Est haec dīvīna atque incrēdibilis virtūs imperātōris. Quid cēterae, quās paulō ante commemorāre coeperam, quantae atque quam multae sunt! Nōn enim bellandī virtūs sōlum in summō ac perfectō imperātōre quaerenda est, sed multae sunt artēs eximiae huius administrae comitēsque virtūtis. Ac prīmum quantā innocentiā dēbent esse imperātōrēs, quantā deinde in omnibus rēbus temperantiā, quantā fidē, quantā facilitāte, quantō ingeniō, quantā hūmānitāte! Quae breviter quālia sint in Cn. Pompēiō cōnsīderēmus. Summa enim omnia sunt, Quirītēs, sed ea magis ex aliōrum contentiōne quam ipsa per sēsē cognōscī atque intellegī possunt.

36: ‘Thou art more lovely and more temperate’: Pompey’s soft sides

Cicero now moves on from hailing Pompey’s martial prowess and his stunning success as a general to a consideration of his other qualities...[full essay]

Study Questions:

  • What noun has to be supplied with ceterae?
  • Identify and explain the case of paulo.
  • In the sentence multae sunt artes eximiae huius administrae comitesque virtutis, which words are in the nominative plural, which in the genitive singular?
  • What kind of ablative are innocentia, temperantia, fide, facilitate, ingenio and humanitate?
  • What effect does the repetition of quanta generate?
  • Why is the verb of the qualia-clause (sint) in the subjunctive?
  • Identify and explain the mood of consideremus.
  • Parse cognosci and intellegi.

Stylistic Appreciation:

Cicero has reached a pivotal moment in his argument: after discussion of Pompey’s prowess as military leader, he now focuses on his personal qualities more broadly. Discuss the stylistic devices he uses to emphasize their importance.

Discussion Point:

Can you find contemporary parallels for Cicero’s claim that good military leaders ought to possess ‘soft qualities’ of the kind he discusses here, to complement strategic or martial excellence?

Est haec divina atque incredibilis virtus imperatoris: haec is retrospective in force and sums up Cicero’s discussion of Pompey’s ‘military prowess’ or virtus, in the strict sense of enabling success in battle. He has already used the two elevating attributes divina and incredibilis of Pompey’s virtus in § 33, though in inverse order: unius hominis incredibilis ac divina virtus.

quid?: the neuter form of the interrogative pronoun quis, quid occurs here elliptically to mark the transition to a further item. See OLD s.v. quis1 12 b.

ceterae [sc. virtutes], quas paulo ante commemorare coeperam, quantae atque quam multae sunt!: Note the word order: as is regular after quid?, Cicero continues with the word he wishes to stress: ceterae ... quantae atque quam multae sunt! (And not: quantae atque quam multae sunt ceterae!).

paulo: an ablative of the measure of difference.

Non enim bellandi virtus solum in summo ac perfecto imperatore quaerenda est, sed multae sunt artes eximiae huius administrae comitesque virtutis: Cicero continues his work on the meaning of virtus. As he has done previously, subtle touches underwrite his conceptual creativity. By attaching the gerund bellandi (placed before the noun it depends on, for emphasis) to virtus, he reiterates his earlier point that ‘martial excellence’ is only one aspect of a composite phenomenon. His summus ac perfectus imperator has others as well.

quaerenda est: a gerundive of obligation.

multae sunt artes eximiae huius administrae comitesque virtutis: the multae ... artes are identical to the ceterae [virtutes] of the previous sentence. Cicero thus uses artes and virtutes here as synonyms. Macdonald proposes that ‘this word [sc. artes] means something not very different from virtutes but implies their practical operation’, but this distinction is difficult to uphold.33 virtus bellandi is a pointless quality if not applied in practice; and at de Re Publica 1.3 Cicero even draws a contrast between ars, in the sense of ‘skill’ that does not require constant application, and virtus, which ‘resides entirely in its application’ (virtus in usu sui tota posita est).

eximiae could be either feminine nominative plural (and would then modify artes or administrae comitesque) or feminine genitive singular (going with huius and virtutis). The latter is the case: Cicero grants that martial excellence of virtus bellandi, to which he gestures back with the demonstrative pronoun huius, is eximia, i.e. the most important of all artes/virtutes; but goes on to argue that this particular excellence has many important ‘handmaidens’ (administrae) and ‘companions’ (comites).

Ac primum quanta innocentia debent esse imperatores! quanta deinde in omnibus rebus temperantia [sc. debent esse imperatores]! quanta fide, quanta facilitate, quanto ingenio, quanta humanitate [sc. debent esse imperatores]!: The subject throughout is imperatores, the verb is debent, which governs the infinitive esse. The elision puts the emphasis squarely on quanta innocentia, quanta ... temperantia, quanta fide, quanta facilitate, quanto ingenio, and quanta humanitate, which are all ablatives of quality or description with esse. Note the relentless anaphora of the pronominal adjective quantus, -a, -um. In terms of rhetorical registers, Cicero here again pauses (Ac primum) for a theoretical observation of normative force (cf. debent).

primum ... deinde: Cicero singles out innocentia and temperantia by using adverbs of enumeration (‘first...’, ‘then...’), before adding the remaining qualities in a simple list.

innocentia: innocentia means something akin to ‘integrity of character’, ‘moral uprightness’. It is a quality of someone not liable to become corrupted by opportunities of wealth and power, and hence rather precious in public figures, not least in the context of imperial administration/exploitation. The noun here harks back to the very opening of the section on the ideal general (and the set text). See § 27: Utinam, Quirites, virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam tantam haberetis...

temperantia: Cicero had already praised Pompey for his temperantia in § 13: see above. The term refers to ‘self-control’, ‘moderation’, or ‘restraint’, and in particular someone’s ability to keep violent emotions (also known as ‘passions’) in check. At de Inventione 2.164, a treatise on rhetoric and the earliest surviving work of Cicero, conventionally dated to 91 BC, he defines it as follows: temperantia est rationis in libidinem atque in alios non rectos impetus animi firma et moderata dominatio. eius partes continentia, clementia, modestia (‘Temperance is a firm and well-considered control exercised by the reason over lust and other improper impulses of the mind. Its parts are continence, clemency, and modesty’). At in Catilinam 2.25, temperantia functions as the antithesis of luxuria (‘luxury’). The term went on to play a significant role in Cicero’s late philosophical writings, such as the de Finibus (see 1.47 and 2.60) and, above all, the de Officiis, where it is one of the four cardinal virtues (see 1.15).

fide: fides is a key concept in how the Romans thought about social relations, and dictionary entries (‘confidence’, ‘loyalty’, ‘trustworthiness’, ‘credibility’) convey only a limited sense of the full semantic range and force of the qualities at issue: fides underwrites socio-economic exchanges, defines political interactions, and justifies Roman rule. In relationships that were both reciprocal (with each party rendering some, but not necessarily the same, kind of service to the other) and asymmetrical (with one party being much more powerful than the other), a commitment to fides on both sides operated as a (partial) counterweight to steep inequalities in power.34

facilitate: facilitas is an abstract noun, related to facio (‘I do’) and facilis (‘easy to do’) and refers to ‘ease/aptitude in doing something’, here specifically ‘ease in interpersonal relations’, ‘affability’. facilitas greases ‘friendship’ (amicitia), or good social relations more generally, also between unequal parties, as Cicero makes clear in § 41: ut is, qui dignitate principibus excellit, facilitate infimis par esse videatur. Even though Pompey outclasses everybody within Rome’s highly competitive aristocracy, when he interacts with those of a lower social rank his facilitas renders differences in rank and standing inconspicuous. At pro Murena 66, Cicero draws an illuminating contrast between comitas et facilitas and gravitas severitasque, which brings out the positive aspects of facilitas, but at the same time underscores that too much facilitas may well turn into a vice. In measure, gravitas and severitas are also ‘good’ qualities in the Roman system of values. See, for instance, Terence, Hecyra 248: Phidippe, etsi ego meis me omnibus scio esse apprime obsequentem, | sed non adeo ut mea facilitas corrumpet illorum animos (‘Phidippus, I know that I am extremely indulgent to all my family, but not to the extent that my affability corrupts their characters’). Facilitas in this sense refers to an indulgent disposition willing to overlook or forgive faults in others and is frequently used synonymously with clementia, indulgentia, and comitas.

ingenio: ingenium is prima facie an odd item in the list. Most basically, it refers to ‘natural disposition’ and then to ‘inherent quality or character’, or, with a greater emphasis on talent, ‘natural abilities’, especially of the mental/intellectual kind: it can specifically refer to being gifted with words, whether in rhetoric or poetry. In rhetorical theory, ingenium is a key technical term (innate talent complementing ars, or ‘exercise’, in constituting the perfect orator, the summus orator). But in the sense of ‘talent’ it refers to inherent potential rather than inherent moral excellence, and in some of his later philosophical writings Cicero laments that some of the greatest talents (ingenia) in Roman history, such as Caesar, became corrupted through the desire for power (see de Officiis 1.23). In our passage, though, ingenium means something akin to ‘soundness in character’ – but arguably also gestures obliquely to specifically oratorical talent, as emerges in § 42 (see our commentary below).

humanitate: humanitas is one of Cicero’s pet-words and has a range of meanings. Five basic senses can be identified:35

  • 1: Humanitas aids in the recognition of a universal human nature as the basis of sympathy or compassion towards others, especially on the part of someone in a position of power vis-à-vis an inferior; classic relationships of this kind are judge and defendant in a court of law or victor and defeated enemy in war.
  • 2: Humanitas constitutes a human quality that can be personified and resides, or ought to reside, in each human being but does so to different degrees; it may articulate itself as a force of conscience that governs and guides behaviour (or ought to do so) to make it conform to standards of universal ethics.
  • 3: Humanitas represents standards of civilization, which only certain periods or cultures have attained; this scenario may involve a diachronic differentiation between two stages of historical development within a single culture or an ethnographic differentiation between cultures.
  • 4: As a reflexive version of 3, humanitas demarcates the synchronic distinction between civilization and barbarity within Roman culture in Cicero’s here and now, thereby introducing a dividing line that cuts across the Roman citizen body.
  • 5: Humanitas refers to, or is identical with, a high level of civilized manners, cultural refinement and literary education that only select individuals within a specific culture ever reach, who thereby constitute this culture’s ‘true’ nobility.

The different meanings of course shade into one another and it is not always easy to pin down precisely which sense takes precedent; in the passage under consideration here it is arguably 1 and 2 (just as in § 13, cited above).

[Extra information: Ciceroniani sumus

Cicero’s creative investment in humanitas has yielded extraordinary dividends in terms of his intellectual legacy. In the Renaissance, Sense 5 got reactivated in the phrase of studia humanitatis, out of which our ‘Humanities’ evolved. In that sense all of us students of the humanities are Ciceronians.]

quae breviter qualia sint in Cn. Pompeio consideremus: quae is a connecting relative (= et ea) in the accusative neuter plural, referring back to all of the enumerated qualities. It is the accusative object of consideremus (in the hortative subjunctive), which also governs the indirect question (hence the subjunctive sint) qualia sint in Cn. Pompeio. The subject of the indirect question are again the collective qualities. Literally: ‘Let us consider these briefly, of what kind they are in Gnaeus Pompeius.’ qualia is the nominative neuter plural of the interrogative pronoun qualis.

summa enim omnia sunt, Quirites, sed ea magis ex aliorum contentione quam ipsa per sese cognosci atque intellegi possunt: Cicero claims that Pompey (in Cn. Pompeio has to be understood with summa enim omnia sunt from the previous sentence) possesses all (omnia) of these qualities to the highest possible degree (summa). But in order to fully appreciate Pompey’s outstanding excellence, Cicero goes on to argue, the best method is to compare and contrast (cf. ex aliorum contentione) his qualities (ea, just like omnia, is a generic neuter plural in the nominative, referring back to the catalogue of artes/virtutes; it is the subject of possunt) with those of other generals rather than to look at them in isolation (ipsa per sese). Cicero’s insistence on the heuristic value of comparing and contrasting feeds right into his agenda of singling out Pompey as the only possible candidate for the job: throughout the speech, he not only promotes Pompey, but also demotes, if often obliquely, anyone else who might have taken on the command. This strategy defines the opening section of the speech in particular, where he damns Lucullus, hitherto in charge of the war against Mithridates, with faint praise and explains why Pompey would succeed where Lucullus failed.

Quirites: the citizens of Rome. See note on § 27.

cognosci atque intellegi: the two present passive infinitives are virtual synonyms, with cognoscere perhaps placing the emphasis more on the first encounter (‘to get to know’) and intellegere on the outcome (‘to understand’).

33 Macdonald (1986) 69.

34 Hölkeskamp (2004).

35 The following is based on Gildenhard (2011) 202-03.


dīvīnus, -a, -um, [dīvus], adj.: of a god, of a divinity, divine; godlike, superhuman; religious, sacred; inspired by divine influence, prophetic.

incrēdibilis, -e, [in- + crēdibilis], adj.: beyond belief, incredible, extraordinary, unparalleled.

commemorō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [com- + memorō], 1, a.: call to mind, keep in mind, remember; bring to mind, recall; relate, recount, mention.

quantus, -a, -um, adj., inter.: how great? how much? rel., as great as, as much as. tantus — quantus, as great as, as much as.

bellō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [bellum], 1, n.: wage war, carry on war, war; fight, contend.

perfectus, -a, -um, [part. of perficiō], adj.: finished, complete, perfect, excellent.

eximius, -a, -um, [eximō, take out], adj.: choice, fine, excellent; uncommon, extraordinary, remarkable.

administra, -ae, [administer], f.: female assistant, (female) servant, handmaid.

innocentia, -ae, [innocēns], f.: blamelessness, innocence; uprightness, integrity.

temperantia, -ae, [temperāns], f.: moderation, discretion, self-control, temperance.

facilitās, -ātis, [facilis], f.: ease, readiness, facility; affability, courtesy.

hūmānitās, -ātis, [hūmānus], f.: human nature, humanity; kindness, good nature, politeness; culture, refinement.

Gnaeus, -ī, abbreviated Cn., m.: Gnaeus, a Roman forename.

Pompēius, -a: name of a plebeian gens. The most distinguished person bearing the name was Cn. Pompēius Māgnus, born Sept. 30, B.C. 106. He was victorious over the pirates and over Mithridates, was a member of the first triumvirate, and was killed in Egypt, whither he had fled for refuge, after the battle of Pharsalia, Sept. 29, B.C. 48.

cōnsīderō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, 1, a.: look at closely, examine; reflect upon, consider, contemplate.

Quirītēs, -ium, [Curēs, an ancient town of the Sabines], m., pl.: originally people of Cures; after the union of the Sabines with the Romans, Roman citizens, Quirītēs; sometimes in sing., Quirīs, -ītis, a Roman citizen, Quirite.

magis [root mag in māgnus], adv.: more, in a greater measure; in a higher degree, far more, rather, in preference.

contentiō, -ōnis, [contendō], f.: straining, strain, struggle, effort, exertion; strife, contention, contest; dispute, controversy; comparison, contrast.

possum, posse, potuī, [potis + sum], irr., n.: be able, can, have power; have influence, avail.

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Suggested Citation

Ingo Gildenhard, Louise Hodgson, et al., Cicero, On Pompey’s Command (De Imperio), 27–49. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-78374-080-2. DCC edition, 2016.http://dcc.dickinson.edu/cicero-de-imperio/36