Itaque omnēs nunc in eīs locīs Cn. Pompēium sīcut aliquem nōn ex hāc urbe missum, sed dē caelō dēlāpsum intuentur; nunc dēnique incipiunt crēdere, fuisse hominēs Rōmānōs hāc quondam continentiā, quod iam nātiōnibus exterīs incrēdibile ac falsō memoriae prōditum vidēbātur; nunc imperī vestrī splendor illīs gentibus lūcem adferre coepit; nunc intellegunt nōn sine causā māiōrēs suōs tum, cum eā temperantiā magistrātūs habēbāmus, servīre populō Rōmānō quam imperāre aliīs maluisse. Iam vērō ita facilēs aditūs ad eum prīvātōrum, ita līberae querimōniae dē aliōrum iniūriīs esse dīcuntur, ut is, quī dīgnitāte principibus excellit, facilitāte īnfimīs pār esse videatur.

    41: Saint Pompey

    The paragraph consists of five sentences, with th first four focusing on Pompey’s temperantia vel continentia (the two terms are virtual synonyms) and the final sentence moving on to Pompey’s facilitas…[full essay]

    Study Questions:

    • Parse intuentur.
    • Explain the syntax of the infinitives credere and fuisse.
    • What kind of ablative is hac ... continentia?
    • What is the antecedent of quod?
    • Identify the words in the nominative in the clause quod iam nationibus exteris incredibile ac falso memoriae proditum videbatur.
    • Parse falso and memoriae: why can’t falso modify memoriae?
    • Who is the subject implied in intellegunt?
    • Explain the tense of videbatur.
    • In the cum-clause cum ea temperantia magistratus habebamus: who is the subject? What kind of ablative is ea temperantia? What case is magistratus?
    • What kind of ablatives are dignitate and facilitate?
    • What is the significance of the word delapsum? What impression does it give of Pompey?
    • Who are the ancestors of the Eastern people who preferred to be subject to the Romans to ruling others?
    • Discuss the way in which Cicero intertwines Pompey’s dignitas (‘social rank and standing in the community’) and his facilitas (‘accessibility’) in the last sentence of the paragraph: why does he stress facilitas so much?

    Stylistic Appreciation:

    Discuss how Cicero employs the temporal adverbs quondam, iam and nunc in his argument.

    Discussion Point:

    Can you think of contemporary public figures who combine dignitas with facilitas?

    Itaque omnes nunc in iis locis Cn. Pompeium sicut aliquem non ex hac urbe missum, sed de caelo delapsum intuentur: intuentur is here construed with a double accusative (Cn. Pompeium and aliquem) coordinated by sicut. The two participles missum and delapsum agree with aliquem: ‘they looked upon Gnaeus Pompeius as someone who was not sent from this city, but who descended from the sky.’

    delapsum: This idea of a serene descent from on high spells epiphany, picking up on the theme of Pompey’s almost divine virtus which runs through the speech, elevating him above ordinary men. It is important to note, though, that Cicero here distinguishes sharply between an Eastern and a Roman point of view. Pompey’s divinity is in the eyes of the beholder: the subjects of intuentur are Eastern provincials. For Cicero’s Roman audience, Pompey remains ex hac urbe missus, i.e. a properly appointed magistrate of the senate and the people of Rome, who derived his position and powers from constitutional procedures.42 This use of ‘divergent focalization’ presupposes, and taps into, the Roman prejudice about the Greek East as a hotbed of superstitious beliefs, including the elevation of humans to divine status. Cicero, in other words, nowhere asserts that Pompey is a god; he merely reports that, in the East, he was perceived as one. By making the issue one of psychology (‘Pompey seems divine’, i.e. to those who don’t know better), rather than ontology (‘Pompey is divine’) he manages to portray Pompey as god-like, without subverting important principles of Rome’s political culture, which had no room for the worship of human beings as gods.

    Even though Cicero presents the impression of Pompey as quasi-divine as the delusion of foreign communities, he suggests that this delusion is real in its consequences insofar as it can be exploited to strategic advantage. To begin with, the quasi-religious adulation Pompey commands stands in striking contrast to the religious outrage caused by Lucullus, which Cicero reported in the opening parts of the speech. The nature of the enemy (a king) and the theatre of operation (Asia), so he suggests, call for a general who can rival his opponent in religious charisma. Pompey’s ability to appear god-like thus emerges as a crucial military asset. As the recipient of the same sort of ‘irrational’ devotion Mithridates enjoys, Pompey will be able to fight fire with fire.43 Cicero thus makes tactical use of a foreign system of belief, meant to encourage the Roman people to put Pompey in charge of the war.

    But wasn’t this technique potentially dangerous? By making the Eastern point of view part of his discourse, did Cicero not willy-nilly endow Pompey with a divine aura of sorts? How many members in the audience would have picked up on the ‘divergent focalization’? Isn’t Cicero violating important principles of oligarchic equality on which the senatorial tradition of republican government rested by hailing Pompey as god-like? On the other hand (and depending on how we define the context of the speech), it is equally possible to argue that the focalized deification of Pompey is a profoundly conservative form of praise in that it limits the validity (and hence the virulence) of Greek ideas about divine human beings to the Eastern Mediterranean. As we have pointed out in the Introduction, ever since Roman aristocrats became aware of the Greek practice to grant (semi-)divine status to outstanding individuals, some of them toyed with the notion of integrating this unique form of exaltation into their own public image. Cicero’s strategy of geographic focalization, on the other hand, reduces the Greek concept of ‘human godlikeness’ to a localized, psychological phenomenon, thus radically confining its scope and implicitly denying its relevance and applicability at Rome. The fact that other cultures are more prone to turn humans into gods, so Cicero seems to be saying, may be exploited for strategic purposes in the context of imperial expansion but does (or should) not necessarily affect Pompey’s domestic identity. There is, then, a dialectic of panegyric excess and republican moderation in place here that is fiendishly difficult to pin down: what do you think Cicero was up to?44

    nunc denique incipiunt credere, fuisse homines Romanos hac quondam continentia, quod iam nationibus exteris incredibile ac falso memoriae proditum videbatur: credere introduces an indirect statement, with homines Romanos as subject accusative and fuisse as infinitive, followed by a substantive quod-clause, which explicates the indirect statement: ‘... a fact that...’. quod is the subject of videbatur and agrees with incredibile and proditum: ‘... a fact that ... appeared unbelievable and wrongly transmitted to memory’. The striking emphasis on ‘now’ (nunc) and ‘beginning’ (incipiunt, coepit) divides Roman history for present purposes into three distinct phases: (i) an early time of moral excellence that currently is nothing but an indistinct (provincial) memory or, worse, has started to look like a mere invention; (ii) an intermediary time of decline and corruption that has rendered the alleged quality of the previous period look ‘too good to be true’; (iii) the present, defined and dominated by Pompey, in whom ancestral excellence has re-emerged – and with it belief and confidence in the historical existence and continued possibility of impeccable conduct on the part of Roman magistrates. Cicero here taps into a long-standing Roman discourse that configured ‘the ancestors’ as benchmarks of excellence. It is important to realize that this sweeping conception of history, with its vague caesuras (Cicero doesn’t explain when and why the decline kicked in or why and how Pompey has managed to buck the trend), is as much a figment of Cicero’s imagination as it is tailor-made for his rhetorical aim of elevating Pompey above his contemporaries.

    hac ... continentia: an ablative of quality.

    quondam ... iam: the two adverbs mark a temporal contrast: given the conduct of contemporary Roman generals, by now (iam) the notion that once (quondam) there were Romans of outstanding self-restraint had lost any credibility (cf. incredibile) – a credibility now gradually restored by Pompey (cf. incipiunt credere).

    falso memoriae proditum: falso is an adverb; despite the fact that it may look like a dative it does not – and cannot: memoria is feminine – agree with memoriae, which is a dative governed by proditum: ‘falsely transmitted to memory’.

    nunc imperii vestri splendor illis gentibus lucem adferre coepit: with the strategically placed vestri, Cicero has his audience partake in Pompey’s supernatural aura and in turn ensures that the supernatural aura of Pompey appears as a force acting on behalf of the Roman people. The imagery continues the divine connotations of de caelo delapsum: the metaphorical invocation of brightness and light in splendor and lucem adferre suggests the supernatural and the salvific and reinforces the importance of just governance as the ultimate foundation of Rome’s imperial rule: ‘The depredations causing the light to be dimmed were the fault not only of the pirates but of greedy and unjust governors ... and a man of singularis virtus is needed to bring it back to those areas of the world in need of it, Rome included. This theme of Rome’s problems being caused by lack of moderation in Rome’s own leaders who bring about a break in fides between Rome and its provinces is closely linked to similar expressions in both Cicero’s De Officiis and Sallust’s Bellum Catilinae. In the theme of light lost and light returning we should understand that Cicero’s thinking allows that Rome’s claim to leadership is not intrinsic, nor is it an inalienable birthright. It will last only as long as Rome deserves it, that is, while her imperium is based on justice. In the same way that Rome’s lumina cannot rely on their ancestors for their status but must face the iudicium publicum which will confirm their dignitas, so the position of Rome as the lux orbis terrarum, and thus the claims of the populus Romanus to maiestas, or ‘greaterness’, are valid only if such claims rest on the just practices of the centre and its representatives.’45

    nunc intellegunt non sine causa maiores suos tum, cum ea temperantia magistratus habebamus, servire populo Romano quam imperare aliis maluisse: the subject continues to be omnes (in iis locis). The verb intellegunt introduces an indirect statement with maiores suos as subject accusative and maluisse as infinitive, which in turn governs the antithetical infinitives servire (taking populo Romano as dative object) and imperare (taking aliis as dative object).

    non sine causa: the phrase belongs to the indirect statement. A double negative (non + sine) makes a positive. The rhetorical device is called litotes.

    maiores suos: the reflexive possessive adjective suos identifies the ancestors in question as those of the provincials (the implied subject of intellegunt).

    tum, cum ea temperantia magistratus habebamus: another potentially tricky use of cum, given that it is followed by an ablative (ea temperantia). This may well give one the (wrong) idea that it is the preposition. In fact, it is the conjunction: cum here introduces a temporal clause in the imperfect indicative (habebamus). It is set up by tum: ‘at the time (tum) when (cum)’. (Note that this is not the correlation cum – tum discussed above.)

    ea temperantia: an ablative of quality, which does not take any preposition.

    magistratus: a fourth declension noun in the accusative plural: the accusative object of habebamus.

    servire ... maluisse: as noted above, the most striking illustration of this unusual preference occurred in 133 BC, when the King of Pergamum, Attalus III, died leaving no heir but a will in which he left his kingdom to the people of Rome. Note, however, that the transfer of power occurred after his death, so did not affect him personally, and that other members of the royal family were not quite as keen to relinquish their independence as the deceased king: a rebellion of one of his more distant relatives ensued, which was, ironically, quelled with the help of the King of Pontus at the time, Mithridates V Euergetes, the father of Mithridates Eupator, against whom Rome is now fighting. Cicero of course has no interest in rehearsing any such details; he nonchalantly generalizes and, moreover, ascribes the unprecedented act of a single king to a widespread appreciation of Roman morals among Eastern provincials. The antithesis between servire and imperare heightens the hyperbole: the dramatic declaration that entire nations gladly gave up their own freedom in order to enjoy Roman rule underscores the alleged strategic advantage of innocentia in the context of imperial expansion. If, so Cicero seems to be implying here, provincials did not have to live in fear of marauding Roman generals and their armies, they would become part of the Roman empire of their own accord.

    Iam vero ita faciles aditus ad eum privatorum, ita liberae querimoniae de aliorum iniuriis esse dicuntur, ut is qui dignitate principibus excellit, facilitate infimis par esse videatur: the verb is the passive dicuntur, which governs a nominative + infinitive (esse) construction. There are two plural subjects, aditus and querimoniae, each with a predicative complement, faciles and liberae, with the infinitive esse. The two subjects follow each other asyndetically, an effect re-inforced by the anaphora of ita, which sets up the consecutive ut-clause that concludes the sentence.

    aditus ad eum privatorum: privatorum is a subjective genitive dependent on aditus: who has access? Private individuals. The power of a Roman magistrate or pro-magistrate in a province, especially when he was in command of an army, was quasi-autocratic. It is therefore hardly surprising that a steady stream of visitors – and not just official delegates from civic communities such as the Cretan ambassadors Cicero mentioned in § 35 but also private individuals – would seek him out to gain his support: for all intents and purposes, he represented the law. Cicero suggests that Pompey made himself available to all and sundry and used his extraordinary powers with a keen sense of justice.

    de aliorum iniuriis: aliorum is a subjective genitive dependent on iniuriis: who has committed harm? Others.

    ut is qui dignitate principibus excellit, facilitate infimis par esse videatur: the ut-clause and the relative clause embedded therein map out two complementary qualities situated at the opposite ends of Rome’s socio-political spectrum. In terms of social rank (dignitas) Pompey is at the very top of Roman society; in terms of his accessibility (facilitas), his behaviour does not differ from those who are at the very bottom. The syntax reinforces the perfect, paradoxical match of Pompey’s dignitas and facilitas:

    ut-clause relative clause
    Subject (Pompey) is qui
    Ablative of respect dignitate facilitate
    Whom he surpasses/matches principibus infimis
    Verb, indicating Pompey’s relative position excellit par esse videatur

    42 Classen (1963) 332, with reference to Cicero, Letters to Atticus 2.21.4. At Man. 13, Pompey ironically appears divine to Rome’s allies in part because of his outstanding humanitas!

    43 This is a leitmotif throughout the speech; at Man. 24, for instance, Cicero makes the paradoxical point that kings afflicted by misfortune can count on the sympathy of those, qui aut reges sunt aut vivunt in regno, ut iis nomen regale magnum et sanctum esse videatur (‘who are either kings themselves or the dwellers in a kingdom, as the name of king seems to them grandiose and venerable’). Rome needs a general with the same attributes, and Pompeius Magnus is an obvious choice: Gruber (1988) 24. In fact, simply by an inversion of regale and magnum in the cited Latin – ut iis nomen magnum regale et sanctum esse videatur = ‘as the name of Pompey (= Magnus) seems to them royal and venerable’ – Pompey turns into a divinely anointed king!

    44 This note is based on Gildenhard (2011) 264-65.

    45 Welch (2005) 320-21.


    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.

    dēlābor, -lābī, lāpsus sum, [dē + labor], 3, dep.: glide down, slip down, descend; come down, sink, fall.

    intueor, -ērī, intuitus sum, [in + tueor], 2, dep.: look upon, gaze at; contemplate, consider; admire, wonder at.

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

    continentia, -ae, [continēns], f.: restraint, self-restraint, self-control; self-mastery, temperance.

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

    incrēdibilis, -e, [in- + crēdibilis], adj.: beyond belief, incredible, extraordinary, unparalleled.

    falsō [falsus], adv.: falsely, untruly, erroneously.

    splendor, -ōris, [cf. splendeō], m.: brightness, brilliancy; splendor, dignity, eminence, honor.

    temperantia, -ae, [temperāns], f.: moderation, discretion, self-control, temperance.

    magistrātus, -ūs, [magister], m.: office of magistrate, civil office, magistracy; by metonymy, magistrate, public officer.

    aditus, -ūs, [adeō], m.: a going to, approach, access; way of approach, entrance, avenue, passage; arrival.

    querimōnia, -ae, [queror], f.: complaining, lamentation; complaint, accusation, charge, reproach.

    excellō, -ere, excelluī, excelsum, 3, a. and n.: be eminent; be superior, excel, surpass.

    facilitās, -ātis, [facilis], f.: ease, readiness, facility; affability, courtesy.

    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/41