117

[117] Cum illō ego tē dominandī cupiditāte cōnferre possum, cēterīs vērō rēbus nūllō modō comparandus es. sed ex plūrimīs malīs quae ab illō reī pūblicae sunt inusta hoc tamen bonī est quod didicit iam populus Rōmānus quantum cuique crēderet, quibus sē committeret, ā quibus cavēret. haec nōn cōgitās, neque intellegis satis esse virīs fortibus didicisse quam sit rē pulchrum, beneficiō grātum, fāmā glōriōsum tyrannum occīdere? an, cum illum hominēs nōn tulerint, tē ferent?

Once Burnt Lesson Learnt!

Cicero continues his exercise in compare and contrast. Antony merits comparison with Caesar in one respect only: the desire to wield power at all cost (dominandi cupiditas), which makes him a tyrant. And if there is one good thing that the Roman people have learned from the evils inflicted by Caesar it is a more skeptical disposition towards self-styled leaders — and the willingness to do away with those that turn out to be tyrants. He reiterates his a-fortiori conviction: if Caesar was considered intolerable, Antony surely too. [study questions]

Cum illo ego te dominandi cupiditate conferre possum, ceteris vero rebus nullo modo [cum illo] comparandus es: Cicero comes back to the comparability of Antony and Caesar — a question he had left hanging in the previous paragraph (116: … aut tu es ulla re cum eo comparandus). Now he specifies the one respect [cupiditate and ceteris rebus are ablatives of respect], in which the two strongmen can be compared: their desire to rule as tyrant. Cicero opens the sentence with three personal pronouns, referring to Caesar (cum illo), himself (ego), and Antony (te) respectively — a finely calibrated sequence with him in the nominative at centre position like the pillar of a scale appraising the other two. The adversative vero is designed to convey the impression that Cicero here asserts a commonly accepted truth, i.e. that in all other respects the two men are distinctly dissimilar. Antony shares Caesar’s major vice, without possessing any of his positive qualities.

nullo modo comparandus es: the second person singular gerundive of necessity / obligation: ‘you are not to be compared in any way’ (sc. with Caesar). The strong negation nullo modo (an ablative of manner) has a colloquial flavour: Hofmann (1951: 81).

sed ex plurimis malis quae ab illo rei publicae sunt inusta hoc tamen boni est quod didicit iam populus Romanus quantum cuique crederet, quibus se committeret, a quibus caveret: the subject of the sentence is hoc (on which the partitive genitive boni depends: ‘this of good’), the verb is est: ‘out of the many evils, which …, there is nevertheless this of good (namely the fact) that…’. Cicero envisages the commonwealth as a material entity (res publica literally means ‘the public thing’, ‘the property that belongs to all citizens’) or perhaps even body of sorts (perhaps in the tradition of the ‘body politic’) that Caesar has indelibly branded with a great number of evils. Nevertheless (note the concessive tamen), this bruising treatment has one positive outcome: however tough the learning experience was, it contained valuable lessons for the present.

quae ab illo rei publicae sunt inusta: quae is the nominative neuter plural of the relative pronoun referring back to malisinuro means literally ‘to imprint by burning on’, ‘to brand on’ and is construed with the dative (here rei publicae). ab illo (sc. Caesar) is an ablative of agency with the perfect passive verb.

didicit iam populus Romanus: ‘has now learned’ (since it did not really know beforehand). The recent nature of the learning experience stands prima facie in latent conflict to the argument in earlier paragraphs that the killing of prospective tyrants was a long-standing practice in Rome, with a series of venerable exempla going all the way back to the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus. As in § 114 Cicero imagines a broad consensus of ruling elite and people, as he moves from populus Romanus to viri fortes and ends on the generic homines, plastering over the awkward problem that reactions to the murder were far from uniform, ranging from unalloyed enthusiasm to outright hostility. For a recent discussion of how the conspirators misjudged public opinion see Rosillo-López (2017: 188–94).

quantum cuique crederet, quibus se committeret, a quibus caveret: Cicero articulates the contents of this experience in an asyndetic — and, via the verbs crederetcommitteretcaveret alliterated — tricolon of indirect questions. He imagines the Roman people asking themselves: ‘how much trust are we to put in anyone?’ ‘to whom should we entrust ourselves?’ and ‘whom should we guard against?’ It is not easy to see how the three questions cohere. The first seems to call for a limit to the extent to which the people ought to entrust civic business to any one person in particular; the second and third pose the question which kind of individual is to be trusted with or, conversely, kept away from, public affairs.

haec non cogitas, neque intellegis satis esse viris fortibus didicisse quam sit re pulchrum, [quam sit] beneficio gratum, [quam sit] fama gloriosum tyrannum occidere?intellegis governs an indirect statement with (the indeclinable) satis as subject accusative, esse as infinitive copula, and didicisse as predicative complement: ‘… that it is sufficient for brave men to have learned how…’ quam, an adverb expressing degree, can be either interrogative or exclamatory (Pinkster 2015: 337, with reference to Bodelot 2010); here it is clearly the latter. It goes with all three adjectives (pulchrumgratumgloriosum), which all function as predicative complements to the subject of the clause, the infinitive phrase tyrannum occidere: ‘how beautiful … it is to kill a tyrant!’ (The copula sit is in the subjunctive because of indirect speech.) Each adjective comes with an ablative (re … beneficio … fama), perhaps best taken as ablatives of respect (the deed itself  the service rendered  the renown achieved), though Ramsey (2003: 335) suggests that beneficio and fama are best understood as causal ablatives.

Extra information:

In a letter of 4 August 44 BCE addressed to Antony, M. Brutus and Cassius also invoke the spectre of Caesar in an attempt to persuade Antony to desist from his Caesarian politics: tu etiam atque etiam vide, quid suscipias, quid sustinere possis; neque, quam diu vixerit Caesar, sed quam non diu regnarit, fac cogites (‘On your part, consider well what you undertake and what you can sustain. Bear in mind, not only the length of Caesar’s life, but the brevity of his reign’.) (Cicero, ad Familiares 11.3.4 = 336 SB).

an, cum illum homines non tulerint, te ferent?: the particle an here introduces a contemptuous direct question addressed to Antony that calls for a negative answer: ‘given that people did not tolerate him (illum, placed up front for contrastive emphasis with te, refers to Caesar), will they tolerate you?’

ferent: future tense.

dominor dominārī dominātus: to be lord or master; rule, reign, be supreme; take possession, overrun, prevail (> dominus)

cupiditās cupiditātis f.: enthusiasm/eagerness/passion; (carnal) desire; lust; greed/usury/fraud; ambition

malum malī n.: evil, misfortune, calamity

inūrō inūrere inussī inūstus: to burn in(to), brand

bonum –ī n.: a good thing; good; goods (property); blessing, happiness

quod: because, the fact that

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

glōriōsus –a –um: full of glory, glorious, famous, renowned

tyrannus tyrannī m.: tyrant

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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.
http://dcc.dickinson.edu/cicero-philippics/ii-117