Itinera, quae per hōsce annōs in Italiā per agrōs atque oppida cīvium Rōmānōrum nostrī imperātōrēs fēcerint, recordāminī; tum facilius statuētis, quid apud exterās nātiōnēs fierī exīstimētis. Utrum plūrēs arbitrāminī per hōsce annōs mīlitum vestrōrum armīs hostium urbēs an hībernīs sociōrum cīvitātēs esse dēlētās? Neque enim potest exercitum is continēre imperātor, quī sē ipse nōn continet, neque sevērus esse in iūdicandō, quī aliōs in sē sevērōs esse iūdicēs nōn vult. 

    38: Of locusts and leeches

    In this paragraph Cicero considers the impact the presence of an army has on the wider population, both within Italy and beyond. In his effort to rouse sympathy with the plight of allies and external nations affected by warfare or, more specifically, undisciplined or marauding troops owing to a lack of leadership, he encourages his audience to draw on recent personal experiences. ..[full essay]

    Study Questions:

    • What kind of clause does quae introduce?
    • Parse recordamini and arbitramini.
    • Parse facilius.
    • Identify and explain the tenses and moods (plural!) of statuetis and existimetis.
    • What nouns (plural!) does plures agree with?
    • What do you call the stylistic device on display in in iudicando ... iudices?
    • Why could hosting a Roman winter-quarter prove so disastrous for allied communities? (Compare and contrast with modern-day protests by local communities against the closure of military bases in their region.)
    • What is the timeframe of per hosce annos?

    Stylistic Appreciation:

    In the utrum... an... clause, how do the elements in the utrum-part match up with the elements in the an-part?

    Discussion Point:

    How does Cicero construe the relationship between ‘army’ and ‘general’ in this paragraph?

    Itinera, quae per hosce annos in Italia per agros atque oppida civium Romanorum nostri imperatores fecerint, recordamini: Itinera is pulled up front for emphasis. Opinions on how to interpret the subjunctive fecerint in the quae-clause vary: some think that we are dealing with a generic relative clause (‘Recall the kind of marches that our generals made...’);38 others that it is an indirect question dependent on recordamini, with quae being interrogative rather than relative (‘Recall the marches which/which marches our generals made...’).39 The latter seems more attractive, not least since it continues the pattern from the end of the previous paragraph: quantas calamitates ... ferant, quis ignorat? Itinera, quae .... fecerint, recordamini!

    per hosce annos: it is unclear how far back Cicero wants his audience to think: does per hosce annos refer as far back as the Social War? The civil wars between Sulla and the Marians? Or just the suppression of the revolt of Spartacus? The vague chronology ensures that the identity of nostri imperatores remains equally vague. The sentence by itself does not imply misbehaviour on the part of the generals: Pompey, after all, was one of the imperatores that would have come to mind; the emphasis is rather on the burden of ordinary troop movement on the civilian population. But in the light of how the paragraph ends, one could wonder whether Roman generals and their armies always maintained impeccable discipline while travelling through Italy.

    tum facilius statuetis, quid apud exteras nationes fieri existimetis: statuetis (3rd conjugation) is future active indicative, existimetis (1st conjugation) is present active subjunctive in the indirect question introduced by the interrogative pronoun quid, which has a double function: it is the accusative object of existimetis and the subject accusative of the indirect statement governed by existimetis (fieri being the infinitive).

    facilius: the comparative form of the adverb facile.

    Utrum plures arbitramini per hosce annos militum vestrorum armis hostium urbes an hibernis sociorum civitates esse deletas?: Cicero continues to address his audience directly: the main verb of the rhetorical question is arbitramini. It introduces an indirect statement consisting of two subject accusatives, each with a genitive attribute, coordinated by utrum (hostium urbes) ... an (sociorum civitates), and one infinitive: esse deletas. The emphatically placed attribute plures modifies both urbes and civitates. Likewise, the possessive genitive militum vestrorum modifies both armis and hibernis. So Cicero begins and ends with elements ‘shared’ by the utrum- and the an-part: plures, per hosce annos, militum vestrorum, esse deletas; in between we get the disjunctive contrasts: armis as compared to hibernis (ablatives of instrument); hostium as compared to sociorum (possessive genitives); urbes as compared to civitates (subject accusatives).

    Utrum... an...: introduces a disjunctive question that offers more than one alternative. Cicero strongly suggests that the (prima facie counterintuitive) second alternative is the right one: to say that the opposite is the case would hardly be worth the effort, but to argue that winter-quarters are more pernicious for the indigenous population than the wholesale destruction of cities through armed violence baffles and intrigues. It calls for explication, which Cicero delivers in the subsequent sentence (cf. enim).

    hibernis: allies were expected to support Roman armies that set up winter quarters in their territory. Depending on the demands made by the general on the local population and the discipline he imposed on his soldiers, the presence of a camp during the winter months could turn into a destructive imposition.

    Neque enim potest exercitum is continere imperator, qui se ipse non continet, neque severus esse in iudicando, qui alios in se severos esse iudices non vult: the main sentence falls into two parts coordinated by neque... neque... The subject (imperator) and the verb (potest, which governs both continere and esse) remain the same.

    In §§ 37-38 Cicero offers a critique of Roman generals and armies, whom he conceives as operating in the service of the Roman people (and its magistrates): cf. his repeated reference to imperator(es), armies (exercitus), and soldiers (milites), and his use of the possessive adjectives noster and vester. § 37: quem enim imperatorem...; propter hanc avaritiam imperatorum; nostri exercitus; § 38: nostri imperatores; militum vestrorum (armis). Throughout it is fairly clear that Cicero blames the generals first and foremost, rather than their troops, and the final sentence hammers the point home in no uncertain terms: an army is an extension of the will and the ethics of its leader. The principle ‘there are no bad soldiers, only bad leaders’ will have resonated well with Cicero’s primary audience, the Roman people, many of whom will have served time as citizen-soldiers. It is also a principle he endorses elsewhere, at times with reference to Plato, who argued the same in the Republic. Is it true, though?

    severus: fans of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series won’t have problems with the meaning of this adjective: just think Snape.

    in iudicando ... iudices: an instance of figura etymologica.

    qui alios in se severos esse iudices non vult: non vult introduces an indirect statement with alios as subject accusative and esse as infinitive. severos agrees with iudices (in attributive position) and the entire phrase stands in predicative position to alios. The reflexive pronoun se (accusative singular) refers to the subject of the qui-clause, i.e. the general.

    1 ‘enclitic’ is a linguistic term deriving from the Greek enklinein = ‘to lean on’; it is a word that does not stand on its own so gets attached to (‘leans on’) the preceding one.

    38 Radice and Steel (2014) 70.

    39 Macdonald (1986) 70.


    Italia, -ae, [ἰταλός], f.: Italy.

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

    recordor, -ārī, -ātus sum, [re-, cor], 1, dep.: call to mind, recall, remember, recollect.

    facile, comp. facilius, sup. facillimē, [facilis], adv.: easily, without trouble; readily, willingly, promptly.

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

    hībernus, -a, -um, [hiems], adj.: of winter, in the winter, winter-. As subst., hīberna, -ōrum, (properly sc. castra), n., pl., winter quarters.

    dēleō, -ēre, -ēvī, -ētum, 2, a.: erase, efface, obliterate; blot out, destroy utterly, overthrow, extinguish.

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

    sevērus, -a, -um, adj.: grave, serious; stern, strict severe, rigid.

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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.