[81] Quid enim? istud quod tē sacerdōtī iūre facere posse dīxistī, sī augur nōn essēs et cōnsul essēs, minus facere potuissēs? vidē nē etiam facilius. nōs enim nūntiātiōnem sōlum habēmus, cōnsulēs et reliquī magistrātūs etiam spectiōnem. esto: hoc imperītē; nec enim est ab homine numquam sōbriō postulanda prūdentia. sed vidēte impudentiam. multīs ante mēnsibus in senātū dīxit sē Dolābellae comitia aut prohibitūrum auspiciīs aut id factūrum esse quod fēcit. quisquamne dīvīnāre potest quid vītī in auspiciīs futūrum sit, nisi quī dē caelō servāre cōnstituit? quod neque licet comitiīs per lēgēs et sī quī servāvit, nōn comitiīs habitīs sed priusquam habeantur, dēbet nūntiāre. vērum implicāta īnscientia impudentiā est: nec scit quod augurem nec facit quod pudentem decet.

Compounding Ignorance through Impudence

Cicero hammers away at Antony’s seemingly incomplete understanding of the nuances of Rome’s augural law and the different remits it offered to augurs and consuls (as well as other magistrates) — before shifting his focus halfway through from Antony’s ignorance to his impudence. When a magistrate intended to obstruct public proceedings by observing the sky, political etiquette demanded that he announced his intentions ahead of time: since he would invariably find a sign of divine displeasure, the proceedings could be postponed before they had even started, thus keeping the inconvenience for everyone else to a minimum. By contrast, Antony announced way in advance what he planned to do; nevertheless got the voting procedure underway (over which he presided as consul); and then after proceedings drew to a close pronounced his religious objection — a stupid, shamefully inconsiderate, and reckless abuse of religious prerogatives, at least according to Cicero’s spin. However, Cicero too would have known that Antony behaved with extraordinary shrewdness. By letting the election happen but casting a religious doubt over the (inevitable) outcome, he gained an important bargaining chip in interactions with his future colleague in office. As Santangelo (2013: 3) points out: ‘The events that unfolded a few weeks later, after the Ides of March, confirmed the value of Antony’s use of his augural prerogatives. When Dolabella and Antony decided to mend fences and co-operate in the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination, Antony’s willingness to accept Dolabella’s election and set aside his opposition was a central part of the deal. The tactical advantage that he had earned with his handling of Dolabella’s election was rooted in his expert knowledge of the complex rules that governed the interaction between politics and religion in the late Republic’. [study questions]

Quid enim?: the elliptical question introduces a confirmatory statement (OLD s.v. quis, quid 14c): Cicero uses it as a transitional phrase to link his invitation to observe Antony’s unbelievable stupidity with an explication thereof: ‘Why?’ or ‘If that is not the case, what is?’

istud quod te sacerdoti iure facere posse dixisti, si augur non esses et consul esses, minus facere potuisses?: translate in the following sequence: si augur non esses et consul esses, potuisses minus facere istud, quod dixisti te sacerdoti iure facere posse? Put differently, istud up front is the accusative object of the supplementary infinitive facere and in turn serves as antecedent of the relative clause introduced by quod. Cicero invites Antony to consider whether he could not have done what he did had he only been consul at the time (rather than both consul and augur). The question is entirely rhetorical: of course he could have, given that the powers of a consul to impede electoral proceedings exceeded those of an augur. Overall, the sentence is a past counterfactual condition (though Cicero uses imperfect, rather than pluperfect subjunctives in the protasis, perhaps because Antony not just was an augur and consul back then but still is at the time of writing).

et consul esses: the past counterfactual condition enables Cicero to include a sly dig at Antony’s status as consul: ‘if you had not been an augur (but you were) and had been a consul (which Antony was — but Cicero implies that he was one in name only)…’

vide ne etiam facilius [facere potuisses]: ‘See if you could not have / You’ll find that you could have done it even more easily!’

nos enim nuntiationem solum habemus, consules et reliqui magistratus etiam spectionem: Cicero here uses the first person plural (nos… habemus) since he is speaking as a member of the augural college. Augurs only had the right of nuntiatio — the observation and announcement of an (unanticipated) unfavourable divine sign, which would cast a religious doubt over ongoing proceedings or subsequent decisions; consuls and other magistrate could actively seek out such signs by observation (spectio) of the sky. And it was generally understood that anyone intent on seeking would indeed find what he was looking for. Therefore the mere announcement of a magistrate that he intended to engage in spectio (or watch the sky: se servare de caelo) with respect to an upcoming event would entail its cancellation or postponement. Put differently, spectio by magistrates tended to happen before, nuntiatio by augurs had to happen during, an event. Indeed, considerate use of spectio required the magistrate to signal his intentions to make use of his privilege well in advance (rather than waiting until the proceedings had started) so as not to unduly inconvenience all concerned. This is precisely what Antony fell short of doing, as Cicero goes on to point out below, ascribing it to his impudence.

esto: hoc imperite [dixit / factum est]: esto is the third person singular future imperative of sum, with a concessive sense (see OLD s.v. sum 8b): ‘so be it!’ hoc imperite is elliptical, with the verb, modified by the adverb imperite [in + peritus + e], needing to be supplied. Possibilities include dixit or fecit, which would turn hoc into an accusative object (‘this he pronounced / did ignorantly’) or factum est, with hoc as subject (‘this was done out of ignorance’). The theme of Antony’s ignorance, firmly established by the phrase incredibilem stupiditatem at the end of § 80, recurs at the end of the paragraph, where it gets married to his impudence.

nec enim est ab homine numquam sobrio postulanda prudentia: with mock affability, Cicero quickly dismisses Antony’s failure to grasp a key aspect of Rome’s augural lore: it wouldn’t do to dwell too pedantically on such technicalities given Antony’s state of permanent intoxication: that those under the influence do not tend to have the sharpest of minds is a well-known fact — ‘From a Drunk-only, discriminating insight is not to be expected’. The advanced placement of est in the periphrastic gerundive enables a humorously alliterated ending to the sentence, with the subject — the climactic prudentia — coming last. Antony’s heroic application to the bottle is a recurrent theme throughout the speech, receiving its most extensive coverage at Phil. 2.63:

Tu istis faucibus, istis lateribus, ista gladiatoria totius corporis firmitate tantum vini in Hippiae nuptiis exhauseras, ut tibi necesse esset in populi Romani conspectu vomere postridie. o rem non modo visu foedam, sed etiam auditu! si inter cenam in ipsis tuis immanibus illis poculis hoc tibi accidisset, quis non turpe duceret? in coetu vero populi Romani negotium publicum gerens magister equitum, cui ructare turpe esset, is vomens frustis esculentis vinum redolentibus gremium suum et totum tribunal implevit!

[You with that gullet of yours, with those lungs, with that gladiatorial strength of your whole body, had gulped down so much wine at Hippias’ wedding that you were forced to vomit the following day right in front of the Roman people. How disgusting it must have been to watch — just to hear of it makes one gag! If during the banquet, in the very midst of those enormous potations of yours, this had happened to you, who would not think it disgraceful? But at an assembly of the Roman people, while in the conduct of public business, a master of the horse, for whom it would be disgraceful to belch, vomited and filled his own lap and the whole tribunal with bits and pieces of food reeking of wine.]

The portrayal of Antony as a permanently intoxicated alcoholic is a leitmotif throughout the speech — and beyond. As Hall (2002: 288–89) observes ‘Antony’s notorious drinking habits provide rich material for such a caricature. Through judicious hyperbole Cicero turns a drunken indiscretion into a scene of striking repugnance… It is typical of the speech’s technique, however, that this hit at Antony’s drunkenness is not a casual or isolated one. Elsewhere Cicero evokes the smell of stale wine on Antony’s breath (Phil. 2.30 and 2.42), slyly suggests that his inconsistent pronouncements as augur were a result of the drink (Phil. 2.81; 84), and that his attempts to found a colony at Capua were affected by furiosam vinolentiam (Phil. 2.101). This accumulation of detail gives the depiction a persuasive consistency and depth’. The theme recurs in later Philippics, such as 3.20 and 6.4, and culminates at Phil. 13.4, where he turns the entire family-clan of the Antonii into a bunch of tipplers permanently reeking of wine. Antony thus falls woefully short of even the baseline requirements for a public speaker and statesman, i.e. being careful, thoughtful, and sober. (See On the Ideal Orator / de Oratore 2.140: … omnes diligentes et memores et sobrii oratores…).

sed videte impudentiam: Cicero’s tone now switches from the avuncular (used to comment on Antony’s alleged ignorance) to the aggressive (deployed to attack his putative impudence).

multis ante mensibus in senatu dixit se Dolabellae comitia aut prohibiturum auspiciis aut id facturum esse quod fecit: the main verb is dixit, which is preceded by specifications of time (multis ante mensibus) and place (in senatu). It introduces an indirect statement with se as subjective accusative and prohibiturum (esse) (taking comitia as accusative object) and facturum esse (taking id as accusative object) as infinitives. Dolabellae is genitive depending on comitia: ‘Dolabella’s election’. Regarding the first part of what Antony purportedly said, i.e. that he would prevent the election from going forward, it is not entirely clear whether Cicero blames him for ignorance or for impudence:

  • Option 1: on the basis of his position as augur he had no right to interfere with the meeting before it had started (= ignorance).
  • Option 2a: as consul who had just entered office (if the senate-meeting in question is the one on 1 January 44), announcing his intent to use religious obstruction so far in advance of the actual event amounts to impudence.
  • Option 2b: Perhaps Cicero vague temporal indicator multis ante mensibus (see below) is meant to suggest that Antony insisted on his right of spectio already in 45, as consul-elect (= impudence2).

Options 2a and 2b are of course difficult to reconcile with Cicero’s earlier claim that Antony preferred to position himself as augur rather than consul. Matters get even more confusing if we factor in the second part of the indirect statement: Cicero claims that Antony announced months beforehand that he would exercise his right of spectio, but only after the proceedings had already run their course! All of this amounts to a great muddle in which elements of ignorance and elements of impudence are difficult to disentangle — precisely the impression Cicero arguably wishes to generate.

multis ante mensibus: with reference to the senate meeting that took place on 1 January 44, the phrase seems an exaggeration, but perhaps not by much; indeed, in the context of invective oratory, calling two and a half months ‘many’ would seem only mildly hyperbolic, if at all. But Cicero may of course allude to an even earlier pronouncement in late 45, which, if it is not entirely invented, perhaps even triggered Dolabella’s seemingly well-prepared invective outburst during the meeting on 1 January 44, which Cicero mentioned in § 79. As § 83 shows (id igitur obvenit vitium quod tu iam Kalendis Ianuariis futurum esse provideras et tanto ante praedixeras), Antony certainly was not silent during this particular meeting either. But it remains unclear whether he stated or restated his intent to block Dolabella’s election to suffect consul. (et tanto ante praedixeras could either refer to the meeting on the calends of January or an earlier one — in which case it would presumably be the same as the one Cicero has in mind here.)

quisquamne divinare potest quid viti in auspiciis futurum sit, nisi qui de caelo servare constituit?: ‘Can anyone foresee what is going to be flawed in the auspices unless he has decided to observe the sky’? The point of the question seems to be that Antony, who seems to have acted in his role as augur by practicing nuntiatio, announced that he would do something that is only compatible with his role as consul (spectio), according to the (accepted) rule that magistrates who had the prerogative of spectio and announced that they would exercise it, as a matter of course found the negative signs they were looking for. Hence they could be said ‘to foresee’ (divinare) them. Augurs did not have this privilege.

quisquamne: the indefinite pronoun quisquam + the enclitic -ne, used to introduce a question.

quid viti in auspiciis futurum sit: an indirect question (hence the subjunctive). viti is a partitive genitive (from vitium) dependent on quid, literally ‘what of religious flaw there will be in the auspices’.

quod neque licet comitiis per leges et si qui servavit, non comitiis habitis sed priusquam habeantur, debet nuntiarequod is a connecting relative (= et id). The two parts of the main clause specify legal restrictions (licetper leges) and normative expectations (debet) that governed (or ought to govern) the exercise of consular spectio (though, importantly, not augural nuntiatio): Cicero first refers to legislation that seems to have been introduced by his nemesis Publius Clodius Pulcher in 58 BCE (hence, perhaps, his use of the generic phrase per leges rather than a specific reference to the lex Clodia) which stipulated that a magistrate exercising his right of spectio with a mind to obstructing public business (obnuntiatio) had to do so (a) in person; and (b) before official proceedings started. This piece of legislation seems to have come as a direct response to the practice of Bibulus, who was Caesar’s consular colleague in 59 BCE, to issue a religious objection to anything Caesar did from his own house (because otherwise Caesar’s charges would rough him up). It also seems to have repealed at least some of the stipulations of the earlier lex Aelia et Fufia of c. 150 BCE. As far as we can reconstruct, this earlier law extended the right of obnuntiatio (= the reporting of unfavourable omens during a legislative or voting assembly, with the result that any public business had to be suspended until the next lawful day) from the College of Augurs to all of the magistrates. 

The second part of the sentence (et si qui … debet nuntiare: note that the et links licet and debet) refers to the expectation that any magistrate who practised spectio ought to announce the outcome of his observation before, rather than during the assembly. Commentators disagree on what precisely Cicero is saying here. Mayor (1861: 124) thinks that the legal prohibition covers both parts of the sentence, with Cicero acknowledging that the law was routinely breached: ‘Thus Cicero says: it is illegal de caelo servare at the comitia, but if it is done, it should be done before they begin, and not when business is actually in progress’. This is not quite right: the law did not rule out de caelo servare on the part of a magistrate with the right to take auspices before the comitia. What Cicero says is that whoever engaged in spectio in the run-up to an assembly (note that servavit is perfect) ought to announce the outcome beforehand as well, and not wait until it is underway or, even worse, until it is finished. Some commentators suggest that in the phrase comitiis habitis the perfect passive participle is used instead of the non-existent present one, with the sense being ‘while the voting assembly is in process’. This is possible grammatically, but I recommend a more literal reading: those who announced their intent to exercise their right of spectio before a voting assembly ought not to wait to announce their findings until after the event had finished (comitiis habitis) AS ANTONY (all but) DID (see § 83: confecto negotio etc.), but before it got underway (priusquam habeantur).

comitiis: ablative of time. As Mayor (1861: 124) points out, the use is idiomatic with a range of nouns that refer to public events: ludis (‘during the festival’); gladiatoribus (‘during the gladiatorial games’).

comitiis habitis: an ablative absolute. comitia habere = to hold or conduct an assembly. See OLD s.v. habeo 20.

verum implicata inscientia impudentia est: nec scit quod augurem [scire decet] nec facit quod pudentem [faceredecet: it is impossible to decide whether inscientia is the subject of implicata est and impudentia an instrumental ablative with implico or vice versa — and this might just be part of the point Cicero is trying to make: with Antony, ‘ignorance and impudence are all of a piece’ (Lacey 1986: 119). The elliptical follow-up sentence equally reinforces on the formal level the impression of Antony Cicero is trying to convey: there are significant gaps in his knowledge and his sense of decency: ‘He neither knows what befits an augur to know nor does he do what it befits a decent man to do’.

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

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

nūntiātiō nūntiātiōnis f.: declaration, announcement made by an augur

magistrātus magistrātūs m.: magistracy, civil office; office; magistrate, functionary

spectiō spectiōnis f. : an observing of the auspices

imperītus –a –um: unskilled, inexperienced

sōbrius –a –um: sober, moderate

postulō postulāre postulāvī postulātus: to demand, claim; require; ask/pray for

prudentia prudentiae f.: discretion; good sense, wisdom; prudence; foresight

impudentia –ae f.: shamelessness

mēnsis mēnsis m.: month

Dolābella –ae m.: Dolabella

comitia –ōrum n.: assembly; election

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

dīvīnō –āre –āvī –ātus: to divine, foretell, prophesy, forebode, guess

quis quid after sī nisī ne or num: anyone, anything, someone, something

nūntiō nuntiāre nuntiāvī nuntiātus: to announce/report/bring word/give warning; convey/deliver/relate message/greeting

vērum: but indeed, but yet, yet, but

implicō implicāre implicāvī (implicuī) implicitus: to fold in; involve, entangle, entwine; to wheel; (w. dat.), bind to; infuse; insinuate, mingle; se implicare, cling to

īnscientia –ae f.: want of knowledge, ignorance, inexperience

pudens –entis: proper, decent, modest

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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.