Reliquum est, ut dē fēlīcitāte, quam praestāre dē sē ipsō nēmō potest, meminisse et commemorāre dē alterō possumus, sīcut aequum est hominēs dē potestāte deōrum, timidē et pauca dīcāmus. Ego enim sīc exīstimō, Maximō, Mārcellō, Scīpiōnī, Mariō et cēterīs māgnīs imperātōribus nōn sōlum propter virtutem, sed etiam propter fortūnam saepius imperia mandāta atque exercitūs esse commissōs. Fuit enim profectō quibusdam summīs virīs quaedam ad amplitūdinem et ad glōriam et ad rēs māgnās bene gerendās dīvīnitus adiūncta fortūna. Dē huius autem hominis fēlīcitāte, dē quō nunc agimus, hāc ūtar moderātiōne dīcendī, nōn ut in illīus potestāte fortūnam positam esse dīcam, sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua spērāre videāmur, nē aut invīsa dīs immortālibus ōrātiō nostra aut ingrāta esse videātur.

47: Felicitas, or how not to ‘Sull(a)y’ Pompey

Cicero has reached the last of the four qualities he considers essential attributes of the perfect general: after scientia rei militarisvirtus, and auctoritas, he turns his attention to felicitas, which signifies ‘divinely sponsored success’...[full essay]

Study Questions:

  • What is the object of meminisse and commemorare?
  • Identify the subject accusative and infinitive of the indirect statement introduced by existimo.
  • What is missing from the clause sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum and has to be supplied from the surrounding text?
  • Which name is conspicuously absent from Cicero’s list of generals who enjoyed outstanding fortuna?
  • Parse saepius.
  • What noun does quaedam modify? What is the rhetorical effect of its placement in the sentence?

Stylistic Appreciation:

Cicero declares that he wishes to speak about Pompey’s felicitastimide et pauca’. What are the rhetorical ploys by which he puts this principle into practice?

Discussion Point:

felicitas indicates divine support. Can you think of contemporary politicians who appeal to the supernatural sphere as a source of support in governance?

Reliquum est ut de felicitate, quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest, meminisse et commemorare de altero possumus, sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum [sc. dicere], timide et pauca dicamus.: The main clause reliquum est signals the transition from the treatment of auctoritas to the last quality to be covered, felicitas. The ut-clause that follows is consecutive: it explicates what remains to be discussed. Within the ut-clause, Cicero has added a relative clause that falls into two antithetical halves juxtaposed asyndetically: (i) quam ... potest; (ii) [quam] meminisse ... possumus. The antecedent of quam is felicitate. A further subordinate clause introduced by sicut glosses the two adverbs that go with the verb of the ut-clause (dicamus), i.e. timide et pauca: ‘we speak about divinely sponsored luck in the same way as it is fit that human beings speak about the power of the gods, namely apprehensively (timide) and briefly (pauca).’ Here is the sentence set out schematically:

  • Main clause: Reliquum est
  • Ut-clause: ut de felicitate,

  • Relative-clause: quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest,

    [quam] meminisse et commemorare de altero possumus,

  • Sicut-clause: sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum [sc. dicere],

  • Ut-clause (cont.): timide et pauca dicamus.

The intricate syntax and the adversative asyndeton in the relative clause reflect the fact that praising someone for his felicitas is a potential minefield in late-republican Rome.

sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum [sc. dicere]: aequum est introduces a indirect statement with homines as subject accusative; the infinitive needs to be supplied from dicamus.

Ego enim sic existimo, Maximo, Marcello, Scipioni, Mario, et ceteris magnis imperatoribus non solum propter virtutem, sed etiam propter fortunam saepius imperia mandata atque exercitus esse commissos: the main verb is existimo, which governs an indirect statement, with imperia and exercitus as subject accusatives and mandata (sc. esse) and esse commissos as infinitives. Maximo, Marcello, Scipioni, Mario, et ceteris magnis imperatoribus are dative objects with both infinitives.

Maximo, Marcello, Scipioni, Mario: Cicero here invokes a pantheon of Roman heroes, with high degree of ‘name recognition’ (not least since Cicero proceeds in chronological order), which enables him to keep the nomenclature short and to the point:

Name as mentioned by Cicero Full name Dates and offices Best known for
Maximo Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator c.280-203 BC
consul 233, 228, 215, 214, 209
dictator 221, 217
Managed to wear down Hannibal in Italy during the Second Punic War by consistently avoiding battle (hence cunctator = ‘the delayer’)
Marcello Marcus Claudius Marcellus 268-208 BC
consul 222, 215, 214, 210, 208
222: killed the Gallic king Viridomarus in hand-to-hand combat during the battle of Clastidium, winning the so-called spolia opima
212: sacked Syracuse during the Second Punic War
Scipioni Publius Scipio Aemilianus Minor (‘the Younger’) 185-129 BC
consul 146, 134
146: The destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War
Mario Gaius Marius 157-86 BC
consul 107, 104, 103, 102, 101, 100, 86
Defeat of the Germanic tribes of the Cimbri and Teutones who threatened to invade Italy

Cicero’s inclusion of these generals adds weight of evidence to his point about good fortune as well as subtly ranking Pompey alongside (or even above) them. The inverse is also true, for one name is conspicuously absent from this list: Sulla. He was the general who hitherto had made most of felicitas in his self-promotion, but in doing so overstepped certain boundaries that Pompey, as Cicero is keen to stress, painstakingly observes.

saepius: the comparative form of the adverb saepe; the object of comparison isn’t mentioned explicitly, hence it is best translated with ‘rather frequently’, and not ‘more often’.

Fuit enim profecto quibusdam summis viris quaedam ad amplitudinem et ad gloriam et ad res magnas bene gerendas divinitus adiuncta fortuna: the absence of Sulla from Cicero’s list of summi viri becomes even more conspicuous, given that Sulla adopted the epithet Felix, thereby claiming permanent affinity with divinely sponsored success. This, however, took matters a step too far. What Cicero is willing to concede is the existence of some providential force (cf. divinitus) that attached fortuna (here used synonymously with felicitas) to these outstanding individuals – which is something quite different from these outstanding individuals claiming to have a special purchase on fortuna.

ad amplitudinem et ad gloriam et ad res magnas bene gerendas: the triple ad here expresses purpose. Cicero uses a tricolon crescens, anaphora, and polysyndeton, swelling his rhetoric in line with his theme.

De huius autem hominis felicitate, de quo nunc agimus, hac utar moderatione dicendi, non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam, sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare videamur, ne aut invisa dis immortalibus oratio nostra aut ingrata esse videatur.: After stressing how carefully one has to tread when it comes to felicitas, Cicero here specifies how he will moderate his discourse so that it meets his own protocols of restraint. The idiom recalls the beginning of the paragraph. non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam harks back to (felicitate) quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest and sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum (dicere); and sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare videamur reworks meminisse et commemorare de altero possumus. Put differently, Cicero indeed does not claim felicitas for himself, and even when he talks about the felicitas of someone else, i.e. Pompey, he does not declare it his permanent, personal possession – rather, he observes that Pompey had felicitas in the past (praeteritia meminisse) and hopes that he will have further felicitas in the future (reliqua sperare). This kind of careful calibration, he suggests, will prevent his oration from drawing the ire of the gods. (At the same time, one may wonder about the force of the praeteritio. After all, his moderation consists in the fact of not saying that Pompey holds fortune hostage: hac utar moderatione dicendi, non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam. The statement could imply, however, that Pompey’s power over fortune is a fact – only Cicero refrains from spelling this out. Something similar could be said about his use of videor. The focus on what he appears to be doing (with two uses of videor) suggests that what he is actually doing is something quite different.

hac utar moderatione dicendi: uti (like frui, fungi, vesci, and potiri) belongs to a number of deponent verbs (best memorized as a group) that take an ablative object (here hac ... moderatione). utar is first person singular future indicative (though in form it could also be present subjunctive).

non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam, sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare videamur: a bipartite consecutive ut-clause (hence the subjunctives dicam and videamur), with the negation non pulled up front in structural parallel to sed, to bring out the antithesis. dicam introduces an indirect statement with fortunam as subject accusative and positam esse as infinitive.

praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare: praeterita and reliqua, the accusative objects of, respectively, meminisse and sperare, are adjectives in the neuter plural used here in lieu of nouns: ‘things that have passed’ (praeterita); ‘things that are left, i.e. will come to pass’ (reliqua).

47 The following is adjusted from Gildenhard (2011) 268-69.

48 Steel (2001) 135.


reliquus, -a, -um, [cf. relinquō], adj.: left, remaining; future, subsequent; other, rest. As subst., reliquum, -ī, n., the rest, the future; also, reliqua, -ōrum, n., pl., the balance, the future. reliquum est ut, it remains that, it only remains to.

fēlīcitās, -ātis, [fēlīx], f.: good fortune, good luck, success.

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

meminī, -isse, —, def., n. and a.: remember, recollect; be mindful, bear in mind.

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

timidē [timidus], adv.: fearfully, timidly.

paucus, -a, -um, adj.: few, small, little. As subst., pl., paucī, -ōrum, m., few, a few; pauca, -ōrum, n., a few things, little, a few words, few words.

Māximus, -ī, Māximus, m.: name of a family of the Fabian gens. The most famous was Q. Fabius Māximus, whose policy of avoiding open battle wore out Hannibal, and won for him the epithet Cūnctātor. Imp. P. xvi.

Mārcellus, -ī, [Mārcus], m.: name of a plebeian family in the Claudian gens. Prominent members are together referred to as Mārcellī, gen. -ōrum (Arch, ix., Mar. iv.). Three are mentioned in this book: (1) M. Claudius Mārcellus, the most illustrious of the family, five times consul. When consul the third time, B.C. 214, he went to Sicily, and after a siege of two years' duration took Syracuse, though it was defended by the engines of Archimedes. He also rendered other important services to the state. Imp. P. xvi. (2) M. Claudius Mārcellus, consul B.C. 51 and subject of the oration Prō Mārcellō; see pp. 159—170 and notes. Cat. I. viii. (3) C. Claudius Mārcellus, brother of the preceding, consul B.C. 49. He was an opponent of Caesar, but did not follow Pompey to Greece, and easily obtained pardon from the dictator, with whom he interceded for the restoration of his brother to civil rights. Mar. iv., xi.

Scīpiō, -ōnis, [scīpiō, staff], m.: Scīpiō, name of a celebrated family of the Cornelian gens; pl., Scīpiōnēs, -um, the Scipios, the Scipio family. Three Scipios are mentioned in this book: (1) P. Cornēlius Scīpiō Āfricānus, also called Māior to distinguish him from (2), born about B.C. 234. After several years of successful generalship in Spain, he was consul B.C. 205. In the following year he conveyed an army to Africa, where he was uniformly successful against the Carthaginians, finally defeating Hannibal near Zama, B.C. 202. He was honored with a triumph, B.C. 201. The year of his death is uncertain. Cat. IV. x., Arch. ix. (2) P. Cornelius Scīpiō Aemiliānus Āfricānus, often called Minor to distinguish him from (1), born about B.C. 185. He was the son of L. Aemilius Paulus, the conqueror of Macedonia (see Paulus), and was adopted by Scipio Africanus Maior. He was elected consul for B.C. 147, and took charge of the war against Carthage then in progress, capturing and destroying the city the following year. In 134 B.C. he was again made consul, and took command of the war in Spain. He captured and razed Numantia in 133 B.C. Returning to Rome, he violently opposed the measures of Ti. Gracchus. He died B.C. 129. Cat. IV. x., Arch, vii., Imp. P. xx. (3) P. Cornēlius Scīpiō Nasīca Serāpiō, consul B.C. 138, and pontifex maximus. He also opposed Ti. Gracchus, and was the leader of the mob which slew Gracchus. Cat. I. i.

Marius, -a: name of a plebeian gens. Two of the name are mentioned in this book: (1) C. Marius, famous as the conqueror of the Teutones and Cimbri, and as a leader of the popular party; born 157 B.C., near Arpinum. He served with distinction under Scipio in Spain, being present at the siege of Numantia. He put an end to the war with Jugurtha, B.C. 106. He annihilated the Teutones near Aix, in France, B.C. 102, and the Cimbri the following year near Vercelli, in Italy. His opposition to the aristocratic party led to a merciless Civil War. He was seven times consul, and died B.C. 86. Cat. I. ii. et al. (2) M. Marius, a congenial friend of Cicero's. Ep. xxix.

mandō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [manus + dō], 1, a.: put in hand, commit; deliver over, confide, intrust; enjoin, order, command.

profectō [prō + factō], adv.: actually, indeed, in fact, really, by all means.

amplitūdō, -inis, [amplus], f.: breadth, great extent, greatness, size; dignity, grandeur.

dīvīnitus [dīvīnus], adv.: divinely, by inspiration; marvelously, admirably.

adiungō, -ere, adiūnxī, adiūnctum, [ad + iungō], 3, a.: join to, attach to; join, add, annex, associate, unite to; win, secure; apply.

moderātiō, -ōnis, [moderor], f.: keeping within bounds, regulation; self-restraint, self-control, moderation, temperance.

praeteritus, -a, -um, [part. of praetereō], adj.: gone by, past. As subst., praeterita, -ōrum, n., pl., the past, bygones.

invīsus, -a, -um, [part. of invideō], adj.: hated, detested, odious, hostile.

immortālis, -e, [in- + mortālis], adj.: undying, immortal; endless, eternal, imperishable.

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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/47