[92] Cōnstitūta rēs pūblica vidēbātur aliīs, mihi vērō nūllō modō, quī omnia tē gubernante naufragia metuēbam. num igitur mē fefellit, aut num diūtius suī potuit esse dissimilis? īnspectantibus vōbīs tōtō Capitōliō tabulae fīgēbantur, neque sōlum singulīs vēnībant immūnitātēs sed etiam populīs ūniversīs: cīvitās nōn iam singillātim, sed prōvinciīs tōtīs dabātur. itaque sī haec manent, quae stante rē pūblicā manēre nōn possunt, prōvinciās ūniversās, patrēs cōnscrīptī, perdidistis, neque vectīgālia sōlum sed etiam imperium populī Rōmānī huius domesticīs nūndinīs dēminūtum est.

Selling the Empire

Cicero continues to insist on his clairvoyant pessimism, by which he sets himself apart from peers more susceptible to the allure of a short-term reconciliation. While others at the time hailed the compromise reached between Caesarians and conspirators back in March as a re-establishment of the res publica, he remained highly skeptical of the prospects for a lasting settlement while Antony remained at the helm. Subsequent events, he argues, proved him right. It did not take Antony long to abuse his privileged access to the state papers of Caesar, which afforded him the opportunity to ‘discover’ (a.k.a. invent) new edicts as it suited him. In this paragraph, Cicero lambasts Antony for selling off rights and privileges (such as grants of citizenship and immunity from taxation) to non-Romans for personal gain, under the cover of executing Caesar’s will but using forged documents for the purpose. [study questions]

Constituta res publica videbatur aliis, mihi vero nullo modo, qui omnia te gubernante naufragia metuebamconstituta stands in predicative position to res publica (‘to some the commonwealth seemed established…’). Its placement up front conveys a sense of finality and relief — an upbeat, optimistic start to a sentence that then progressively loses its lustre: videbatur moves us from the realm of facts to that of appearance, aliis introduces a further qualification (the commonwealth did not seem safe and sound to everyone), further reinforced by mihi, which clashes in antithesis with aliis and receives instant backup from the discourse particle vero, which has its origins in a case form of verus = ‘true’, ‘real’ (Kroon 1995: 285), thereby helping to suggest that Cicero’s understanding of constitutional realities, profoundly bleak as it may be (cf. nullo modo) is unfortunately also much more realistic. With Antony in charge, any catastrophe may happen.

omnia te gubernante naufragia: the ablative absolute te gubernante breaks up the accusative object omnia naufragia. Both phrases comprise the common metaphor of the ‘ship of state’, with the consul or other leading politician as helmsman (gubernator) steering the commonwealth safely through troubled waters — or, alternatively, causing wreckage. (The adjective omnia lessens the metaphorical force since it goes better with a generalized meaning of naufragia in the sense of calamitas: ‘every kind of disaster’; the implication may be that Antony is not a true gubernator anyway.)

The ‘ship-of-state’ metaphor has a long pedigree in Greek and Roman thought (going back to the lyric poet Alcaeus, it was also used by Theognis, Solon, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Plato, Republic 6.488a–489d, among others). It was a favourite of Cicero’s.57 Related ideas are the figure of the gubernator rei publicae and (when things go wrong) the notion of political shipwreck (naufragium). The metaphor is still alive today: during World War II, for instance, Franklin Roosevelt is said to have quoted the following bit from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem ‘The Ship’ in a letter to Winston Churchill: ‘… Sail on, O Ship of State! | Sail on, O Union, strong and great! | Humanity with all its fears, | With all the hopes of future years, | Is hanging breathless on thy fate!’. As a ‘dead metaphor’, the group of words around gubernare (‘to steer’) inform contemporary political discourse in English, on the back of the following linguistic evolution: Greek kubernan > Latin gubernare > Middle English (from Old French) governer > Modern English to govern (hence government etc.).

num igitur me fefellit, aut num diutius sui potuit esse dissimilis?: Cicero changes focus, shifting from a direct address to Antony to talking about him in the third person to the rest of the audience. The anaphoric num … num introduces two rhetorical questions that both demand a negative answer.

diutius: the comparative form of the adverb diu.

sui … dissimilis: cf. above § 89: dicebam… similem te futurum tui, with a note on the grammar of the genitive of the personal pronoun (tui / sui) dependent on similem / dissimilis. Cicero bases his expectations on the principle that the leopard does not change his spots.

inspectantibus vobis toto Capitolio tabulae figebantur, neque solum singulis venibant immunitates sed etiam populis universis: civitas non iam singillatim, sed provinciis totis dabatur: Cicero follows up the ablative absolute inspectantibus vobis (‘under your very eyes’, ‘with you looking on’) with three main clauses (tabulae figebantur – venibant immunitates – civitas … dabatur) that capture Antony’s illegal activity to enrich himself at the expense of the Roman people: tabulae are notices that publicize (forged) decrees supposedly found in Caesar’s papers; they were put up (figebantur) ‘all over the Capitol’. Cicero proceeds to specify two kinds of transactions: the selling of exemption from taxation (immunitates); and the granting of citizenship (civitas), in return for a handsome bribe. In each case, he is keen to stress the utterly unrestrained way Antony went about his business. In line with the hyperbole that the entire Capitol Hill was plastered in announcements (toto Capitolio), the following two clauses operate with universalizing attributes (populis universisprovinciis totis) that stand in antithesis to individual instances (singulissingillatim).

venibant: the third person plural imperfect of veneo, which is active in form, but passive in meaning: ‘exemptions were sold…’

provinciis totis: a hyperbole; only one province (Sicily) acquired citizenship-status at the time. Cicero complains about this grant in a letter to Atticus (Att. 14.12.1 = 366 SB; 22 April 44):

scis quam diligam Siculos et quam illam clientelam honestam iudicem. multa illis Caesar, neque me invito (etsi Latinitas erat non ferenda. verum tamen). ecce autem Antonius accepta grandi pecunia fixit legem ‘a dictatore comitiis latam’ qua Siculi cives Romani; cuius rei vivo illo mentio nulla.

[You know how warm a feeling I have for the Sicilians and what an honour I consider it to have them as my clients. Caesar was generous to them and I was not sorry that he should be — though the Latin franchise was intolerable, but let that pass. Well, here is Antony posting up (in return for a massive bribe) a law allegedly ‘carried by the Dictator in the Assembly’ under which the Sicilians become Roman citizens, a thing never mentioned in his lifetime!]

Caesar seems to have granted a lower form of citizenship called Latinitas (‘Latin franchise’) to (some part of) Sicily, which Antony upgraded to full citizenship status in return for a hefty bribe, while claiming that Caesar himself had wanted to pass a law to this effect. The difference between the letter and the speech is telling: invective hyperbole transforms one instance of forgery and corruption into a wholesale crisis of empire.

itaque si haec manent, quae stante re publica manere non possunt, provincias universas, patres conscripti, perdidistis, neque vectigalia solum sed etiam imperium populi Romani huius domesticis nundinis deminutum est: the two main clauses — (a) provincias universas … perdidistis; (b) vectigalia… + imperium … deminutum est — linked by neque constitute the apodosis of a conditional sequence. The protasis is si haec manent, with haec referring back to the decrees of Caesar that Antony forged.

stante re publica: an ablative absolute, which functions as the protasis of a conditional sequence: ‘… which, if the republic is to survive, cannot remain in place…’ Cicero insists on the incompatibility of Antony’s approach to imperial riches (turning them into a private source of income) and the survival of the commonwealth.

vectigalia … imperium: the two subjects of deminutum est (which agrees with the nearest one). vectigalia here denotes sources of revenue accruing to the Roman commonwealth from the non-citizen territories (provinciae) over which the Romans exercised control. The transformation of the populace of these regions into Roman citizens drastically reduced the ability of Rome to extract wealth and resources from the imperial periphery. Cicero here clearly wears a different hat from the one he wore in his prosecution of Verres, where he struck a blow against provincial exploitation. (Tacitus, at Annals 1.2, grudgingly concedes that the provinces welcomed the principate since it put a limit on the abusive practices widespread in republican times.) imperium, which originally meant ‘the right to issue commands’, in time acquired the secondary meaning ‘the territory over which one has the right to issue commands’, i.e. empire. This is the meaning here: Cicero argues that Antony’s unlawful activities diminish not only Rome’s income, but its very empire.

huius domesticis nundinishuius refers to Antony. The nundinae were the market-days in the Roman calendar, which recurred at regular intervals of eight days. The use of this civic term here with the ill-fitting attribute domesticis(‘Antony’s private market-days’) is perversely appropriate: Antony is selling off public resources for personal enrichment. The right to hold a market was an important asset for local economies and, as Ker (2010: 377) points out, ‘Cicero was able to exploit anxieties about the privatization of nundinae in his orations: in the Philippics he portrays Antony as having squandered whole Roman provinces through his own “domestic markets” (domesticis nundinis), thereby diminishing Rome’s tax-base and territory (Phil. 2.92)’. See already 2.35; Cicero returns to the topic in 2.115, 3.10 and 5.11: calebant in interiore aedium parte totius rei publicae nundinae (‘there was a lively traffic in every interest of the commonwealth in the inner part of the house’). The appropriation of public resources and institutions for personal gain and the relocation of civic events in private spaces are hallmarks of tyrannical conduct.

gubernō gubernāre –āvī –ātus: to steer

naufragium –ī n.: shipwreck

dissimilis dissimile: dissimilar, unlike, different (+ gen. or dat.)

inspectō inspectāre inspectāvī inspectātus: to look closely at

Capitōlium –iī n.: the Capitol

tabula tabulae f.: writing tablet (wax covered board); records (pl.); document, deed, will; list; plank/board, flat piece of wood; door panel; counting/playing/notice board; picture, painting; wood panel for painting; metal/stone tablet/panel w/text

fīgō fīgere fīxī fīxus: to fix, fasten, transfix, pierce

vēneō –īre –iī (or –īvī) –ītum: to be sold

immūnitās –ātis f.: freedom or exemption from public services, burdens, or charges, immunity, privilege

ūniversus –a –um: entire, all

singillātim or singulātim: one by one, singly, severally, individually

cōnscrībō cōnscrībere cōnscrīpsī cōnscrīptus: to enroll, write

vectīgal vectīgālis n.: tax, levy

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

domesticus –a –um: domestic

nūndinae –ārum f.: market-day,the ninth day, fair day; trade, sale; tournament; marketplace, stall

dēminuō –minuere –minuī –minūtum: to make smaller, lessen, diminish

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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.