Satis mihi multa verba fēcisse videor, quā rē esset hōc bellum genere ipsō necessārium, māgnitūdine perīculōsum. Restat ut dē imperātōre ad id bellum dēligendō ac tantīs rēbus praeficiendō dīcendum esse videātur. Utinam, Quirītēs, virōrum fortium atque innocentium cōpiam tantam habērētis, ut haec vōbīs dēlīberātiō difficilis esset, quemnam potissimum tantīs rēbus ac tantō bellō praeficiendum putārētis! Nunc vērō – cum sit ūnus Cn. Pompēius, quī nōn modo eōrum hominum quī nunc sunt glōriam, sed etiam antīquitātis memoriam virtūte superārit – quae rēs est quae cūiusquam animum in hāc causā dubium facere possit?

    27: The only way is Pompey

    If Cicero did his best to amplify the scope and danger of the war, he plays down any difficulty with choosing the general: there is only one! Given that Pompey lacks a plausible rival, the decision to put him in charge of this vital campaign, so Cicero claims, ought to be a no-brainer ...[full essay]

    Study Questions:

    • What type of clause does qua re introduce? Why is esset in the imperfect subjunctive?
    • What kind of ablatives are genere ipso and magnitudine?
    • Which word in the ut…videatur clause governs the preposition de?
    • Explain the constructions of deligendo, praeficiendo, and dicendum esse.
    • What type of clause does Utinam introduce?
    • Identify and explain the tense and mood of haberetis.
    • What kind of clause is ut…difficilis esset?
    • What case are tantis rebus and tanto bello? How do they fit into the sentence?
    • putaretis governs an indirect statement: identify the subject accusative and the infinitive.
    • What is the position of unus in relation to the noun it modifies (Cn. Pompeius)?
    • On what noun does the genitive phrase eorum hominum depend?
    • Parse superarit.
    • What kind of ablative is virtute?
    • quae res est quae...: explain the uses of quae (2x).
    • Why is possit in the subjunctive?
    • Why does Cicero consider the kind of war under discussion inevitable (necessarium) and its scope perilous (periculosum)? (NB: To answer this question you have to read the speech from the beginning.)
    • Who are the Quirites whom Cicero addresses? What is their role in the political system of late republican Rome?
    • In the stretch ut haec ... putaretis! a number of alliterations occur: deliberatio, difficilis; potissimum, praeficiendum, putaretis; tantis, tanto. What (if anything) do they emphasize?

    Stylistic Appreciation:

    Discuss the way in which Cicero positions himself vis-à-vis the audience in this paragraph. You may wish to focus on personal pronouns (mihi, vobis), Cicero’s use of qualifying words or phrases (satis, videor, videatur), his preference for passive or impersonal constructions, as well as rhetorical questions and assertions.

    Discussion Point:

    Cicero argues that the citizens do not really have a choice: there is only one! Is that (ever) true? And do you think that everyone in Cicero’s original audience would have agreed? Who might have registered a protest?

    Satis mihi multa verba fecisse videor: good judgement of where to conclude one part of a speech and move on to the next belongs to the basic skill set of the able orator: it is never a good idea to abuse the patience of one’s audience. Cicero flags up his apparent restraint at various moments in the speech. Here it comes with the qualifying dative mihi, which reinforces the subjective opinion expressed by videor (‘I seem to myself...’), not least since mihi gains extra emphasis by causing the (minor) hyperbaton satis ... multa and by the alliteration mihi multa. The somewhat contrived phrasing allows for the possibility that (part of) the audience held a different opinion on the matter and wished Cicero to continue. He thereby combines explicit self-effacement with implicit self-aggrandizement: he courteously refrains from speaking for his audience but implies that some of those listening may well have wished for him to speak at greater length than he does, spellbound by his eloquence. (We ask you: can one ever get enough of Cicero’s oratory?)

    satis ... multa verba fecisse videor: the adverb satis modifies the adjective multa. The apparent emphasis on ‘quantity of verbiage’ continues the theme of ‘economy of coverage’ from the previous paragraph. See § 26: multa praetereo consulto: ‘I deliberately pass over much’ (with reference to the magnitude of the war that Rome is facing in the East). It is also much in evidence elsewhere in the speech. Already in § 3 Cicero introduces the theme of ‘discursive limits’ (modus in dicendo) when he programmatically announces that a speech on the excellence (virtus) of Pompey could continue without end, such is the abundance of material:

    dicendum est enim de Cn. Pompei singulari eximiaque virtute; huius autem orationis difficilius est exitum quam principium invenire. ita mihi non tam copia quam modus in dicendo quaerendus est.

    [‘I have to speak about the unique and extraordinary excellence of Gnaeus Pompeius; and on this topic it is more difficult to find closure than to start. I therefore need to seek in my speech not so much full expression as due measure.’]

    The entire speech thereby emerges as an exercise in self-restraint, an attempt to keep verbal diarrhoea within reasonable limits – just like ‘his’ Pompey, Cicero purports to possess the qualities of temperantia and continentia, while ensuring that the job at hand gets done properly. In addition to quantity, his phrasing in § 27 suggests that his treatment of the war has not just been lengthy, but also of sufficiently high quality to address all contingencies: satis ... fecisse evokes the composite verb satisfacere, which means ‘to give sufficient attention to a matter’, ‘to treat it to everybody’s satisfaction’.

    qua re esset hoc bellum genere ipso necessarium, magnitudine periculosum: qua re (an ablative of cause, literally: ‘because of which thing’, i.e. ‘why’, which then became a standard adverbial expression) introduces an indirect question (hence the subjunctive). The imperfect subjunctive esset expresses contemporaneity in secondary sequence (after verba fecisse). By pulling esset up front, Cicero causes the emphasis to fall squarely on the noun (bellum) and its attributes (necessarium, periculosum, following each other in asyndeton). The three items are linked by homoioteleuton: bellum ... necessarium ... periculos um.

    hoc bellum genere ipso necessarium, magnitudine periculosum: genere ipso and magnitudine are ablatives of respect: they specify in what sense/respect the war is inevitable and perilous. Cicero presents the attributes in the form of an asyndetic contrast (necessarium, ... periculosum): the war is unavoidable, yet also very dangerous – potentially a toxic combination. Together, the attributes generate a sense of urgency or even coercion: the war will happen, and it is absolutely vital that it be managed by the most able.

    restat ut de imperatore ad id bellum deligendo ac tantis rebus praeficiendo dicendum esse videatur: after the emphasis on personal judgement in the previous sentence (mihi ... videor), Cicero changes tack and continues with a string of impersonal constructions: restat, dicendum esse, videatur. All three verbs lack a clear agent – as do deligendo and praeficiendo. Literally: ‘it remains that it seems right [to whom?] that one [who?] ought to speak about the general to be selected for this particular war [by whom?] and put in charge of such important matters [by whom?].’ The vagueness here arguably comes with an undertone of complicit humour: everybody knows the answers to these questions, but Cicero titillates expectations by playing coy.

    de ... dicendum esse: the preposition de goes with dicendum esse (a gerundive of obligation): dicere de = ‘to speak about’. (This sentence offers a nice opportunity to revise the gerundive: it features both a gerundive of obligation, i.e. dicendum esse, and two adjectival uses of the gerundive, i.e. de imperatore deligendo ac tantis rebus praeficiendo.)

    de imperatore ad id bellum deligendo ac tantis rebus praeficiendo: imperatore stands in parallel to bellum in the previous sentence and, like bellum, which is modified by necessarium and periculosum, has two attributes: the gerundives (or passive verbal adjectives) deligendo and praeficiendo, which respectively govern ad id bellum and tantis rebus (a dative). The repetition of bellum here, together with the synonymous phrase tantis rebus, subsumes discussion of the war under the choice of the general, in a climactic design.

    ad ... deligendo: the preposition ad, here indicating purpose, goes with the gerundive deligendo (deligere ad = ‘to choose for’).

    [Extra information: esse videatur: as one of the student-authors put it, who, incidentally, started Latin from scratch at Cambridge: ‘I think if I were studying this as an AS-level text, and particularly as this is the first set paragraph, I’d quite like a point on the clausula of esse videatur in sentence 2, even if it’s not something that the exam will be looking for. Something along the lines of: “This is a Ciceronian clausula, one of the key methods by which Cicero adapts the formal rules of Greek rhetoric to his Latin prose. Clausulae (etymologically related to claudere = ‘to close’) are regular rhythmic patterns that lead up to a sense break or the end of a sentence, to provide structure and add emphasis; historians such as Livy or Tacitus tend to avoid them, but Cicero often makes an effort to slot them in. The pattern seen here is a cretic, which scans ‘long short long’ (– u –), but with a so-called ‘resolution’ of the second long syllable into two short syllables, i.e. ‘long short short short’ (– u u u), followed by a trochee, which scans long short (– u) (though at the end of a verse/sentence the short syllable is anceps or ‘ambiguous’, i.e. it can be either short or long). Statistically speaking, the cretic + trochee (or + spondee, which scans long long) is one of Cicero’s favourite clausulae.1 And the phrase esse videatur itself occurs so frequently that this formula has come to be known as the ‘esse-videatur type’.”]

    Utinam, Quirites, virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam tantam haberetis, ut haec vobis deliberatio difficilis esset, quemnam potissimum tantis rebus ac tanto bello praeficiendum putaretis!: The main sentence consists of the wish-clause introduced by utinam. Then we have a consecutive ut-clause (set up by tantam) and an indirect question introduced by quemnam. The main verb haberetis is in the imperfect subjunctive: subjunctive, because this is the mood Latin uses to express wishes (the technical term is optative, from opto, -are, -avi, -atum: ‘I express a wish for’, ‘I desire’); imperfect, because Cicero imagines the wish as unrealizable. (For realizable wishes, as the grammar buffs among you will know, Latin uses the present subjunctive for a situation in the present and the perfect subjunctive for a situation in the past; for unrealizable wishes, the imperfect subjunctive for a situation in the present and the pluperfect subjunctive for a situation in the past.)

    Quirites: ‘Quirites’ is how speakers address the citizens of Rome in a public assembly. Etymological explanations of the term vary. Some argue that it means ‘sons of Quirinus’, a god worshipped by the Sabines on the Quirinal Hill (one of the seven hills of Rome). Livy 1.13 reports that the members of the civic community that emerged from the union of Sabines and Romans were called ‘Quirites’, after the Sabine town of Cures. He is followed by Ovid, who at Fasti 2.476-80 moots the further possibility that the name comes from the Sabine word for spear, i.e. curis. Some modern scholars derive Quirites from an older, reconstructed *co-viri-um, meaning ‘assembly of men’. What matters for present purposes is that ‘Quirites is what the Romans called themselves when addressing each other as “citizen men,” without reference to class or rank.’2

    virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam: fortitudo and innocentia are two distinct qualities: the former, courage, refers to prowess on the battlefield; the latter, integrity, refers to good personal or civic ethics. Especially in this particular case, as Cicero goes on to argue, it is absolutely essential that the appointee has both – as Pompey does.

    ut haec vobis deliberatio difficilis esset: a result clause set up by copiam tantam. As with satis mihi multa at the paragraph’s opening, Cicero’s placement of the personal pronoun vobis generates a minor hyperbaton: haec ... deliberatio.

    quemnam potissimum tantis rebus ac tanto bello praeficiendum [sc. esse] putaretis!: The interrogative pronoun quemnam (quis + nam) introduces an indirect question (hence the subjunctive) dependent on deliberatio. quemnam has a double function: it is both the accusative object of putaretis and the subject accusative of the indirect statement introduced by putaretis, i.e. quemnam ... praeficiendum esse: ‘whom you believe ought to be put in charge of...’. Cicero here repeats the lexicon of the previous sentence: deligendo and praeficiendo return economically in praeficiendum [sc. esse]; id bellum and tantis rebus return chiastically and amplified in tantis rebus and tanto bello. The shift that praeficere undergoes, from passive verbal adjective (praeficiendo) to gerundive of obligation (praeficiendum), mirrors the shift in emphasis from Cicero and speaking (cf. dicendum esse) to the citizens and deciding.

    Nunc vero – cum sit unus Cn. Pompeius, qui non modo eorum hominum qui nunc sunt gloriam, sed etiam antiquitatis memoriam virtute superarit – quae res est quae cuiusquam animum in hac causa dubium facere possit?: Cicero continues with a rhetorical question (Nunc vero ... quae res est quae ... possit?), interrupted by a parenthetical cum-clause (cum sit unus ... superarit). Such parentheses are a stylistic hallmark of oral discourse.3

    Nunc vero: here introducing a fact or consideration opposed to a previous wish: ‘(But) as it is’: see OLD s.v. nunc 11.

    cum sit unus Cn. Pompeius: the cum here has causal force. unus stands in predicative position to Cn. Pompeius. The meaning here is not ‘one Pompey’ or ‘a single Pompey’, but ‘Pompey alone’, ‘only Pompey’: Cicero categorically excludes alternatives.

    [Extra information:

    The theme of singularity is a constant throughout the speech, but especially in the part under discussion here: Cicero uses unus in §§ 28, 29, 31, 33, 35, 44 (2x), 46, but it occurs throughout the entire speech, according to the principle that unum esse [sc. Pompey], in quo summa sint omnia (§ 13: ‘there is one man who possesses in all respects the highest qualifications’ [sc. for the war against Mithridates]). The attribute singularis has a similar function. It occurs with reference to Pompey’s qualities in §§ 3 (virtus), 10 (virtus), 49 (virtus), 61 (innocentia), and 64 (militaris virtus). If in §§ 27-49 Cicero argues that one single individual is the supreme embodiment of the summus imperator, in the paragraphs that follow he goes on to counter the objection by a group of powerful nobiles that this particular command ought not to be given to one man only. See §§ 51-2: ... ea omnia quae a me adhuc dicta sunt, eidem isti vera esse concedunt, – et necessarium bellum esse et magnum, et in uno Cn. Pompeio summa esse omnia. Quid igitur ait Hortensius? Si uni omnia tribuenda sint, dignissimum esse Pompeium, sed ad unum tamen omnia deferri non oportere: ‘These very same men concede that everything I have said so far is true – namely that the war is inevitable and important and that only Pompey possesses all the necessary qualities to the highest degree. What, then, does Hortensius [one of the powerful nobiles who opposed Manilius’ proposal that Pompey be appointed] say? If the entire command must be given to one, Pompey is the worthiest recipient; but one shouldn’t entrust the entire command to one man only.’]

    qui non modo eorum hominum qui nunc sunt gloriam, sed etiam antiquitatis memoriam virtute superarit: the first qui introduces a relative clause of characteristic (with Cn. Pompeius as antecedent), which explains the subjunctive superarit (see next note for an explication of the form). superarit governs two accusative objects, coordinated by non modo ... sed etiam: gloriam and memoriam. Each takes a genitive: eorum hominum [qui nunc sunt] depends on gloriam and antiquitatis on memoriam. virtute, an ablative of instrument or means, stands apo koinou with both accusative objects. By means of his excellence, Pompey surpasses both the glory obtained by any of his contemporaries and the recorded achievement of past generations. The arrangement is climactic and plays on the widespread feeling in Rome that it was difficult to measure up to the standards set in the past. Pompey, however, manages to outshine his contemporaries and to outperform the ancestors.

    superarit: the syncopated form of supera-ve-rit:4 third person singular perfect subjunctive active. The tense is present perfect (‘has surpassed’) rather than a simply past (‘surpassed’).

    eorum hominum qui nunc sunt gloriam: the formulation picks up on virorum fortium atque innocentium copiam tantam from the previous sentence. Cicero has just claimed that currently there are no viri fortes atque innocentes at Rome fit for the job, except Pompey. It hence comes as no surprise that he should outshine his contemporaries in virtus.

    memoria antiquitatis: a somewhat contrived synonym for gloria: it refers to the achievements of the Romans of old that entered into the collective memory of their families or clans (gentes) and the res publica at large – in other words, ‘long-term glory’.5 antiquitatis is an objective – rather than subjective – genitive: it is not the ancient times that do the remembering; rather, they are the object of remembrance.

    virtute: virtus is the second of the four essential hallmarks of the perfect general, as Cicero goes on to remind his audience in the subsequent paragraph: ego enim sic existimo, in summo imperatore quattuor has res inesse oportere, scientiam rei militaris, virtutem, auctoritatem, felicitatem. From an etymological point of view, vir-tus is what distinguishes the vir.6 Originally, virtus seems to have indicated martial prowess above all. But in the course of the Roman assimilation of Greek philosophical thought, the semantics of the term expanded considerably, as virtus became the preferred Latin term to render the Greek arete, which in philosophical discourse also signified ethical qualities.7 In this process it became a generic designation for good qualities more generally. The English ‘virtue’, while deriving from Latin virtus, inevitably carries moral connotations (as in ‘virtue ethics’) and hence does not capture the full semantic range and distinctive emphasis of the Latin term very well. ‘Excellence’ or ‘personal ability/quality’ (virtus) or ‘excellences’ (virtutes) is therefore frequently the better option in translating. (Not all excellences need have a moral dimension.)

    quae res est quae cuiusquam animum in hac causa dubium facere possit?: quae res est sets up a relative clause of characteristic (hence the subjunctive possit): ‘what thing is there of such a kind that it could...’.

    cuiusquam animum: ‘the mind of anyone’ – an elaborate way of saying quemquam (‘anyone’).

    animum ... dubium facere: facere coordinates the two accusatives with dubium in predicative position: ‘to make the mind hesitant’ (not ‘to make the hesitant mind’).

    1 See Wilkinson (1963) 156.

    3 Powell (2013) 49.

    4 to syncopate = to shorten words by omitting syllables or letters in the middle. It derives from Greek sun- (‘with’) and kopto (‘to cut’).

    5 For a study of the memorial culture of the Roman republic see Flower (1996).

    6 See esp. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 2.43: appellata est enim ex viro virtus (‘for the word for excellence [virtus] is derived from the word for man [vir]’).

    7 For a recent monograph on the term, see McDonnell (2006), though reviewers have argued that he unduly simplifies the evidence: see e.g. Kaster (2007).


    necessārius, -a, -um, [necesse], adj.: unavoidable, inevitable, pressing, needful. As subst., necessārius, -ī, m., kinsman, relative, friend, client.

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

    restō, restāre, restitī, —, [re- + stō], 1, n.: withstand, resist, oppose; be left, remain. Impers., restat, it remains.

    dēligō, -ligere, lēgī, lēctum, [dē + legō], 3, a.: choose, select, pick out, designate.

    praeficiō, -ficere, -fēcī, praefectum, [prae + faciō], 3, a.: set over, put in charge; appoint to command, place at the head.

    utinam [utī + nam], adv.: oh that! if only! would that!

    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.

    innocēns, -entis, [in- + nocēns], adj.: harmless, inoffensive; blameless; innocent, upright.

    dēlīberātiō, -ōnis, [dēlīberō], f.: deliberation, consideration; ground of deliberation.

    quisnam, quaenam, quidnam, [quis + nam], inter. pron.: who then? which, what, pray? who in the world?

    potius [potis], adv., comp.: rather, more.

    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.

    antīquitās, -ātis, [antīquus], f.: antiquity, age; the past.

    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.https://dcc.dickinson.edu/cicero-de-imperio/27