Testis est Italia, quam ille ipse victor L. Sulla huius virtūte et subsidiō confessus est līberātam; testis est Sicilia, quam multīs undique cīnctam periculīs nōn terrōre bellī, sed cōnsilī celeritāte explicāvit; testis est Āfrica, quae māgnīs oppressa hostium cōpiīs eōrum ipsōrum sanguine redundāvit; testis est Gallia, per quam legiōnibus nostrīs iter in Hispāniam Gallōrum interneciōne patefactum est; testis est Hispānia, quae saepissimē plūrimōs hostēs ab hōc superātōs prōstrātōsque cōnspexit; testis est iterum et saepius Italia, quae cum servīlī bellō taetrō perīculōsōque premēretur, ab hōc auxilium absente expetīvit, quod bellum exspectātiōne eius attenuātum atque imminūtum est, adventū sublātum ac sepultum.

30: Witnesses to the truth!

Cicero now calls on witnesses that can testify to Pompey’s nonpareil virtutes imperatoriae, thus drawing the language of forensic oratory into the political domain. Mere humans will not do: he gives us a parade of personified countries…[full essay]

Study Questions:

  • Identify the subject accusative and the infinitive of the indirect statement introduced by confessus est.
  • What noun does multis agree with? What noun does magnis agree with? What is the rhetorical effect of the placement of multis and magnis in their respective clauses?
  • What kind of ablative are terrore and celeritate?
  • On what noun does eorum ipsorum depend? And what noun does it refer back to?
  • What is the subject of the relative clause per quam legionibus nostris iter in Hispaniam Gallorum internecione patefactum est?
  • Identify and explain the case of legionibus nostris.
  • What kind of genitive is Gallorum? What noun does it depend on?
  • What kind of ablative is ab hoc?
  • Parse saepius.
  • In the sentence quae cum servili bello taetro periculosoque premeretur, ab hoc auxilium absente expetivit, is the cum a preposition or a conjunction?
  • Explain the construction of quod (in the last sentence of the paragraph).
  • Consider the references to ‘blood’ and ‘slaughter’ in this paragraph and sketch out the vision of Roman geopolitics that Cicero endorses here.
  • Is there a logic to the sequence in which Cicero calls up his geographical witnesses?

Stylistic Appreciation:

What rhetorical effect does the repetition of Testis est... at the beginning of each sentence create?

Discussion Point:

Does it matter that some of the wars to which Cicero here alludes were civil wars? Which ones are they? How does he allude to them?

Testis est Italia, quam ille ipse victor L. Sulla huius virtute et subsidio confessus est liberatam (sc. esse): the relative pronoun quam has a double function: it is the accusative object of confessus est and the subject accusative of the indirect statement dependent on confessus est: quam ... liberatam (supply: esse). Cicero here refers to Pompey’s contribution to Sulla’s victory over the Marians in 84-83 BC, specifically his raising of a private army in 84 BC for Sulla’s cause. He glosses over the awkward fact that Romans here fought against Romans, leaving it unspecified whom Pompey liberated Italy from – an effect reinforced by the passive construction and obfuscated agency – instead of saying, forcefully, ‘Pompey liberated Italy’, Cicero fudges: ‘Italy was liberated by means of Pompey’s excellence and help’.

ille ipse victor L. Sulla: Cicero here invokes Sulla as the ultimate winner. It is quite difficult to render the emphasis achieved through ille ipse in English: ‘that paragon of a victor, Lucius Sulla himself’. The sense is that there is no greater authority on the subject than the former dictator.

confessus est: the verb captures the fact that every Roman aristocrat was keen to claim credit for military achievement: Cicero insists that even the general in charge overall, Sulla, acknowledged Pompey’s outstanding contribution to the campaign – even though he will have done so grudgingly.

liberatam: the use of the verb liberare (‘to free’) is striking, especially when compared to other sources. Valerius Maximus (5.2.9), Plutarch (Life of Pompey 8), and Appian (Bellum Civile 1.80) note that Pompey tapped into the social networks of his father to raise an army for Sulla’s cause; and they recognize his contribution to the Sullan victory over the Marians in Italy. But their accounts fall far short of Cicero’s claim (attributed to Sulla) that ‘Pompey freed Italy’, which in comparison emerges as a massive hyperbole.

[Extra information: The verb liberare (and the noun libertas) carried a powerful, if diffuse ideological charge in the political thought of the late Roman republic. For those with a popular bent, libertas referred first and foremost to the sovereignty of the people, which they saw under threat from an in-group of powerful nobiles. For the senatorial oligarchy, libertas essentially consisted in the preservation of oligarchic equality in access to positions of power (i.e. the absence of an autocrat or tyrant and the maintenance of the status quo).24 For this reason, they systematically objected to every ‘extraordinary command’ – such as the one Manilius and Cicero wanted to give to Pompey – as constituting a threat to libertas. By associating Pompey with the freeing of Italy from hostile oppression Cicero obliquely appropriates the notion of libertas for his cause.]

huius virtute et subsidio: huius (the genitive singular of hic) refers to Pompey; virtute and subsidio are ablatives of means.

Testis est Sicilia, quam multis undique cinctam periculis non terrore belli, sed consilii celeritate explicavit: after Sulla and his supporters had vanquished the Marian forces in Italy, high-ranking Marian officers, notably the consul of 82, Carbo, fled South to Africa and Sicily. The senate, by now controlled by Sulla, invested Pompey with praetorian imperium and sent him in pursuit. Cicero gives a more precise account of events in § 61, in the context of the paradoxical argument that in the case of Pompey, the unprecedented has tradition:

Quid tam novum quam adulescentulum privatum exercitum difficili rei publicae tempore conficere? confecit. huic praeesse? praefuit. rem optime ductu suo gerere? gessit. quid tam praeter consuetudinem quam homini peradulescenti, cuius aetas a senatorio gradu longe abesset, imperium atque exercitum dari, Siciliam permitti atque Africam bellumque in ea provincia administrandum? fuit in his provinciis singulari innocentia, gravitate, virtute: bellum in Africa maximum confecit, victorem exercitum deportavit. quid vero tam inauditum quam equitem Romanum triumphare? at eam quoque rem populus Romanus non modo vidit, sed omnium etiam studio visendam et concelebrandam putavit.

[What is so novel as that a mere youth, holding no office, should raise an army at a time of crisis in the commonwealth? Yet he did raise one. Or that he should command it? Yet he did command it. Or that he should achieve a great success under his own direction? Yet he did achieve it. What so contrary to custom as that one who was little more than a youth and far too young to hold senatorial rank should be given a military command and be entrusted with the province of Sicily and Africa and the conduct of a campaign there? He displayed in the performance of these duties remarkable integrity, dignity and capacity: the campaign in Africa, a very serious one, he brought to an end and led his army home victorious. What, indeed, so unheard of as that a Roman knight should hold a triumph? Yet even that the Roman People not merely witnessed but thought fit to attend, and to join in celebrating it with universal enthusiasm.]

Plutarch (Life of Pompey 10) reports that Pompey took over Sicily with ease and showed generally great kindness to the indigenous population (no doubt in part with a view to extending his networks of loyal supporters), but that he deliberately humiliated the captured Carbo before having him executed. Cicero again suppresses the civil-war dimension of Pompey’s operations in Sicily (gently hinted at in the phrase multis ... periculis), choosing to focus on the positive consequences of his arrival for the island (and Roman province) and his ability to establish control through swift strategic planning (consilii celeritate) rather than the application of violence or the threat of arms (terrore belli).

multis undique cinctam periculis: multis and periculis go together. The word order is iconic: multis and periculis encircle (cingere) the other words that belong to the participle construction (undique cinctam).

non terrore belli, sed consilii celeritate: the word order is chiastic: ablative of means (terrore) + genitive (belli) :: genitive (consilii) + ablative of means (celeritate).

Testis est Africa, quae magnis oppressa hostium copiis eorum ipsorum sanguine redundavit: in Africa, Pompey fought both against the Marians and their African allies. This enables Cicero to use the straightforward term for ‘external enemy’, i.e. hostis. Slaughtering hostes was unproblematic from a Roman point of view. In fact, the rules for celebrating a triumph required a significant amount of carnage (several thousand enemy soldiers killed). Pompey met the requirement in his victory over the African king Iarbas (which earned him his first triumph), a fact reflected in Cicero’s emphasis on bloodshed.

Testis est Gallia, per quam legionibus nostris iter in Hispaniam Gallorum internecione patefactum est: the subject of the relative clause is iter. Cicero continues the rhetoric of gore, evoking the notion of a ‘road paved with corpses’. He is referring to Pompey’s mass-slaughter of Gauls on his way to his appointment in Spain. (Gallorum is an objective genitive dependent on internecione.)

Testis est Hispania, quae saepissime plurimos hostes ab hoc superatos prostratosque conspexit: if Cicero could present Pompey’s slaughter of Africans and Gauls as an uncontroversial achievement, matters become messy again with Spain, where Pompey fought against the Roman renegade Sertorius (a former supporter of Marius, who had established an ‘alternative’ republic in Spain) as well as indigenous foes. Cicero retains the emphasis on external enemies (hostes), but scales back his rhetoric of gore. (Interestingly, in the list of wars in § 28, some manuscripts gloss Hispaniense [sc. bellum] with mixtum ex civilibus atque ex bellicosissimis nationibus: ‘consisting of engagements with both citizens and the most ferocious nations’.)

Testis est iterum et saepius Italia, quae cum servili bello taetro periculosoque premeretur, ab hoc auxilium absente expetivit, quod bellum exspectatione eius attenuatum atque imminutum est, adventu sublatum ac sepultum: servile bellum refers to the slave revolt orchestrated by Spartacus, which started near Capua (in the vicinity of Naples). The uprising, which began in 73 BC, when Pompey was still fighting in Spain, was initially successful and spread quickly through Southern Italy. The senate eventually put Crassus in charge of eight legions to suppress the rebellion, and he soon re-established Rome’s military dominance, winning a decisive victory in 71 BC. By this time, Pompey had returned with his legions from Spain and joined in the mop-up operations. Afterwards, he claimed that the credit for the defeat of the slaves belonged primarily to him, rather than Crassus. See Plutarch, Life of Crassus 11. In passing over Crassus in silence, Cicero perpetuates Pompeian spin.

iterum et saepius: literally ‘again and more often’, in idiomatic English ‘over and over again’: saepius is the comparative form of the adverb saepe.

cum: not the preposition + ablative (despite the fact that an ablative follows!), but the conjunction + subjunctive. premeretur is in the imperfect subjunctive to indicate contemporaneous action in secondary sequence.

servili bello taetro periculosoque: Cicero first identifies this war with servili and then glosses it with two further attributes that stress the monstrosity of a war against slaves (taetro) and the degree of danger that was involved (periculoso), not least since it happened very close to home.

ab hoc ... absente: Cicero again uses the demonstrative pronoun to refer to Pompey. absente stands in predicative position to hoc and may have concessive force, with an oblique dig at Crassus: Italy sought help from Pompey, even though he was far away (and other generals in the country). The alliteration auxilium absente heightens the apparent paradox; and the hyperbaton generated by the insertion of auxilium in-between hoc and absente puts further emphasis on absente. absente is the first of three ablatives in this sentence that position Pompey in space and bring him ever closer: first he is absent (absente); then he is expected to arrive (expectatione); and finally he is there (adventu). The design builds up a powerful sense of anticipation and endows his arrival with semi-divine connotations, akin to an epiphany.

quod bellum exspectatione eius attenuatum atque imminutum est, adventu sublatum ac sepultum [sc. est]: the quod-clause is a syntactically and thematically awkward appendix. It conspicuously breaks the pattern of the previous sentences: testis est + region + relative clause, with the region as antecedent of the relative pronoun. There are two ways to construe the quod: (i) as a relative pronoun that contains its antecedent (bellum) within the relative clause: ‘... a war, which was ...’; (ii) as a connecting relative (= et id): ‘and this war was...’ The second solution is arguably more elegant. The powerful, virtually synonymous pairs of verbs attenuatum atque imminutum and sublatum ac sepultum obfuscate the fact that Pompey’s contribution to the victory was hardly decisive. In fact, the weakening and diminishing of the war in anticipation of Pompey’s arrival captures not so much the actual military situation in Southern Italy as the psychology of the inhabitants of Rome, for whom the return of Pompey (further) defused the threat posed by Spartacus.

adventu sublatum ac sepultum [sc. est]: the ablative adventu is studiously ambiguous. We can take it in a temporal sense (‘upon his arrival, the war was finished’); but Cicero invites his audience to spot a causal relation as well: because of Pompey’s arrival, the war was dead and buried. Either way, the formulation deftly sidesteps the awkward fact that Pompey’s military contribution to the war effort was rather inconsequential.

This is not the first passage in which Cicero endows an arrival of Pompey with military significance. Early on in the speech, he claimed that Pompey’s mere appearance in the Greek East on his mission against the pirates checked the advance of Mithridates and Tigranes (§ 13):

cuius adventu ipso atque nomine, tametsi ille ad maritimum bellum venerit, tamen impetus hostium repressos esse intellegunt ac retardatos.

[They recognize that his very arrival and name, even though he only came for the war against the pirates, nevertheless checked and delayed the attack of the enemy.]

The idiom (in particular the noun adventus) and the scenario suggest a god at work and liken the manifestation of the general to an epiphany, i.e. divine power rendered visible. Cicero reinforces this impression at the end of § 13, again in an idiom that recurs in our passage here:

hunc audiebant antea, nunc praesentem vident tanta temperantia, tanta mansuetudine, tanta humanitate, ut ii beatissimi esse videantur, apud quos ille diutissime commoretur.

[They heard of him; now they see him face to face in such self-control, such gentleness, such human kindness that those seemed to be most blessed with whom he spent the most time.]

The term praesens, which in religious contexts is used to refer to the efficacious presence of a god, and Pompey’s impact on those around him (profound bliss: beatissimi) are symptomatic of divine force. Cicero here links his assimilation of Pompey to the divine sphere with his ‘soft qualities’ (temperantia, mansuetudo, humanitas), on which he will elaborate in detail in § 36.

24 See further Arena (2013).


Italia, -ae, [ἰταλός], f.: Italy.

Lūcius, -ī, abbreviated L., m.: Lucius, a Roman forename.

Sulla, -ae, m.: Sulla, name of a patrician family of the Cornelian gens. Two members of it are mentioned in this book: (1) L. Cornēlius Sulla, the dictator, born B.C. 138. He served with distinction under Marius, first in the Jugurthine War, afterwards, B.C. 104—101, in the campaigns against the Teutones and Cimbri. He became a leader of the aristocratic party, defeated his enemies, and in B.C. 82 was made dictator. After two years of absolute government, in which he introduced many reforms, he retired from the dictatorship, and died the following year, B.C. 78. Cat. II. ix. et al. (2) L. Cornēlius Sulla Faustus, son of the dictator, born about B.C. 89. In the war between Caesar and Pompey he took sides with the latter, but was captured by Caesar B.C. 46, and lost his life at the hands of Caesar's soldiers in a tumult. Ep. xxii.

subsidium, -ī, [sub, sedeō], n.: reserve force; aid, help, assistance, support, protection.

līberō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [līber], 1, a.: set free, make free, free, liberate; release, extricate, deliver; acquit, absolve.

Sicilia, -ae, [Σικελία], f.: Sicily.

terror, -ōris, [cf. terreō], m.: fright, alarm, terror, overwhelming fear; by metonymy, cause of fright, dread; terrible news.

celeritās, -ātis, [celer], f.: swiftness, speed, quickness.

explicō, -āre, -āvī and -uī, -ātum and -itum, [ex + plicō], 1, a.: unfold, unroll; spread out, display; set free, release; set in order, adjust, set forth, explain.

Āfrica, -ae, f.: Africa, referring at first only to that part of the continent under the dominion of the Carthaginians; then, the province Africa, comprising territory formerly held by Carthage, and organized after the destruction of the city, B.C. 146; in the broadest sense, the African continent, Africa, as the term is understood to-day.

opprimō, -ere, oppressī, oppressum, [ob + premō], 3, a.: press against, press upon; oppress, weigh down, overwhelm, cover; put down, suppress; overthrow, crush, subdue; of a fleet, sink.

redundō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [red- + undō, from unda], 1, n.: run over, overflow; swim, reek; remain, be left, be in excess, abound.

Gallia, -ae, f.: Gaul, including (1) Gallia Cisalpīna, or Gallia citerior, Cisalpine Gaul, south of the Alps and north of the Apennines. (2) Gallia Trānsalpīna, or Gallia ulterior, Transalpine Gaul, Gaul, covering the regions now included in France, Belgium, Holland, the western parts of Germany and Switzerland.

Hispānia, -ae, f.: Spain.

Gallī, -ōrum, m., pl.: natives of Gaul, Gauls.

interneciō, -ōnis, [inter, cf. nex], f.: massacre, slaughter, utter destruction, destruction.

patefaciō, -facere, -fēcī, patefactum, [pateō + faciō], 3, a.: open up, lay open, throw open; disclose, bring to light.

prōsternō, -ere, prōstrāvī, prōstrātum, [prō + sternō], 3, a.: spread out; cast down, overthrow, prostrate; throw to the ground, ruin, destroy.

cōnspiciō, -spicere, -spexī, cōnspectum, [com- + speciō], 3, a. and n.: observe, see, catch sight of, perceive, gaze upon; face towards; pass., be conspicuous, be distinguished.

servīlis, -e, [servus], adj.: slavish, servile, of a slave.

taeter, -tra, -trum, comp. taetrior, sup. taeterrimus, adj.: offensive, loathsome, foul; repulsive, shameful, abominable, base.

perīculōsus, -a, -um, [perīculum], adj.: full of danger, dangerous, perilous.

absum, abesse, āfuī, fut. part. āfutūrus, [ab + sum], irr., n.: be away from, be absent, be far, be from. cūius aetās ā — longē abesset, whose age was far too young for —. tantum abest ut — ut, so far from — that.

expetō, -ere, expetīvī, expetītum, [ex + petō], 3, a.: seek after, strive for, aim at; ask, demand, request; desire, wish.

exspectātiō, -ōnis, [exspectō], f.: awaiting for, expecting, expectation; longing for.

attenuō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [ad + tenuō], 1, a.: make thin; lessen, diminish, reduce, weaken; make less formidable.

imminuō, -ere, -uī, -ūtum, [in + minuō], 3, a.: lessen, diminish; encroach upon, infringe upon, reduce.

adventus, -ūs, [adveniō], m.: a coming, approach; arrival; presence.

sepeliō, -īre, sepelīvī or -iī, sepultum, 4, a.: bury, inter; overwhelm, ruin, destroy.

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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/30