[85] Sedēbat in rōstrīs collēga tuus amictus togā purpureā, in sellā aureā, corōnātus. ēscendis, accēdis ad sellam — ita erās Lupercus, ut tē cōnsulem esse meminisse dēbērēs — diadēma ostendis. gemitus tōtō forō. unde diadēma? nōn enim abiectum sustulerās, sed attulerās domō, meditātum et cōgitātum scelus. tū diadēma impōnēbās cum plangōre populī; ille cum plausū reiciēbat. tū ergō ūnus, scelerātē, inventus es quī, cum auctor rēgnī essēs eumque quem collēgam habēbās dominum habēre vellēs, īdem temptārēs quid populus Rōmānus ferre et patī posset.

Vive le roi! Le roi est mort

Cicero now moves on to a vivid account of what happened on 15 February 44 BCE. He starts with Caesar sitting on the speakers’ platform (which is where the run of the Luperci came to an end), decked out in quasi-royal regalia (a purple toga, a golden chair, a crown) but not yet unequivocally a ‘king’. The runners arrive, in the nude as is ritual practice, but somehow Antony has a diadem on him: where does it come from? Cicero ponders various possibilities he rejects (for instance: Antony just found one abandoned on the roadside…) and argues for premeditation and prior arrangements as the only plausible explanation. Antony tries repeatedly to put the diadem on Caesar, who keeps rejecting it, as the people alternately groan and cheer. According to Cicero, the charade outs Antony unambiguously as a proponent of autocracy at Rome — and thereby hastened and sealed Caesar’s assassination.42 (Here and again at the funeral we should recognize that when claims to say what ‘the people’ thought and felt feature, these are, as always, bound to be hooked to partisan interpretations passed off as accounts; their counterpart is the denunciation of rent-a-crowd or mobster seizure of public space and the citizenry displaced.) [study questions]

Sedebat in rostris collega tuus amictus toga purpurea, in sella aurea, coronatus: the subject of the sentence is collega tuus (= Caesar). In part through front position of the verb (in the imperfect: a durative, establishing the background scene for an action about to happen), postposition of tuus, and the descending asyndetic tricolon amictus toga purpureain sella aureacoronatus the sentence paints a stately tableau of Caesar, displaying three of the honours that had recently been voted for him: the right to dress up in a purple garment, the use of a golden chair, and the wearing of a certain kind of crown. By ending with coronatus, Cicero also hints at the incident about to happen, though it is important to note that these insignia in and of themselves did not seem to have turned Caesar (fully) into a ‘king’ — it took Antony’s proffering of the diadem (and Caesar’s acceptance of it) that would have resulted in him truly crossing this particular line.

in rostrisrostra is a standard metonym for the platform from which speakers addressed the people. The rostra were the Latin ship-beaks that the Roman naval forces under C. Maenius captured at the battle of Antium (on the river Astura) in 338 BCE, which were subsequently attached to the platform (Livy 8.14.12; Pliny, Natural History 34.20). Antony decided it was the appropriate location to display Cicero’s head and hands the following year (Plutarch, Life of Antony 20–21).

amictus toga purpureaamictus is the perfect passive participle of the fourth-conjugation verb amicio, ‘to throw round’, ‘to wrap about’. It is used exclusively of loose outer garments, in contrast to induere (of clothes that are put or drawn on) or vestire (of items put on for protection or ornament): ‘wrapped in a purple toga’. The magnificent purple toga amounted to a quasi-royal robe: ‘in 45 Caesar was granted the triumphal dress for all games and for the sacrifices’ and the purple gown that Cicero refers to here seems to have evolved out of this ‘perpetuation of the triumphal privileges’:

Examining the relevant decree of 44 we notice a certain change in the terminology. The dress was still occasionally, as in 45, ‘triumphal dress’, but more often just ‘purple’ and twice even ‘regal dress’. The distinction is important. The regal dress was always purple and so was the early triumphal dress until the third century B.C. when it was replaced by the embroidered dress, the toga picta. If the archaic dress was adopted in 44, it may have appeared as another triumphal dress but was in fact the regal dress. 

Caesar’s attire thus stood in particularly stark contrast to the stripped-down appearance of the Lupercus Antony, generating another instance of sartorial satire. As Dyck (2001: 122) puts it: ‘Cicero reacts with consternation to the bare-chested Antony who, nudus after running in the Lupercalia, appeared as consul in the theater to offer a crown to Caesar. Caesar himself was dressed in the purple toga Romans associated with kingship: a sartorial deficiency on the one side, excess on the other’. 

in sella aurea: the golden chair is one of the extravagant honours enumerated by Suetonius and Dio (both cited above): ‘while an ivory sella curulis served as a marker of the higher magistracies of the Roman Republic, the gilded version could not avoid regal associations: golden thrones were regularly used by kings throughout the Mediterranean and thus seem to have been previously avoided by the Romans both in honoring their own and in presenting gifts to foreign kings’ (Pasco-Pranger 2006: 232). Together with the purple robe it also features in a lurid incident that happened just before Caesar’s death, reported by Cicero in his dialogue de Divinatione 1.119: qui (sc. Caesar) cum immolaret illo die quo primum in sella aurea sedit et cum purpurea veste processit, in extis bovis opimi cor non fuit (‘While Caesar was offering sacrifices on the day when he sat for the first time on a golden throne and first appeared in public in a purple robe, no heart was found in the vitals of the votive ox’). 

coronatus: Caesar embraced the (tactfully granted) honour to wear a crown made of laurel leaves on all occasions in order, what else?, to hide receding hairline: it trumped a toupée, bigly. See Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 45:

Circa corporis curam morosior, ut non solum tonderetur diligenter ac raderetur, sed velleretur etiam, ut quidam exprobraverunt, calvitii vero deformitatem iniquissime ferret, saepe obtrectatorum iocis obnoxiam expertus. Ideoque et deficientem capillum revocare a vertice adsueverat et ex omnibus decretis sibi a senatu populoque honoribus non aliud aut recepit aut usurpavit libentius quam ius laureae coronae perpetuo gestandae.

[He was rather fastidious in the care of his body, being not only carefully trimmed and shaved, but even having superfluous hair plucked out, as some have charged. His baldness was a disfigurement which troubled him greatly, since he found that it was often the subject of gibes of his detractors. Because of it he used to comb forward his scanty hair from the crown of his head, and of all the honours voted him by the senate and people there was none which he received or made use of more gladly than the privilege of wearing a laurel wreath at all times.]

At the Lupercalia, though, his choice of head-gear seems to have been a crown made of gold (Dio 44.11.2, cited above). Scholars disagree on what the crown signified: on the basis of numismatic evidence, Pelling (1988: 145–46) thinks the crown at issue is ‘the jewelled corona aurea of the triumphator’, whereas others see it as evoking the insignia of the ancient kings of Rome (e.g. Weinstock 1971: 272).

escendis [rostra], accedis ad sellam {Lupercus} — ita eras Lupercus, ut te consulem esse meminisse deberes — diadema ostendis: Cicero uses another asyndetic tricolon, consisting of the three vivid historical presents escendisaccedis, and ostendis. The third colon (diadema ostendis), which contains a transitive verb after two intransitive ones, forms a powerful climax, set off and emphasized by the parenthetical inset ita… deberes.

accedis ad sellam {Lupercus}: Shackleton Bailey suggests that the word Lupercus has dropped out after ad sellam; its presence in the text certainly would help to set up the parenthesis, improve the flow of the sentence, and reinforce the tension between Antony’s two identities as consul (all but forgotten — appropriately, consulem is in an oblique case hidden away in an indirect statement embedded within a subordinate clause) and Lupercus (preponderant — appropriately, the noun occurs twice in the nominative, both times in a main clause).

ita eras Lupercus, ut te consulem esse meminisse deberes: literally, ‘you were in such a way Lupercus that you ought to have remembered that you were consul’: the ita is concessive (‘even if you were a Lupercus…’) and is followed by a consecutive-restrictive ut-clause (hence the subjunctive) ‘… yet you still ought to have remembered that you were consul’). deberes takes meminisse as object infinitive, which in turn governs an indirect statement with te as subject accusative, esse as verb, and consulem as predicative complement. Two free translations are: ‘your office of Lupercus could not dispense you from the duty of remembering that you were consul’ (Mayor) or ‘you were a Lupercus, but you should have remembered that you were a consul’ (Shackleton Bailey).

diadema: re-popularized by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the diadem of Ravenclaw turned into a horcrux by Voldemort), the diadem became a popular symbol of royal power in the Graeco-Roman world from Alexander the Great onwards. But this is the first time the word and the thing appear at Rome (except in women’s hairdo’s) — and was never fully naturalized in Latin. (See for instance Horace, Odes 2.2, where it is associated with the Parthian king.) Philippic 2 makes sure diadema ties — pins — Julius Caesar to tyranni… cide. For further details (and images) see http://www.livius.org/articles/objects/diadem/

gemitus toto foro [oriuntur]. unde diadema [venit / accepisti]?: Cicero keeps his prose snappy, suppressing the verbs, here supplied exempli gratia, but perhaps best left out in the translation as well: ‘Groans all over the Forum! Whence the diadem?’ As Toher (2016: 310) points out, the rhetorical question is odd, but sets up Cicero subsequent rejection of a different version that was clearly in circulation at the time, namely that Antony had picked the diadem up along the way, on the spur of the moment: ‘It is possible that Cicero here engages in a rhetorical ploy: his question suggests an alternative explanation whose plausibility is then rejected in order to highlight the presentation of the diadem as a premeditated act by Antonius. But Cicero’s statement might also be explained by the fact that he thought it necessary to refute the idea that Antonius’ action was spontaneous, which would only have been necessary if Cicero thought his audience knew of another version … of how Antonius came to have the diadem’ (with reference to the Caesar-friendly historiographer Nicolaus of Damascus 20.69; see also Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar, 79.1 and Dio 44.9, cited above: they recount or allude to an incident that supposedly happened a few weeks before the Lupercalia and involved the two tribunes Flavus and Marullus lifting a diadem from a statue of Caesar and discarding it in the streets).

non enim abiectum [diadema] sustuleras, sed attuleras domo, meditatum et cogitatum scelus: Cicero presents his audience with a false dilemma: each of the two options he outlines is rather implausible on its own, but the absurdity of the first is designed to endow the second with credibility. That Antony came across a diadem abandoned in the streets is a rather unlikely scenario — despite the earlier incident mentioned in the previous note; but it is also rather unlikely that he had the diadem on him from the moment he left his house (domo): how (and where) would he have carried it while running his naked mile as Lupercus? By far the likeliest scenario seems to be that someone handed Antony the diadem as he was nearing the end of his route — but Cicero does not even consider this option since it does not fit into his agenda of turning Antony into the sole culprit who cooked up and executed the nefarious scheme all by himself. Built into the question of how Antony got hold of the diadem is another question: was his act of crowning Caesar spontaneous (implied and dismissed in non… abiectum sustuleras) or premeditated (tautologically endorsed by meditatum et cogitatum scelus). (Note that Cicero does not go into the question whether Antony came up with the scheme himself or followed Caesar’s instructions.)

meditatum et cogitatum scelus: the accusative phrase stands in apposition to (and explains) the whole preceding sentence: see Gildersleeve & Lodge 204: ‘you had brought the diadem with you from home — (we are dealing with) a well-rehearsed and premeditated crime!’ For the meaning and grammar of meditatum see Mayor (1861: 129): ‘meditari… is used of speakers rehearsing, conning over their speeches, of actors “getting up” their parts. … meditatum is here passive, though meditor is a deponent’.

tu diadema imponebas cum plangore populi; ille cum plausu reiciebat: the imperfect in Latin is principally used to express duration (durative) or repetition (iterative) of an action in the past. But it can also signify (failed) attempt (conative — from conor, conari, ‘to try, attempt’): Antony repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, tried to put the diadem on Caesar (imponebas: iterative + conative); Caesar kept refusing it / refused it again and again (reiciebat: durative or iterative). The imperfects suggest a rather long-drawn out process, a drama of refutation, unfolding in dialogue with reactions (approving / disapproving) from the crowd.

cum plangore populiplangor is the noun to plango, -gere, -xi, -ctum, which means ‘to beat, to strike’ and specifically ‘to beat one’s breast in a sign of mourning’, hence ‘to mourn, to lament’. Cicero makes it out that the entire people who were watching the scene broke out in collective lamentation, a much stronger reaction than the groans of horrified premonition (gemitus) that went up when Antony first flashed the diadem.

cum plausu [populi]: plausus is the noun to plaudo, -dere, -si, -sum, which means ‘to strike with a flat or concave surface, to clap’, specifically ‘to clap the hands in applause’. It thus correlates antithetically with plangor — the people (responsible for both soundtracks) change beating their breasts in mourning at the prospect of a king to clapping their hands in delight at Caesar’s gesture of refusal.

tu ergo unus, scelerate, inventus es qui, cum auctor regni esses eumque quem collegam habebas dominum habere velles, idem temptares quid populus Romanus ferre et pati posset: the sentence explores the motivations behind Antony’s action, which, according to Cicero, were twofold: (i) he wanted to enslave himself — and, more generally, the entire Roman people — to Caesar by turning Caesar unequivocally into a kingly figure; (ii) he wanted to test the waters whether (or to what extent) the Roman people would follow suit. The syntax is rather intricate:

Main clause: tu… inventus es


relative clause: qui… temptares



cum-clause: cum… esses eumque… velles




relative clause: quem… habebas



indirect question: quid… posset

Cicero starts by singling Antony out in the main clause tu ergo unus, scelerate, inventus es. Note the emphatic front position of tu, the cacophonic hiatus ergo | unus, and the jingle u-nus ~ inven-tustu is the antecedent of the subsequent relative clause of characteristic (hence the subjunctive temptares). Embedded within the relative clause is a circumstantial cum-clause: cum auctor… velles, with the -que after eum linking esses and velleshabere, an object infinitive with velles, governs the double accusative eum and dominum: ‘… to have him as master…’. Within the cum-clause we get another relative clause (quem collegam habebas). We conclude with an indirect question (quid… posset). The intricate syntax is the result of Cicero trying to combine an assessment of Antony’s personal motivation (the wish to be king-maker and enslave himself) with a strategic experiment in crowd-psychology (how will the people react to seeing Caesar crowned king?). The word that coordinates the two prongs is the pronoun idem (in the masculine nominative singular), ‘the very same’, which coordinates the content of the cum-clause with the content of the relative clause and the indirect question. This is difficult to render elegantly into English; it is perhaps best to turn the cum-clause into a self-standing main clause: ‘It was you who was the mastermind of establishing kingship and you who wanted Caesar as master rather than as colleague — and so you were the only person who could be found to try out what the Roman people could bear and suffer’.

The key thing to note is that Cicero assumes throughout that Antony acted on his own initiative, which is perhaps not the most likely scenario — and utterly implausible with respect to reason (ii): if the incident unfolded at least in part in order to test the public reaction to the possibility of Caesar assuming the kingship, then Caesar surely must have been involved in the planning and the stage-management.

scelerate: the vocative of the adjective sceleratus, here used as a noun. It picks up on (by etymological indication of the source of) meditatum et cogitatum scelus.

quem collegam habebas: the relative clause picks up on the earlier parenthesis ita eras Lupercus, ut te consulem esse meminisse deberes: Cicero keeps emphasizing that Antony was a consul at the time.

rōstrum rōstrī n.: beak, prow, speaker's platform

collēga collēgae m.: colleague (in official/priestly office); associate, fellow (not official)

amiciō –īre –icuī (–ixī) –ictus: to throw around; cover, clothe; surround; veil, cover (> am– and iacio)

toga togae f.: toga

purpureus –a –um: purple

sella –ae f.: a seat; chair; chair of state (> sedeo)

corōnō coronāre coronāvī coronātus: to crown, surround

ēscendō ēscendere ēscendī ēscēnsum: to climb up, mount, ascend

Lupercī –ōrum m.: priests of Lupercus or Lycean Pan

diadēma –atis n.: a royal headdress, diadem

gemitus –ūs m.: a groaning; a groan; sigh; lamentation; cry; noise, roaring (> gemo)

abiciō abicere abiēcī abiectum: to throw away, throw down

meditor meditārī meditātus sum: to think, prepare to; think out; rehearse, practice

plangor –ōris m.: lamentation by beating the breast; lamentation, wailing, cry of grief (> plango)

plausus –ūs m.: a beating, clapping, flapping; fluttering sound; plaudit, applause (> plaudo)

reiciō reicere reiēcī reiectum: to throw back, reject

scelerātus –a –um: accursed, criminal, scoundrel

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

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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.