[49] Venīs ē Galliā ad quaestūram petendam. audē dīcere tē prius ad parentem tuam vēnisse quam ad mē. accēperam iam ante Caesaris litterās ut mihi satis fierī paterer ā tē: itaque nē loquī quidem sum tē passus dē grātiā. posteā sum cultus ā tē, tū ā mē observātus in petītiōne quaestūrae; quō quidem tempore P. Clōdium approbante populō Rōmānō in forō es cōnātus occīdere, cumque eam rem tuā sponte cōnārēre, nōn impulsū meō, tamen ita praedicābās, tē nōn exīstimāre, nisi illum interfēcissēs, umquam mihi prō tuīs in mē iniūriīs satis esse factūrum. in quō dēmīror cūr Milōnem impulsū meō rem illam ēgisse dīcās, cum tē ultrō mihi idem illud dēferentem numquam sim adhortātus. quamquam, sī in eō persevērārēs, ad tuam glōriam rem illam referrī mālēbam quam ad meam grātiam.

Credit for Murder

At the end of the previous paragraph, we left Antony with Caesar in furthest Gaul (54 BCE). Now we have moved on a year: in the summer or fall of 53, Antony returned to Rome to stand for election to the quaestorship. His quest for public office coincided with the hot phase of street brawling between the gangs of Clodius and Milo that ended with the former dead and the latter exiled for his murder. Antony’s role in all of this was marginal at best, but Cicero had his reasons for dwelling on the affair. Antony seems to have blamed him for Clodius’ death — a charge Cicero already rebutted at length in the first half of the speech (2.21–22). § 49 completes the argument by turning the tables on Antony: the one with Clodius’ attempted murder on his CV is Antony, not Cicero. Cicero is at pains to point out yet again that he has no blood on his hands: he has no wish to take credit for any attempt on Clodius’ life, whether it failed (as was the case with Antony’s) or succeeded (Milo’s). There may also have been secondary considerations for returning to Clodius: from the very beginning of the speech, where Cicero imputes to Antony the (perverse) wish to appear more insane than the former tribune (2.1: … furiosior quam Clodius viderere) the two keep company. Any mention of Clodius inevitably also brings to mind Clodius’ spouse Fulvia, who went on to marry Curio after Clodius’ death and then, after Curio died in the civil wars, became Antony’s wife in 46 BCE: she, too, is a major target of invective abuse throughout the speech. [more] [study questions]

venis e Gallia ad quaesturam petendam: Cicero switches to the present tense (venis) for vividness. ad here expresses purpose: ‘(in order) to stand as candidate for the quaestorship’. petere is a technical term for ‘seeking to obtain a specific magistracy’, ‘being a candidate for’, ‘standing for election to’: OLD s.v. 9. If the chronology suggested above is correct, Antony started his canvassing campaign in 53 (for tenure in 52), but — for whatever reason — was not elected (and did not stand as a candidate?) until 52 (and assumed office in 51). Cicero, in his summary approach to those years, is unconcerned with such niceties.

aude dicere te prius ad parentem tuam venisse quam ad me [venisses]: aude, the imperative singular of audeo, to dare, governs the supplementary infinitive dicere, which introduces an indirect statement with te as subject accusative and venisse as infinitive. This is followed by a temporal clause introduced by quam (set up by prius). (The conjugation priusquam (‘before’) may be written as two words (prius quam), which — as here — may be separated by intervening words: see OLD s.v.) Cicero elides the verb of the priusquam-clause, but it can easily be supplied from context. Cicero dares Antony to deny that after his prolonged absence from Rome he knocked at Cicero’s door to enlist help in a bid for the quaestorship before calling on his mother Julia (note that tuam, modifying the gender-neutral parentem, is feminine: Antony’s father had already died).

acceperam iam ante Caesaris litteras ut mihi satis fieri paterer a te: itaque ne loqui quidem sum te passus de gratia: to smoothe the ground, Caesar anticipated the meeting between Antony and Cicero by sending Cicero a letter (litteras — litterae is a plural noun), requesting that he respond positively to Antony’s efforts to make amends for his earlier hostility. Cicero obliged Caesar to the extent that he waived off Antony’s attempt to explain himself and re-establish friendly relations.

Extra Information: a republic of letters

You might wonder about this ‘politics by letter’ we capture in this paragraph — it looks kind of seedy, doesn’t it; a special variant of nepotism by which influential members of the ruling elite fixed things in the dark corridors of power, away from the public limelight — the ancient equivalent to a special ‘phone call’ in modern times, which happens to be more important than merit or interview performance in determining (say) the outcome of a job search. The fact is, the volume of correspondence that flowed to and from Rome in late-republican times was significant and constituted an important medium for doing politics. Members of Rome’s oligarchy performed their role as patrons via an economy of favours granted and received, and the letter proved an ideal format to make personal requests or issue recommendations (i.e. requests on behalf of others). It offered an intuitive medium of interaction for a ruling elite that had much invested in the cultivation of networks grounded in ‘friendship’, tactical and otherwise.17 The tropes routinely invoked to characterize friendship tend to be similar to the commonplaces employed to describe ideal epistolary dialogue: most obviously, friendship and epistolary ideology are much invested in the mirror-effect that assimilates the interacting parties (friends, senders and receivers) to one another. Many of the concerns and values of the senatorial elite (face, status, obligations; a commitment to oligarchic equality; consensual politics; cultivation of friendly relations through care and courtesy, including the investment of time) found congenial articulation in and through the writing of letters and manifest themselves in the ‘politics of politeness’ that defined epistolary discourse among Roman aristocrats.18

Letter-writing in republican Rome thus reflected and helped to sustain the rule of a senatorial elite, enacting a set of aristocratic values that resonated with key principles of republican government. Yet the practice of elite letter-writing also stood in latent tension to public procedures and civic institutions of the commonwealth, owing to the tendency of the genre to ‘personalize politics’. And one power broker, who also happened to be a particularly gifted and active pen pal, ultimately managed to destroy the oligarchic equilibrium that sustained the senatorial tradition of republican government, not least through his strategic use of epistolary communication. As John Henderson and Josiah Osgood have shown, Caesar exercised his stranglehold on Roman politics during his decade-long absence from Rome while on campaign in Gaul in the 50s BCE, not least through an active correspondence with key associates in the capital. A special gift for multi-tasking and discursive speed enabled him to produce a steady stream of letters. In addition, already in the 50s, he seems to have innovated in how he organized his staff, instituting a special position for a high-ranking secretary reminiscent of a practice known from the royal courts of the Hellenistic period. And the importance of long-distance communication did not lessen during the years of civil warfare: during the five-year period between his crossing of the Rubicon in January 49 and his assassination on the Ides of March 44, Caesar was only sporadically present in Rome.

ut mihi satis fieri paterer a te: literally ‘that I allow [paterer = 1st person singular imperfect subjunctive passive of the deponent patior, introducing an indirect statement] that attention be given [satis fieri or satisfieri: present infinitive passive of satisfacere] by you [a te: ablative of agency] to me [mihi]’. Differently put: ‘Caesar asked me not to send you packing when you’d come knocking at my door’.

itaque ne loqui quidem sum te passus de gratia: the main verb is passus sum; it introduces an indirect statement with teas subject accusative and loqui (framed by ne… quidem: ‘not even’) as infinitive. de gratia goes with loqui. Literally: ‘Therefore I allowed you not even to speak about [re-establishing] friendly relations’, i.e. because he had already granted the request on the basis of Caesar’s letter, though in English the negation in ne… quidem is perhaps best used with passus sum: ‘Therefore I did not even allow you to speak about…’. The hyperbaton between loqui and de gratia is expressive of the lack of need to put the request for renewed friendship into words. Likewise, the word order sum te passus seems to smother Antony, as Cicero generates the impression that he is a plaything in the diplomatic relations of more important statesmen, such as Caesar and himself.

postea sum cultus a te, tu a me observatus [es] in petitione quaesturae: the imperfect balance of personal pronouns (there is no ego corresponding to tu) might hint at the fact that the ensuing period of collaboration rested on shaky foundations — as do the two passive verbs (sum cultusobservatus), which are chiastically positioned around the two ablatives of agency (a te :: a me).

quo quidem tempore P. Clodium [approbante populo Romano] in foro es conatus occidere, cumque eam rem tua sponte conarere, non impulsu meo, tamen ita praedicabas, te non existimare, nisi illum interfecisses, umquam mihi pro tuis in me iniuriis satis esse facturum: a potentially confusing sentence: the main clause (underlined) consists of two parts linked by the -que after cumquo quidem tempore P. Clodium … in foro es conatus occidere and tamen ita praedicabas. The cum-clause functions as bridge between the two segments of the main clause: eam rem refers back to Antony’s attempt to kill Clodius; and the adversative sense of cum (‘even though’) sets up tamen ita praedicabaspraedicabas governs an indirect statement with te as subject accusative and existimare as infinitive, which in turn governs an indirect statement with an understood te as subject accusative and satis esse facturum as verb. This last indirect statement also functions as apodosis of a conditional sequence, with nisi illum interfecisses as protasis: ‘It was just at that time that, with the approval of the Roman people, you attempted to kill Publius Clodius in the Forum, and, although you attempted that deed at your own initiative, and not at my instigation, you still professed that you thought that, except by killing him, you could never make amends for your wrongs against me’.

quo quidem tempore P. Clodium … in foro es conatus occiderequo is a connecting relative (= eo). The moment in time indicated by the ablative of time quo… tempore (qualified by the particle quidem: Antony’s support of Cicero is the exception, not the rule) is suitably vague, but falls in the autumn of 53 BCE, i.e. shortly after Antony’s return from Gaul. Cicero had already mentioned the incident in his speech in defence of Milo (pro Milone 40).

approbante populo Romano: an ablative absolute; whatever approval from the people Cicero claims for Antony’s failed attack on Clodius’ life, the populace felt outraged over Clodius’ death at the hands of Milo.

cumque eam rem tua sponte conarere, non impulsu meo: the verb of the concessive cum-clause is conarere, the alternative 2nd person singular imperfect subjunctive passive of the first-conjugation deponent conorconari (= conareris). It is framed by the contrastive chiasmus (a) tua (b) sponte :: non (b) impulsu (a) meo. Cicero insists that he did not instigate Antony in any way to try to kill Clodius; his emphasis on Antony deciding by himself to make an attempt on Clodius’ life sets up the following sentence where Cicero rebuts Antony’s claim that he put Milo onto it.

pro tuis in me iniuriis: Cicero now gives an account of the rationale for Antony’s failed attempt at homicide, which runs something as follows: (a) in the past Antony inflicted grievous iniuriae on Cicero; (b) now Cicero nevertheless does his best to help Antony out, if at the behest of Caesar; (c) Antony feels that he has accumulated such an amount of social debt — consisting of favours from Cicero compounded by his earlier mistreatment of him — that, he feels, he can only repay it by murdering Cicero’s personal enemy Clodius. It is not entirely clear, however, what these iniuriae are; and there is indeed no evidence for personal enmity between Cicero and Antony until after the outbreak of civil war in 49, i.e. long after Clodius’ actual demise. Cicero, it seems, plays fast and loose with chronology, most likely (as the subsequent sentence makes clear) in response to Antony’s charge that it was he who egged on Clodius’ actual killer, Milo (and was also the brain behind the assassination of Caesar) — the éminence grise, in other words, who does not shy away from instigating murder to suit his political turns.

in quo demiror cur Milonem impulsu meo rem illam egisse dicas, cum te ultro mihi idem illud deferentem numquam sim adhortatus: Cicero picks up on the previous antithesis tua sponte – non impulsu meo to reiterate his rebuttal of Antony’s charge that he incited Milo to murder Clodius (cf. 2.21, cited above). Given that Cicero never made any move to encourage Antony along those lines even though Antony freely volunteered his services, it makes no sense to assume that he tried to incite Milo. The sense of both the cum-clause and of the participle deferentem (modifying te, the accusative object of sim adhortatus) is concessive: ‘even though I never encouraged you despite the fact that you offered that same deed (just like rem illam above and below, idem illud refers to the killing of Clodius) to me of your own accord’.

in quo: a connecting relative (= in eo): ‘in this affair’.

demiror: Cicero uses the composite (de-miror) for emphasis: ‘I am utterly baffled…’

cur Milonem impulsu meo rem illam egisse dicascur introduces an indirect question (hence the subjunctive). dicasgoverns an indirect statement with Milonem as subject accusative, egisse as infinitive and rem illam (= the killing of Clodius) as object accusative.

quamquam, si in eo perseverares, ad tuam gloriam rem illam referri malebam quam ad meam gratiamquamquamhere introducing a main clause, elaborating on the previous point that Cicero never gave any encouragement to Antony’s homicidal plans and certainly would not have wished to take credit for the killing had he succeeded. The moods and tenses of the conditional sequence (imperfect subjunctive in the protasis: perseverares; imperfect indicative in the apodosis: malebam, from malomalle — ‘prefer’) reflect the fact that Cicero is looking at the possibility of Antony’s managing to kill Clodius from a past point of view: ‘in case you persevered, I preferred that the deed be assigned to your glory rather than my influence’ (see Gildersleeve and Lodge 383). gratia here refers to the influence over Antony that Cicero acquired by supporting his candidacy for the quaestorship — doing away with Clodius is thus Antony’s idea of returning a favour, a murderous expression of misconceived gratitude, which Cicero gracefully declines, preferring Antony to take full credit for the deed. As Griffin and Atkins (1991: xlv–xlvi) explain: ‘Gratia draws its meaning from the social network of friendships and other relationships bound by exchange of services. Someone who is in a position to grant benefits or give assistance has gratia in that he has influence or the potential to command gratitude. Someone who has already granted someone else a benefit has gratia in that, according to the public code, he deserves gratitude’. The key here is that there is a coercive element to gratia: someone who has received a favour is in ‘debt’ and expected to reciprocate to balance the sheets.

rem illam: yet another reference to the murder of Clodius, following on from eam remrem illam and idem illud.

Gallia Galliae f.: Gaul

quaestūra –ae f.: quaestorship, treasurer

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

satisfīō –fierī –factus sum: to be given satisfaction, be satisfied, be content

observō observāre observāvī observātus: to watch, observe

petītiō petītiōnis f.: candidacy; petition; an applying or soliciting for office, an application, solicitation, candidacy.

Publius –iī m.: Publius

Clōdius –iī m.: Clodius

approbō –āre –āvī –ātum: to express approval of, commend; prove the excellence of

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

spōns spontis f.: free will

impulsus –ūs m.: an impelling; impulse, shock (> impello)

praedicō praedicāre praedicāvī praedicātus: to proclaim, tell

satisfaciō or (satis faciō) –facere –fēcī –factum: to give satisfaction, satisfy, content

dēmīror –ārī –ātus sum: to wonder at

Milō(n) –ōnis m.: Milo, a Greek male name, esp. a celebrated athlete of Crotona

impulsus –ūs m.: an impelling; impulse, shock (> impello)

ultrō: furthermore, beyond, besides; far away; gratuitously, wantonly; voluntarily

adhortor –ārī –ātus sum: to urge on

per–sevērō –āre: to abide, adhere strictly, continue steadfastly, persist, persevere

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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.