86

[86] At etiam misericordiam captābās: supplex tē ad pedēs abiciēbās. quid petēns? ut servīrēs? tibi ūnī peterēs, quī ita ā puerō vīxerās ut omnia paterēre, ut facile servīrēs; ā nōbīs populōque Rōmānō mandātum id certē nōn habēbās. ō praeclāram illam ēloquentiam tuam cum es nūdus contiōnātus! quid hōc turpius, quid foedius, quid suppliciīs omnibus dignius? num exspectās dum tē stimulīs fodiāmus? haec tē, sī ūllam partem habēs sēnsūs, lacerat, haec cruentat ōrātiō. vereor nē imminuam summōrum virōrum glōriam; dīcam tamen dolōre commōtus: quid indignius quam vīvere eum, quī imposuerit diadēma, cum omnēs fateantur iūre interfectum esse quī abiēcerit?

Antony as Willing Slave and Would-Be King-Maker

Cicero continues to dwell on Antony’s attempt to crown Caesar king — acting on his perverse desire to enslave himself, together with everyone else. His associations with tyranny are such that Cicero considers the task of the conspirators only half done with the murder of Caesar — in fact, he suggests that Antony, who volunteered Caesar for the position of monarch and willingly embraced a condition of servitude, deserved even more to be killed than the dictator. [study questions]

At etiam misericordiam captabas: supplex te ad pedes abiciebas: apparently, after Caesar’s initial refusal, Antony persisted to try to win him over by pathos-fraught rhetoric and the performance of a so-called proskunesis (= throwing oneself at the feet of the ruler, perhaps even kissing the hem of his robe) — a royal Persian custom, later also adopted by the (Greek) Hellenistic kings, which the Romans associated with extreme subservience or indeed enslavement. captabasis another conative use of the imperfect (‘you even tried to go in for pathos’); abiciebas is durative, underscoring how long Antony abased himself by being prostrate at the feet of Caesar. Denniston (1926: 153) offers the interesting suggestion that Cicero here deliberately misrepresents a detail of the scene: ‘Our other authorities say nothing of this. If Antony stooped to pick up the crown from the ground, his attitude might have been mistaken for prostration. If he really did prostrate himself, in oriental fashion, he can hardly have done so except with the intention of making Caesar odious’. 

supplex te ad pedes abiciebas: technically speaking, supplex, modifying the subject of the sentence (embedded in abiciebas), is unnecessary. Its use brings out the utter self-abasement of Antony, who was consul at the time. The highest Roman magistrate going weak-kneed at the feet of a would-be king is the stuff of political nightmares for any member of the senatorial elite. The reflexive pronoun te (= yourself) is the accusative object of abiciebas.

quid petens? ut servires?: Cicero follows up the tableau of Antony at Caesar’s feet with two sentence fragments: an interrogative particle + participle (quid petens) and a subsequent purpose clause cast as a question (ut servires?): ‘Asking for what? So that you may be a slave?’ The loss of coherent syntax might be expressive of his indignation at the conjured scene.

tibi uni peteres, qui ita a puero vixeras ut omnia paterere, ut facile servirespeteres is in the imperfect subjunctive to express a command with reference to a past state of affairs: it refers to an action that Antony, according to Cicero, shouldhave undertaken (but did not). So the order implied by the iussive can no longer be carried out. See Pinkster (2015: 503–04). The following relative clause, which segues into two consecutive ut-clauses, refers back to § 44, a puero…, where Cicero claimed that Antony began his public career as a common whore (primo vulgare scortum), implying a willingness to be sexually penetrated: his sexual submissiveness serves as analogue (and premonition) of his political subservience.

tibi uni: ‘for yourself alone’. uni is here in the dative singular modifying tibi as a predicative apposition (literally: ‘for yourself as the only one’), but English prefers an adverbial expression: see Gildersleeve & Lodge 206.

paterere: alternative form of the second person singular imperfect subjunctive passive of the deponent patior, pati (= patereris). The verb hints at Antony’s status as a pathicus — the passive partner in a homosexual relationship.

a nobis populoque Romano mandatum id certe non habebasa nobis here refers to the senate, and Cicero thereby invokes the traditional formula by which the Romans of the republic self-identified as a political community: SPQR, senatus populusque Romanus: ‘You certainly did not have this ordered by…’ = ‘You certainly did not receive any such mandate from…’. By closely aligning the senate and the people, Cicero undoes the endeavour of Antony and Caesar to drive a wedge between these two constituencies, with Caesar and the people forming a united front against the old but outdated senatorial elite — a rhetorical maneuver that informed Caesar’s propaganda from the day he crossed the Rubicon (in partial defence of the tribunes of the people). Here it specifically preempts Cicero’s reference in the following paragraph to the entry of the incident in Rome’s official calendar, which recorded that Antony acted ‘at the behest of the people’ (populi iussu).

o praeclaram illam eloquentiam tuam cum es nudus contionatus!: a long, sarcastic accusative of exclamation (o… tuam), followed by a temporal cum-clause (in the indicative). The periphrastic embrace of nudus by the verb for public speaking (es… contionatus) is delicious: only magistrates had the right to address an assembly of the Roman people (contio), so Antony acts here in his role as consul, but does so with his toga down (as it were), turning the hallowed occasion into a revolting strip-show. In contrast to the Greeks with their gymnasia, Romans didn’t have much time for public nudity, and certainly not for a magistrate doing the full Monty — though Antony would presumably have worn the traditional loincloth of the Lupercus.

quid hoc turpius, quid foedius, quid suppliciis omnibus dignius?hoc is an ablative of comparison with the ascending tricolon of comparatives turpiusfoediusdignius. The verb (est) is implied. suppliciis picks up supplex at the beginning of the paragraph — the lexical relation suggests the idea of retribution.

num exspectas dum te stimulis fodiamus?: the interrogative particle num here introduces a rhetorical question that calls for a negative answer: ‘Are you waiting till we pierce you with ox-goads [sc. to feel the requisite punishment for your misdeeds]?’ As Lacey (1986: 221) points out, the reference to ox-goads turns Antony either into a notional farm animal (picking up on § 30: sed stuporem hominis vel dicam pecudis attendite: ‘observe the thickness of the man or I should rather say brute’) or a slave (who were pierced with ox-goads as punishment, no doubt to remind them of their dehumanized status).

dum: the subjunctive fodiamus indicates an expected / possible event: see OLD s.v. dum 5b.

haec te, si ullam partem habes sensus, lacerat, haec cruentat oratio: Cicero uses a simple condition with present indicative in both protasis (habes) and apodosis (laceratcruentat), which implies nothing as to its fulfillment. It might just be the case that Antony has nullus sensus — and is therefore unable to appreciate the (unconventional) punishment that Cicero’s oration is inflicting on him. Unorthodox forms of punishment are a staple of Cicero’s oratory: he likes to insist that his adversaries suffer from various non-obvious modes of retribution for their misdeeds, such as divinely inspired madness (in the case of such characters as Verres, Clodius, or Piso) or, as here, oratorical torture. Cicero sets up the — long delayed — subject of the sentence with the anaphora of the demonstrative adjective haec: the oratio at the end turns the verbs lacerat and cruentat, which evoke gruesome images of (literal) carnage, into graphic metaphors designed to bring out the cutting nature of Cicero’s invective.47

ullam partem… sensussensus is a partitive genitive (fourth declension) dependent on partem.

vereor ne imminuam summorum virorum gloriam; dicam tamen dolore commotus: Cicero here sets up the following sentence, in which he claims that given that Caesar has justly been killed for harbouring royal ambitions (though he rejected the diadem), Antony, who tried to crown him king, should have been killed twice over. Such a claim, however, — so Cicero fears — potentially diminishes the glory that the conspirators (here referred to as summi viri: absolutely outstanding men, the best in the commonwealth) won by killing Caesar. Still, the powerful emotion of dolor, the basic meaning of which is ‘pain’ but here refers to the strong resentment he feels towards Antony, pushes him over the edge.

dicam: future indicative.

quid [est] indignius quam vivere eum, qui imposuerit diadema, cum omnes fateantur iure interfectum esse qui abiecerit?: Cicero suppresses the main verb (est): ‘what is more shameful than for the sort of person to live [literally: that the sort of person lives], who…’ The subjunctive imposuerit is generic. The following cum-clause is concessive (‘even though all admit that…’). fateantur introduces an indirect statement with an implied eum (sc. Caesarem) as subject accusative (and antecedent of the second qui) and interfectum esse as verb.

omnes: Cicero massively exaggerates: in fact, public opinion was desperately divided as to whether the killing of Caesar was a glorious act of tyrannicide or the despicable murder of a friend and benefactor. Elsewhere, Cicero deplores that the assassins only did half the job by not getting rid of Antony as well, killing the tyrant, but leaving (the prospect of future) tyranny alive insofar as the next despot was already waiting in the wings.

misericordia misericordiae f.: pity, sympathy; compassion, mercy; pathos

captō captāre captāvī captātus: to grasp at, seize, captivate; hunt for legacies

supplex supplicis: suppliant; a suppliant (> supplico, beseech)

abiciō abicere abiēcī abiectum: to throw away, throw down

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

mandātum –ī n.: order, comission

ō: O

praeclārus –a –um: very clear; splendid; famous; bright, illustrious; noble, distinguished

ēloquentia –ae f.: eloquence

cōntiōnor –ārī: to meet, convene, form an assembly

stimulus –ī m.: a prick; spur, (fig.); incentive, sting

fodiō fodere fōdī fossum: to dig

lacerō lacerāre lacerāvī lacerātus: to tear, mutilate; wound; rend (> lacer)

cruentō cruentāre cruentāvī cruentātus: to make bloody, stain with blood (> cruentus)

im–minuō –minuere –minuī –minūtum: to lessen, diminish

commoveō commovēre commōvī commōtus: to shake/stir up, agitate; displace, disturb, trouble/worry, upset; jolt; excite; waken; provoke; move (money/camp); produce; cause, start (war); raise (point)

indīgnus –a –um: unworthy (of) (+ abl.); whom it does not befit (+ inf.)

diadēma –atis n.: a royal headdress, diadem

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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-86