Atque haec quā celeritāte gesta sint, quamquam vidētis, tamen ā mē in dīcendō praetereunda nōn sunt. Quis enim umquam aut obeundī negōtī aut cōnsequendī quaestūs studiō tam brevī tempore tot loca adīre, tantōs cursūs cōnficere potuit, quam celeriter Cn. Pompēiō duce tantī bellī impetus nāvigāvit? Quī nōndum tempestīvō ad nāvigandum marī Siciliam adiit, Āfricam explōrāvit, in Sardiniam cum classe vēnit atque haec tria frūmentāria subsidia reī pūblicae fīrmissimīs praesidiīs classibusque mūnīvit.

    34: Pompey’s cruise control (I): ‘I have a fleet – and need for speed’

    This and the next paragraph elaborate on Pompey’s campaign against the pirates, putting the emphasis on the speed with which he completed the task of sweeping the Mediterranean clean, thus securing the corn-supply for the capital (heavily dependent on overseas imports) and expanding Rome’s imperial control in the process...[full essay]

    Study Questions:

    • What kind of clause does qua introduce?
    • What kind of ablative is a me? What is unusual about it?
    • Explain the construction Cn. Pompeio duce.
    • Explain the syntax of qui (in qui nondum...).
    • Explain the syntax of navigandum.
    • For most nouns in the fourth declension, the nominative singular, the genitive singular, the nominative plural, and the accusative plural all end in -us. Can you identify the three fourth-declension nouns in the paragraph and their respective cases? (One is in the nominative singular, one in the genitive singular, one in the accusative plural.)

    Stylistic Appreciation:

    How does Cicero convey Pompey’s extraordinary speed of operation in his prose?

    Discussion Point:

    What according to Cicero are Pompey’s priorities?

    Atque haec qua celeritate gesta sint, quamquam videtis, tamen a me in dicendo praetereunda non sunt: translating literally, one would get: ‘And even though you see (sc. for yourselves) with what speed (qua celeritate) these things (haec) were accomplished, they nevertheless ought not to be passed over by me in my speech.’ This, of course, produces nonsense: Cicero has just spoken about ‘these things’ (haec), so he can’t possibly be disinclined to mention them now. Rather, what he doesn’t want to pass over without comment is the speed with which Pompey accomplished his task of eliminating the pirates. So why doesn’t the Latin say this? As it happens, haec, which belongs into the indirect question introduced by qua, has been pulled up front (into a so-called proleptic position) to facilitate the transition, with the awkward, further consequence that it has ‘bullied’ the gerundive praetereunda non sunt into agreeing with it grammatically though not in sense. There is another oddity involved in the gerundive construction: unusually, Cicero opts for an ablative of agency (a me) to go with it rather than a dative of agency (mihi). (It is difficult to know why he opted for the ablative – perhaps he liked the assonance of (t-)a-me-(n) a me?) If one were to iron out every wrinkle, the sentence would run: atque quamquam videtis qua celeritate haec gesta sint, tamen mihi in dicendo praetereundum non est. Possibly, the grammatical incongruities enact the theme of the sentence: surpassing speed, manifesting itself in somewhat rough-and-ready prose. For another instance of this, see below on quam celeriter.

    qua: an interrogative adjective in agreement with celeritate; it introduces an indirect question, dependent on videtis, hence the subjunctive gesta sint. The tense is perfect for past action in primary sequence.

    in dicendo: a gerund, so literally ‘in speaking’.

    Quis enim umquam aut obeundi negotii aut consequendi quaestus studio tam brevi tempore tot loca adire, tantos cursus conficere potuit, quam celeriter Cn. Pompeio duce tanti belli impetus navigavit?: The demonstrative adverb tam (‘in so little time’) sets up the relative adverb quam (‘as’), which is followed by another adverb (celeriter). This is a bit awkward. If one construes quam with tam as well as celeriter and translates literally one would get: ‘who in their zeal for attending to business or making profit, was ever able to visit so many places, to complete such long journeys in as little time as quickly as it took for the charge of such a massive military operation to sweep across the sea under the leadership of Gnaeus Pompeius?’ This isn’t good English. Intelligibility improves if one construes celeriter as a free-standing adverb with navigavit: ‘in so little time ... as it took Pompey’s force to sail speedily...’. The point that Cicero is making, reinforced by the pleonastic celeriter, is that no-one on his business travels could have visited as many places in as short a time as it took Pompey to sweep across the entire Mediterranean on his military campaign.

    aut obeundi negotii aut consequendi quaestus studio: studio is an ablative of cause or modus that governs two adjectival gerundive phrases in the genitive singular coordinated by aut – aut: obeundi negotii and consequendi quaestus. The aut – aut here clearly does not set up logically exclusive alternatives, but rather ‘emphasizes the necessity of one alternative, without excluding the possibility of the other simultaneously’ (OLD s.v. aut 2b).

    quam celeriter Cn. Pompeio duce tanti belli impetus navigavit?: The subject of the quam-clause is impetus, which basically means ‘aggressive movement’, ‘onslaught’, and therefore is a rather peculiar choice of diction: Cicero seems to abstract from Pompey’s fleet (which did the actual sailing) and put the emphasis entirely on the decisive quality of speed. The genitive attribute tanti belli enhances the oddity: how can the ‘movement of so great a war’ sail? It is Cicero’s way of saying that Pompey moved the war quickly across the Mediterranean, and as he tries to capture the speed of operation in words, his prose waxes poetical: impetus is (as it were) the personification of Pompey’s military prowess.

    Cn. Pompeio duce: Cn. = Gnaeo. The phrase is an ablative absolute consisting of two nouns, but lacking a participle (which one could think of as being the – non-existent – present participle of sum): ‘with Gnaeus Pompeius being the leader’ = ‘with Gnaeus Pompeius as leader’. (Julius Caesar spotted this gap in the Latin language and in the de Analogia, his treatise on grammar and style, proposed ens, entis as a present participle form of sum, on the analogy of potens, potentis (the present participle of posse). It didn’t catch on until much later.)

    qui nondum tempestivo ad navigandum mari Siciliam adiit, Africam exploravit; in Sardiniam cum classe venit, atque haec tria frumentaria subsidia rei publicae firmissimis praesidiis classibusque munivit: sailing on the Mediterranean in winter was a risky business in light of the frequent storms at that time of the year, but Pompey considered securing the corn-supply from overseas (Sicily, Africa, Sardinia) a matter of utmost urgency that countenanced no delay, whatever the dangers. The message here is that he acted in the interest of the Roman people with no regard for personal safety.

    qui: a connecting relative (= et is).

    nondum tempestivo ad navigandum mari: the entire phrase is an ablative of location. The central word is the noun mari (‘on a sea’), which is modified by the adjective tempestivo in predicative position (NOT ‘a seasonable sea...’, BUT ‘a sea seasonable to...’). tempestivo is in turn modified by the adverb nondum (‘not yet’) and governs the preposition ad + accusative which here expresses purpose and governs the gerund (‘verbal noun’) navigandum (‘a sea not yet seasonable for sailing’). Given the meaning of ‘tempest’ and ‘tempestuous’ in English, the Latin tempestivus, which agrees with mari, may be a ‘false friend’. It comes from the noun tempestas, which can mean ‘bad or stormy weather’ or more generally ‘violent disturbance’, but its basic meaning is ‘period’, ‘season’, ‘weather’. The adjective tempestivus refers to something ‘ready’, ‘in season’, ‘suitable or opportune for a specific season or time’.

    ... Siciliam adiit, Africam exploravit, in Sardiniam ... venit, atque haec tria frumentaria subsidia ... munivit: the sentence features four main verbs. The first three – referring to Pompey’s operations in the Western Mediterranean – follow upon each other asyndetically, in line with Pompey’s ‘breathless speed’. Cicero uses a connective (atque) to link the third and the fourth item, which sums up the previous three by giving the reason for Pompey’s visits to Sicily, Africa, and Sardinia, i.e. securing the corn supply.


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

    praetereō, -īre, -īvī or -iī, -itum, [praeter + eō], irr., a. and n.: go by, go past, pass by; pass over, disregard, omit.

    obeō, -īre, -īvī, -itum, [ob + eō], irr., n. and a.: go to meet; come up to, reach; go over, traverse, visit; engage in, undertake, enter upon; perform, discharge, execute, accomplish; of a crime, commit.

    quaestus, -ūs, [quaerō], m.: gain, acquisition; profit, advantage, interest; business, employment, occupation.

    tempus, -oris, n.: period of time, time, season, point of time; right time, opportunity, occasion; condition, times, circumstances; time of need, exigency, emergency, id temporis, at that time. ex tempore, off hand, without preparation.

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

    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.

    impetus, -ūs, [impetō], m.: onset, attack, assault; impulse, rapid motion, rush; violence, fury.

    nāvigō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [nāvis + agō], 1, n. and a.: sail, set sail, cruise; sail over, navigate.

    tempestīvus, -a, -um, [tempestās], adj.: seasonable, opportune, timely; appropriate, fitting, suitable; in good season, early.

    Sicilia, -ae, [Σικελία], f.: Sicily.

    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.

    explōrō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [ex + plōrō], 1, a.: search out, investigate; spy out, examine.

    Sardinia, -ae, f.: Sardinia, an island west of Italy.

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

    frūmentārius, -a, -um, [frūmentum], adj.: of grain, of provisions, grain-.

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

    rēs pūblica, reī pūblicae, f.: see pūblicus.

    fīrmus, -a, -um, adj.: steadfast, strong, powerful; firm, fast, trusty, faithful.

    mūniō, -īre, -īvī, -ītum, [moenia], 4, a.: defend with a wall, wall; fortify, defend, protect; secure, guard, strengthen.

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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/34