Quam prōvinciam tenuistis ā praedōnibus līberam per hōsce annōs? quod vectīgal vōbīs tūtum fuit? quem socium dēfendistis? cui praesidiō classibus vestrīs fuistis? quam multās exīstimātis īnsulās esse dēsertās, quam multās aut metū relīctās aut ā praedōnibus captās urbēs esse sociōrum? Sed quid ego longinqua commemorō? Fuit hōc quondam, fuit proprium populī Rōmānī, longē ā domō bellāre, et prōpūgnāculīs imperiī sociōrum fortūnās, nōn sua tēcta dēfendere. Sociīs ego nostrīs mare per hōs annōs clausum fuisse dīcam, cum exercitūs vestrī numquam Brundisiō nisi hieme summā trānsmīserint? Quī ad vōs ab exterīs nātiōnibus venīrent captōs querar, cum lēgātī populī Rōmānī redēmptī sint? Mercātōribus tūtum mare nōn fuisse dīcam, cum duodecim secūrēs in praedōnum potestātem pervēnerint?

    32: The pirates of the Mediterranean

    Cicero continues with his onslaught of rhetorical questions, but now gives them a special edge: they all involve his audience, the Roman people, whom he holds to account at least partially for the dire state of affairs caused by the pirates...[full essay]

    Study Questions:

    • Explain the syntax of liberam.
    • What kind of dative is vobis?
    • What kind of dative is cui?
    • What kind of dative is praesidio?
    • Identify and explain the case of classibus vestris.
    • Explain the difference between the quam in quam provinciam and the quam in quam multas.
    • Identify the components of the indirect statement introduced by existimatis.
    • What kind of ablative is metu?
    • Parse longinqua.
    • What kind of ablative is propugnaculis?
    • Identify and explain the case of sociis ... nostris.
    • What kind of ablative is Brundisio?
    • What kind of ablative is hieme summa?
    • Why is venirent in the imperfect subjunctive?
    • What is the subject accusative and the infinitive of the indirect statement introduced by querar?
    • legati populi Romani: which noun is in the nominative plural, which in the genitive singular?
    • Try to imagine what an urbs capta entails.
    • Explore the ways in which Cicero plays with ‘centre’ (Rome) and ‘periphery’ in this paragraph.
    • What does Cicero mean when he says that ‘twelve axes’ (duodecim secures) fell into the hands of the pirates?
    • With reference to phrases that refer to aggressive or defensive military measures, try to describe the picture of Rome’s imperial presence in the Mediterranean that Cicero is painting here.

    Stylistic Appreciation:

    The paragraph contains nine rhetorical questions. Can you identify sets and patterns?

    Discussion Point:

    How would you define the way in which Cicero interacts with his audience in this paragraph?

    Quam provinciam tenuistis a praedonibus liberam per hosce annos?: quam is an interrogative adjective modifying provinciam (‘which province’). tenuistis governs the direct object provinciam; the adjective liberam stands in predicative position to provinciam: NOT ‘which free province did you keep’ (because then you are stuck with a praedonibus, which you can’t properly fit in), BUT ‘which province did you keep free’ (and then a praedonibus fits in very nicely: ‘free from pirates’). For tenuere, see OLD 20: ‘to cause to remain, keep, maintain (in a given condition)’.

    per hosce annos: hosce is the combination of the accusative masculine plural form of hic, haec, hoc (hos) and the enclitic particle -ce, which can be added to demonstratives to strengthen their force: ‘throughout these particular years’.

    quod vectigal vobis tutum fuit?: quod is an interrogative adjective modifying vectigal (‘what revenue’). As liberam, tutum stands in predicative position. NOT: ‘what safe revenue was there?’ BUT: ‘What revenue was safe?’ vobis is a dative of advantage, producing an elegant alliteration with vectigal.

    quem socium defendistis?: Whereas provincia and vectigal refer to matters of direct concern to the Roman people, the case is less clear-cut with a socius (‘ally’ – more commonly in the plural: socii).28 Still, Cicero implies that it is a matter of fides to protect allies.

    cui praesidio classibus vestris fuistis?: cui may look like yet another interrogative adjective this time in the dative (after the quam, the quod, and the quem of the previous sentences); indeed, it could be one in form, but it is not – despite the irritating, since potentially misleading, fact that it is followed by a noun in the same case (dative), i.e. praesidio. The facts of the matter are that cui is an interrogative pronoun and that cui and praesidio are two different kinds of dative co-ordinated by the verb fuistis. cui is a dative of advantage (‘for whom?’), praesidio is a dative of means (finalis) answering to the question ‘what for?’ and standing in predicative position to the subject of the sentence (which here is embedded in fuistis): ‘for whom were you a bulwark?’ or ‘whom did you serve as a bulwark?’

    classibus vestris: an ablative of instrument.

    quam multas existimatis insulas esse desertas, quam multas aut metu relictas aut a praedonibus captas urbes esse sociorum?: After several interrogative adjectives (quam, quod, quem) and an interrogative pronoun (cui), we now get an interrogative adverb: quam could be an interrogative adjective in the accusative feminine singular, but the fact that it is followed by multas makes it clear that it is the adverb meaning ‘how’. The main verb of the sentence is existimatis, which introduces an indirect statement. The subject accusatives are multas ... insulas and multas ... urbes and the infinitives are esse desertas, relictas (sc. esse), and captas ... esse.

    metu: an ablative of cause.

    Sed quid ego longinqua commemoro?: quid is here used adverbially, meaning ‘why?’

    longinqua: the adjective is in the neuter accusative plural and stands in for a noun: ‘matters that are remote’.

    Fuit hoc quondam, fuit proprium populi Romani, longe a domo bellare, et propugnaculis imperii sociorum fortunas, non sua tecta defendere: Cicero feels outrage, which is reflected in his syntax. Instead of the straightforward fuit hoc quondam proprium populi Romani (‘this was once characteristic of the Roman people’), he restarts his sentence with a repetition of fuit (literally: ‘this was once, it was characteristic of the Roman people’). The two infinitive phrases (i) longe a domo bellare, and (ii) propugnaculis imperii sociorum fortunas, non sua tecta defendere stand in apposition to the demonstrative pronoun hoc (in the nominative neuter singular). (Like any other noun, the substantial infinitive can stand in apposition to a noun or (in this case) pronoun.) Such so-called ‘appositional infinitives’ are best translated by adding a ‘namely’: ‘this was once the case, it was characteristic of the Roman people, namely to wage war...’. As Gregory Hutchinson (2013) points out, the construction resembles (and recalls) a passage in one of the speeches that the Athenian orator Demosthenes delivered against the Macedonian king Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great (Phil. 3.36: ‘There was, there was something then, Athenians...’). For Athens, Demosthenes laments, ‘unbroken victory, empire, and altruistic enterprise belong (hitherto) only in the past’ (272). Both Cicero and his Athenian counterpart thus claim that their state has been shamefully letting down its proud tradition of asserting its own proud traditions! (We owe this reference to John Henderson.)

    fuit proprium populi Romani: proprium (in the nominative) stands in predicative position to the subject of the sentence (embedded in fuit) and governs the possessive genitive populi Romani.

    longe a domo: Macdonald has the following note on the preposition a, Cicero’s use of which here some of you may find surprising: ‘It is Cicero’s practice to use the accusative and ablative cases without prepositions to indicate motion to or from a point when that point is indicated by the name of a town or small island, or by the words domus, rus, and humus. The preposition, however, is used in certain circumstances and is regularly found in conjunction with longe.’29

    Sociis ego nostris mare per hos annos clausum fuisse dicam, cum exercitus vestri numquam a Brundisio nisi hieme summa transmiserint?: This is the first of three rhetorical questions (demanding the answer ‘no’) that are not introduced by an interrogative adjective or pronoun but acquire their status as questions from the deliberative subjunctive of the main verb (here dicam: ‘am I to say...?’). dicam introduces an indirect statement, with mare as subject accusative and clausum fuisse as infinitive. sociis ... nostris is a dative of (dis)advantage.

    Sociis ego nostris ... exercitus vestri: Cicero here plays with personal pronouns and possessive adjectives to position himself polemically vis-à-vis his audience. He uses an inclusive nostris with reference to the allies (‘our’ – i.e. yours and mine), but uses a differentiating vestris with reference to the armies (‘your’).

    cum exercitus vestri numquam Brundisio nisi hieme summa transmiserint: the subject of the cum-clause is exercitus vestri (nominative plural – the forms of the genitive singular are identical, so don’t get confused!). transmiserint is perfect subjunctive.

    Brundisio: an ablative of separation. Brundisium (modern Brindisi) was a major port on the Adriatic coast of Italy, offering the shortest route to Greece. But because of the pirates, Cicero claims, even full-scale armies didn’t dare to embark except outside the regular sailing season.

    hieme summa: an ablative of time: ‘in the middle of winter’.

    Qui ad vos ab exteris nationibus venirent captos querar, cum legati populi Romani redempti sint?: This is the second of three rhetorical questions (demanding the answer ‘no’) that acquire their status as questions from the deliberative subjunctive of the main verb (here querar: ‘am I to lament...?’). querar introduces an indirect statement with an – elided! – eos as subject accusative (and antecedent of the relative pronoun qui) and captos (sc. esse) as infinitive.

    cum legati populi Romani redempti sint: legati is nominative plural, populi Romani genitive singular. Cicero here refers to the piratical habit of kidnapping Roman officials and collecting ransom in return for their release.

    Mercatoribus tutum mare non fuisse dicam, cum duodecim secures in praedonum potestatem pervenerint?: This is the third of three rhetorical questions (demanding the answer ‘no’) that acquire their status as questions from the deliberative subjunctive of the main verb (here dicam: ‘am I to say...?’). dicam introduces an indirect statement with mare as subject accusative and fuisse as infinitive; tutum despite its position in front of mare is predicative: NOT ‘the safe sea was not’ BUT: ‘the sea was not safe’. mercatoribus is a dative of (dis)advantage.

    cum duodecim secures in praedonum potestatem pervenerint: high magistrates of the Roman republic went about their business with an entourage of lictors, who carried the fasces: a bound bundle of wooden rods that included an axe (securis) when they left the city. The fasces were a symbol of magisterial power, with the axe in particular signifying jurisdiction over life and death. Outside Rome, consuls had twelve, praetors six lictors. Cicero here refers to an incident that involved the capture of two praetors (hence 2 x 6 = 12 axes). We know their names (Sextilius and Bellinus) from Plutarch’s Life of Pompey 24, but nothing else.

    28 On Rome’s allies (or, rather, ‘slaves to Rome’) see the recent monograph by Myles Lavan (2013).

    29 Macdonald (1986) 65.


    praedō, -ōnis, [praeda], m.: plunderer, robber.

    vectīgal, -ālis, [vehō], n.: revenue of the state, tax, impost, duty, tribute.

    longinquus, -a, -um, [longus], adj.: far removed, remote, distant; prolonged, lasting. As subst., longīnqua, -ōrum, n., pl., far-off events, remote events. Imp. P. xii.

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

    Rōmānus, -a, -um, [Rōma], adj.: of Rome, Roman, Latin. As subst., Rōmānus, -ī, m., Roman.

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

    prōpūgnāculum, -ī, [prōpūgnō], n.: bulwark, rampart, place of defence; defence, protection.

    Brundisium, -ī, n.: Brundisium, an important seaport on the Adriatic, in Calabria. It was the usual port of departure for Greece and the East; now Brindisi.

    trānsmittō, -ere, trānsmīsī, trānsmissum, [trāns + mittō], 3, a. and n.: send across, carry over, bring across, transmit; pass over, cross over, traverse; hand over, intrust, commit, devote.

    nātiō, -ōnis, [nāscor, nātus], f.: birth; breed, stock, kind; nation, people.

    veniō, -īre, vēnī, ventum, 4, n.: come; come into, enter; approach; spring; result, occur.

    redimō, -ere, redēmī, redēmptum, [red- + emō], 3, a.: buy back, redeem, ransom; buy up, take by contract, farm; gain, acquire, secure.

    mercātor, -ōris, [mercor, trade], m.: trader, merchant, dealer.

    duodecim, or XII, [duo + decem], num. adj.: twelve.

    secūris, -is, abl., secūrī, [secō], f.: axe, battle-axe.

    Text Read Aloud
    article Nav

    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/32