[80] Hic autem īrātus quae dīxit, dī bonī! prīmum cum Caesar ostendisset sē, priusquam proficīscerētur, Dolābellam cōnsulem esse iussūrum — quem negant rēgem, quī et faceret semper eius modī aliquid et dīceret — sed cum Caesar ita dīxisset, tum hic bonus augur eō sē sacerdōtiō praeditum esse dīxit ut comitia auspiciīs vel impedīre vel vitiāre posset, idque sē factūrum esse assevērāvit. in quō prīmum incrēdibilem stupiditātem hominis cognōscite.

Antony Augur, Addled and Addling

In the run-up to the election of Dolabella as suffect consul, Antony seems to have announced that he would try to prevent the election of Dolabella to the consulship by making use of a religious veto that he could issue in his capacity as augur. In the event, he made good on his threat. Over the next few paragraphs, Cicero rakes him over the coals for this. To understand his lines of attack, we need to come to terms with some technicalities of Rome’s civic religion. This dimension of Roman culture is not easy to get one’s head around: its ‘cultural logic’ is in many ways quite alien to our own religious intuitions. [more] [study questions]

Hic autem iratus quae dixit, di boni!: the deictic hic refers to Antony, who, incensed by Dolabella’s diligently prepared, if hard-hitting, show of eloquence, responded with some frightful verbiage of his own. The word order of the exclamation again creates a vivid image of the situation: pulled up front we get ‘angry Antony’ (hic … iratus) — here objectified, in the third person, put on show, like a distasteful (yet fascinating) insect, for a case study in emotional incontinence and rhetorical idiocy. The laconic quae dixit teases the imagination. And with di boni, Cicero turns to the gods in mock-fear at recalling Antony’s outburst: ‘This exclamation clearly originated as a cry for help: a person suddenly faced with some horrible sight or anything threatening him invokes instinctively the help and protection of the gods. A Roman Catholic will cry out “Jesus Maria”, …’ (Fraenkel 1957: 441) — and an atheist ‘Jeez-us!’. The effect is therefore different from the moments of import, pathos, and, more generally, high emotions, that Cicero underscores by invocations such as per deos immortales or o/pro di immortales, which belong to a higher stylistic register.

primum cum Caesar ostendisset se, priusquam proficisceretur, Dolabellam consulem esse iussurum — quem negant regem, qui et faceret semper eius modi aliquid et diceret — sed cum Caesar ita dixisset, tum hic bonus augur eo se sacerdotio praeditum esse dixit ut comitia auspiciis vel impedire vel vitiare posset, idque se facturum esse asseveravit: the opening adverb primum sets up the expectation that Cicero here launches into a catalogue of all the outrageous things Antony spluttered at the meeting; but after ‘first’ (primum), we never get a ‘second’ (deinde) — rather, we get another primum at the end of the paragraph! What follows is a complex period, best taken bit by bit:

  • cum Caesar ostendisset se, priusquam proficisceretur, Dolabellam consulem esse iussurum: the verb of the cum-clause (ostendisset) introduces an indirect statement with se as subject accusative (referring back to Caesar) and iussurum (esse) as infinitive, which in turn governs a further indirect statement with Dolabellam as subject accusative, esse as verb and consulem as predicative complement. (Note that the esse in the text is the infinitive of the indirect statement dependent on iussurum, which in its turn is the periphrastic future active infinitive (with esse elided) of the indirect statement dependent on ostendisset: ‘… when Caesar made it known that he (se) would issue an order (iussurum) that Dolabella be (esse) consul…’) Embedded within the cum-clause is a further temporal subordinate clause with Caesar as subject (priusquam proficisceretur: the reference is to his planned departure for Parthia — proficisci here has the sense of ‘to set out on campaign’).
  • quem negant regem, qui et faceret semper eius modi aliquid et diceret: at this point, Cicero steps outside his period for a parenthetical gloss on Caesar’s highhanded conduct. The main verb is negant, which introduces an indirect statement with quem (a connecting relative = et eum) as subject accusative, an (implied) fuisse as verb, and regem as predicative complement, followed by a relative clause. (The imperfect subjunctives faceret and diceret are concessive: people deny that Caesar was a despot even though his words and deeds provide ample proof that he was.)
  • sed cum Caesar ita dixisset: the parenthesis necessitates a brief recapitulation: sed cum ita dixisset essentially repeats, summarily, cum Caesar ostendisset … iussurum, as Cicero finds his feet again in his period after the parenthetical gloss.
  • tum hic bonus augur eo se sacerdotio praeditum esse dixit ut comitia auspiciis vel impedire vel vitiare posset, idque se facturum esse asseveravit: the bipartite main clause follows, with dixit and asseveravit as verbs (linked by the -que after id). Each of them governs an indirect statement: se… praeditum essese facturum esse. The ut-clause is consecutive.

regem: Rome was founded by kings and even though the last king, Tarquinius Superbus, abused his power and was driven from the city, the term rex retained (at least some) positive connotations in early and mid-republican sources — though it became increasingly tarnished, not least through its assimilation to the Greek tyrannus (‘tyrant’), which the Romans imported as a loanword. While some authors adopted a neutral position towards ‘kingship’ as a form of government and preferred to work with the distinction between a ‘good king’ v. a ‘bad king’, others — among them Cicero — came to see any kind of autocratic regime as irreconcilably at variance with republican principles such as (oligarchic) libertas. Meanwhile, power-brokers, and especially Caesar, tested the waters on how far they could go in assuming the trappings of monarchy (recognizing the significant amount of goodwill and symbolic capital to be acquired from refusing royal honours). This cluster of issues underwrites Cicero’s account of the Lupercalia (coming up in § 84). 

semper eius modi aliquid: Cicero is rather fond of the ‘characterizing semper’, used to pin down the essence of a person. Compare On Duties (de Officiis) 3.82, again with reference to Caesar: ipse autem socer in ore semper Graecos versus de Phoenissis habebat…: ‘The father-in-law [= Caesar] always had Greek verses from Euripides’ Phoenissae on his lips…’ that proved him to be a tyrant at heart. The point is that Caesar’s conduct after his victory in the civil wars was invariably and systematically — rather than just occasionally — that of an autocrat, with no regards for traditional republican institutions or procedures in either deeds or words.

tum hic bonus augur eo se sacerdotio praeditum esse dixitbonus is cutting and condescending; dixit introduces an indirect statement with se as subject accusative, esse as verb, and praeditum as predicative complement, which governs the instrumental ablative eo sacerdotio: ‘this excellent augur here said that he was endowed with this priestly office…’ sacerdotium refers to Antony’s augurship, which he assumed in 50 BCE.

ut comitia auspiciis vel impedire vel vitiare possetcomitia refers to the electoral assembly that would vote Dolabella into his consulship. Antony announced that he would use his powers of religious objection either to prevent them from taking place (impedire) or, if they proceeded, to cast religious doubt over — or invalidate altogether — the outcome (vitiare). The basic meaning of vitiare is ‘to cause faults or defects in’, ‘to impair’, but it also had the technical sense of ‘to invalidate political proceedings or public business because of some technical fault that violated religious protocols’. In our case, the vitium marring the comitia would be Antony’s augural pronouncement that he spotted signs of divine displeasure with the proceedings.

idque se facturum esse asseveravitasseveravit introduces an indirect statement with se as subject accusative and facturum esse as infinitive. id refers back to Antony’s reminder in the ut-clause that he could obstruct and/or invalidate the consular elections. It is the accusative object of facturum esse. Antony does not simply remind his audience that as augur he has the power to obstruct the elections; he feels obliged to assert emphatically (asseveravit) that he would actually do so.

in quo primum incredibilem stupiditatem hominis cognoscitein quo is another connecting relative (= et in eo), picking up the entirety of Antony’s statement in the previous sentence. primum is again adverbial (‘first of all’).

Dolābella –ae m.: Dolabella

ēiusmodī: of this sort; of such kind; [et ~ => and the like]

augur auguris m. or f.: seer, augur, soothsayer

sacerdōtium –ī n.: the priesthood, office of a priest, sacerdotal office

praeditus –a –um: endowed with

comitia –ōrum n.: assembly; election

auspicium auspicī(ī) n.: divination (by the flight of birds)

impediō impedīre impedīvī/impediī impedītus: to hinder, impede

vitiō vitiāre: to make faulty, injure, spoil, mar, taint, corrupt, infect, vitiate, defile

assevērō –āre: to affirm, insist on, maintain, assert

incrēdibilis incrēdibilis incrēdibile: incredible; extraordinary

stupiditās stupiditātis f.: foolishness, stupidity

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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.