigree. Cicero combines at least four different ways of thinking with and about the term. [more] [study questions]

Eripiet et extorquebit tibi ista populus Romanus, utinam salvis nobis!: Cicero inverts natural word order, leading with the verbs (the futures eripiet and extorquebit — note the alliteration, enhanced by the intervening et — before adding the indirect object (tibi), the direct object (ista), and the subject (populus Romanus). The front-loading of the action is particularly pronounced because the verbs also push back the demonstrative pronoun ista, which, in referring back to armis, provides the bridge to the previous sentence. The popular uprising, so Cicero’s word order optimistically suggests, will be fell and swift.

utinam salvis nobis!: a nominal ablative absolute salvis nobis (nominal, since it consists of an adjective (salvis) and a personal pronoun (nobis), without a participle) that the particle utinam turns into a wish: ‘I wish we [Cicero refers to himself and his senatorial peers] remain unharmed’. Translators tend to interpret the threat to the physical safety of the senators as coming from the popular uprising: ‘may we be unscathed in the process!’ (Lacey); ‘I pray that we do not perish in the process’ (Shackleton Bailey); and a feeling of unease on Cicero’s part about the people taking matters into their own hands (however welcome their disarmament of Antony’s henchmen might be) is in line with his elite prejudices elsewhere. But this reading produces an odd clash with the following sentence where Antony is clearly identified as the source of danger, and it might thus be better to understand utinam salvis nobis in the sense of ‘may we (still) be unharmed [sc. by you and your henchmen] (when that moment comes)’.

sed quoquo modo nobiscum egeris, dum istis consiliis uteris, non potes, mihi crede, esse diuturnus: irrespective of the way in which Antony will have ended up dealing with Cicero and the senate (nobiscum — picking up utinam salvis nobis) at present (egeris is second person singular future-perfect active of agoegiactum), he will get his comeuppance from the people (non potes, mihi crede, esse diuturnus) if he continues his tyrannical agenda (istis consiliis is the ablative object of the deponent uteris, in the second person singular present indicative).

etenim ista tua minime avara coniunx, quam ego sine contumelia describo, nimium diu debet populo Romano tertiam pensionem: Cicero chooses to evoke Antony’s violent death via a gratuitous insult to his wife Fulvia. The conceit here is to imagine her in significant debt to the Roman people, of which she has so far paid two of three instalments quite cheerfully (cf. the deeply ironic minime avara) through (causing) the slaughter of her first two husbands, i.e. Clodius and Curio. The third and final payment, however, i.e. the killing of Antony, is by now long overdue (cf. nimium diu; note the paronomasia minime ~ nimium). Antony, Clodius, and Curio form a disreputable set throughout the speech, with Antony in line for the same fate as Fulvia’s previous spouses. See esp. 2.11: quis autem meum consulatum praeter te et P. Clodium qui vituperaret inventus est? cuius quidem tibi fatum, sicuti C. Curioni, manet, quoniam id domi tuae est quod fuit illorum utrique fatale (‘Who was ever heard abusing my consulship except yourself and Publius Clodius, whose fate awaits you, as it awaited Gaius Curio, since you have that in your house which proved fatal to them both?’). In the Philippics, Fulvia’s hallmarks are greed (avaritia) and cruelty (crudelitas): see 1.33, 2.93, 2.95, 3.4, 3.10, 3.16–17, 4.4, 6.4, and 13.18, with Delia (1991).

habet populus Romanus ad quos gubernacula rei publicae deferat: Cicero again places the verb upfront (‘The Roman People do have…’). He does not spell out the accusative object of habet (and antecedent of ad quos), inviting the reader to supply a word or phrase (most simply eos — or perhaps something conceptually more elaborate such as principes civitatis). The reference to politically motivated violence in the following sentence (ulta est) suggests that the liberators, and in particular Brutus and Cassius, are foremost in Cicero’s mind. But when it comes to taking on the helm of the state, he will surely also have thought of himself.

ad quos … deferat: the subjunctive is potential — in the event of a popular uprising that would disempower Antony, there would be other (= better) statesmen around to take the tiller.

gubernacula rei publicae: the literal meaning of gubernaculum is ‘steering-oar of a ship’, here used pars pro toto in what is known as the ‘ship-of-state metaphor’: see § 92 above.

qui ubicumque terrarum sunt, ibi omne est rei publicae praesidium vel potius ipsa res publica, quae se adhuc tantum modo ulta est, nondum reciperavitqui is a connecting relative (= et ii), ubicumque a relative adverb (corresponding with ibi), here construed with the partitive genitive terrarum: ‘And wherever in all the lands these men are, there is…’ In the main clause, Cicero brings into play an issue that preoccupied him greatly throughout his career: what does the res publica ultimately consist in — and where is it located?

Depending on his genre of writing and (constantly changing) personal circumstances, he gave different answers to these questions. Initially, his geopolitical outlook on the world was emphatically Romanocentric. Unlike his military-minded senatorial peers, who vied with each other over provincial commands and considered the periphery the place where they could acquire wealth and reputation, Cicero preferred the civic setting of Rome to advance his career. During his consulship he even bargained away a potentially lucrative provincial command in return for support from his consular colleague in the suppression of Catiline’s conspiracy. In 58–57 BCE, he had to adjust his views when he was forced into exile — an experience that ruptured the way in which his personal and political identity had so far interlocked with a physical presence in Rome. Instead, he became invested in a new form of megalomania, claiming that the Roman commonwealth joined him in exile, according to the principle ubi ego, ibi res publica. The notion that one individual ‘embodied’ the commonwealth made it possible to uproot the res publica from the urban topography of power — the physical setting for the institutions and procedures that comprised Roman republican politics. (Not coincidentally, this personification of the commonwealth is a figure of thought appealing to exiles: compare the claim of Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970) during WW II that the ‘true France’ was not the regime of Nazi-collaborators located in Vichy, but his exile government and the resistance.)

Still, Cicero was thoroughly miserable in exile and could not wait to return to Rome. When civil war broke out a few years later and Pompey planned to pull a similar stunt, taking the res publica into exile with him, Cicero strongly objected to Pompey’s decision to cede Rome and Italy to Caesar. This policy of retreat, he argued in the first letter to Atticus after the crossing of the Rubicon, ignored the salient fact that the res publica was rooted in the religious topography of the city (Att. 7.11.3 = 134 SB):

redeamus ad nostrum. per fortunas, quale tibi consilium Pompei uidetur? hoc quaero, quid urbem reliquerit; ego enim ἀπορῶ. tum nihil absurdius. urbem tu relinquas? ergo idem, si Galli uenirent. ‘non est’ inquit ‘in parietibus res publica.’ at in aris et focis. ‘fecit Themistocles.’ fluctum enim totius barbariae ferre urbs una non poterat. at idem Pericles non fecit anno fere post quinquagesimo, cum praeter moenia nihil teneret; nostri olim urbe reliqua capta arcem tamen retinuerunt.

[To come back to our friend. What do you think, for heaven’s sake, of Pompey’s line — I mean, why has he abandoned Rome? I don’t know what to make of it. At the time it looked the most senseless thing. Abandon Rome? I suppose you would have done the same if the Gauls were coming? ‘House walls’ he might answer ‘don’t make the Republic.’ But altars and hearthstones do. ‘Themistocles did it.’ Yes, because one city could not stand against the tide of the whole barbarian world. But Pericles did not half a century later, though he held nothing except the town walls. Our own forebears still held the citadel after the rest of Rome was in enemy hands.]

In other words, he had no idea of the military realities, then — hopeless as Demosthenes.

At the time of the Philippics, circumstances had changed yet again. The civic unrest in Rome in the wake of Caesar’s assassination forced Brutus and his fellow conspirators to leave Rome and then also Italy. As Cicero notes at Philippic1.6: patriae liberatores urbe carebant ea cuius a cervicibus iugum servile deiecerant… (‘the liberators of their country were banished from the city whose neck they had released from slavery…’). With the centre in the violent grasp of Antony and his henchmen and the republican heroes operating on the imperial periphery, Cicero’s res publica needs to put her travelling boots back on. See Hodgson (2017: 216) (with reference to Dawes 2008: 271): ‘Whereas Phil. 1 provided concrete criticism and recommendations, this formula returns us to the realm of a wandering res publica, which “defies locality and a definite semantic meaning” and is defined more in “moral rather than constitutional” terms’.

quae se adhuc tantum modo ulta est, nondum reciperavit: a powerful personification of the res publica, who is the subject of the reflexive ulta est and reciperavit (se is to be construed with both verbs). More commonly, human agents avenge, liberate, or restore the commonwealth (also in passive construction with implied human agency: ‘the commonwealth ought to be restored’, ‘with the commonwealth having been restored’). Here Cicero says that the commonwealth avenged itself, but has not yet regained its former strength. The relative clause raises the question whether the assassination of Caesar has been sufficient to restore the commonwealth to its pre-Caesarian form — or whether further drastic actions are required. The matter receives constant airing in his contemporary correspondence.

habet quidem certe res publica adulescentis nobilissimos paratos defensores: Cicero again starts with the verb, reinforced by the particle quidem and the adverb certe: ‘Yes, indeed, the commonwealth does surely have…’. paratos defensores is the accusative object, with adulescentis (= adulescentesnobilissimos in apposition: ‘defenders ready to act, young men of the most illustrious ancestry’. (nobilis denotes a person with a consul in their lineage.) The first individuals who come to mind are Cassius and Brutus (both in their early forties — but Roman age labels are quite flexible), but Cicero may also have been thinking of Caesar Octavianus (23 September 63 BCE–19 August 14 CE), who was 19 at the time.

quam volent illi cedant otio consulentes; tamen a re publica revocabunturvolent and revocabuntur are in the future tense, cedant is in the present subjunctive: ‘Those may withdraw as they will wish, with a mind to preserving peace.(consulentes is the present active participle in the nominative plural, used intransitively and governing the dative otio.) Cicero refers to the decision of the conspirators to withdraw from Italy out of fear that their presence would result in renewed outbreak of civil warfare. He appreciates their desire to maintain peace, but at the same time evokes the scenario of a call to arms issued by the commonwealth: tamen a re publica revocabuntur again personifies the res publica, which here appears in the ablative of agency.

et nomen pacis dulce est et ipsa res [est] salutaris; sed inter pacem et servitutem plurimum interest: Cicero is all for peace: the word itself is sweet and the actual state (res) beneficial. But there is a world of difference (cf. the superlative plurimum) between peace and servitude. He already explored the thematic nexus of libertas / servitus and pax towards the end of Philippic 1, where he praises Antony for his initial commitment to concord and collaboration in the hours and days right after Caesar’s assassination, which freed the senate and the rest of the citizenry from fear and manifested itself not least in his willingness to hand over his son as a ‘hostage of peace’ (pacis obses) to the conspirators holed up on the Capitol (31). And in the following paragraph he programmatically endorses libertas as foundation for pax (Phil. 1.32: Tum denique liberati per viros fortissimos videbamur, quia, ut illi voluerant, libertatem pax consequebatur). It remains a permanent theme throughout the rest of the corpus. See e.g. Phil. 8.12: Sed quaeso, Calene, quid tu? servitutem pacem vocas?(‘But I ask you Calenus, what do you mean? do you call slavery peace?’).

nomen pacispacis is an ‘appositional genitive’ with nomen, used instead of apposition to specify the contents of the noun on which it depends. English prefers apposition: ‘The word “peace”’.

ipsa res: i.e. ‘peace’.

plurimum interestplurimum is the neuter accusative singular used adverbially, a so-called ‘internal’ or ‘adverbial’ accusative modifying the verb — here specifying the extent of the difference between pax and servitus: it could not be greater.

pax est tranquilla libertas, servitus [est] postremum malorum omnium non modo bello sed morte etiam repellendumpostremum, the superlative of posterus here construed with the partitive genitive malorum omnium, is a (substantival) adjective in the neuter singular functioning as complement to the subject of the sentence (Pinkster 2015: 768): ‘servitude is the worst of all evils…’. It is further modified by the gerundive repellendum (‘to be rejected…’). bello and morte are most poignantly understood as ablatives of price: ‘not only at the price of war but even of death’ (Shackleton Bailey).

In 48 BCE, after Pompey’s defeat at Pharsalus and his death shortly thereafter, Cicero decided to cease fighting and return to Caesar-occupied Italy. As a result, he found himself forced to justify a conciliatory stance towards Caesar that grated with those who wanted nothing to do with Caesar and continued to fight and ended up either dead (like Cato) or in exile, banned by dictatorial edict from re-entering Italy. His uncompromising attitude towards Antony may be explained in part as an (over-)reaction to his earlier willingness to play ball with a tyrannical regime. Cicero seems to have told himself ‘Never Again!’. The possibility of tolerable subservience that he chose for himself under Caesar has ceased to be an option. In the Philippics, the alternative is stark: either death for Antony and liberty for the commonwealth or Antony triumphant and slavery and/or death for Rome. Our passage here has many parallels in the later speeches.

extorqueō extorquēre extorsī extortus: to twist out, wrench away

Rōmānus –a –um: belonging to Rome; Roman; subst., Romanus, i, m., a Roman (> Roma)

utinam: introduces an Optative subjunctive; would that! if only!

salvus –a –um: safe, healthy, intact

quisquis quidquid or quicquid: whoever; every one who; whoever it be; everyone; each

diūturnus –a –um: long–lasting

etenim: and indeed; for in fact

avārus –a –um: greedy

contumēlia contumēliae f.: insult

dēscrībō dēscrībere dēscrīpsī dēscrīptus: to mark off; divide, distinguish, describe; transcribe, copy out

pensiō –ōnis f.: a measured weight; instalment; compensation

gubernāculum –ī n.: a helm, steering rope, tiller (> guberno, steer)

ubīcumque: wherever, in whatever place; in any place, wherever that may be, somewhere

potius: rather, more

ulcīscor ulcīscī ultus sum: to avenge

recuperō –āre –āvī –ātus: to get back, obtain again, regain, recover:

adulēscēns adulēscentis: young, youthful; "minor" (in reference to the younger of two having same name); subs: young man or woman

dēfēnsor dēfēnsōris m.: defender, protector

salūtāris –e: healthful, health–giving, wholesome, salutary

servitūs servitūtis f.: slavery

multum: much, a lot

tranquillus –a –um: calm, still; subst., tranquillum, i, n., a calm; calm weather

malum malī n.: evil, misfortune, calamity

repellō repellere reppulī repulsum: to drive back, repel

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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.