Et quoniam auctōritās quoque in bellīs administrandīs multum atque in imperiō mīlitārī valet, certē nēminī dubium est, quīn eā rē īdem ille imperātor plurimum possit. Vehementer autem pertinēre ad bella administranda, quid hostēs, quid sociī dē imperātōribus nostrīs exīstiment, quis ignōrat, cum sciāmus hominēs, in tantīs rēbus ut aut contemnant aut metuant aut ōderint aut ament, opīniōne nōn minus et fāmā quam aliquā ratiōne certā commovērī? Quod igitur nōmen umquam in orbe terrārum clārius fuit? cuius rēs gestae parēs? Dē quō homine vōs, id quod maximē facit auctōritātem, tanta et tam praeclāra iūdicia fēcistis?

    43: Rumour and renown: Pompey’s auctoritas

    Cicero here reaches the third of the four qualities that distinguish his perfect general: auctoritas...[full essay]

    Study Questions:

    • Explain the grammar and syntax of multum and plurimum.
    • What kind of ablative is ea re?
    • Identify the subject accusative and the infinitive of the indirect statement introduced by ignorat.
    • Identify and explain the mood of existiment.
    • What kind of clause does ut introduce?
    • What kind of ablative are opinione, fama, and ratione?
    • Identify the subject accusative and the infinitive of the indirect statement introduced by sciamus.
    • Parse clarius.
    • What verb form has to be supplied in the clause cuius res gestae pares?
    • What is auctoritas? How does it differ from potestas or imperium? Is Cicero right to claim that the reputation/prestige of the general matters in warfare?

    Stylistic Appreciation:

    In the indirect statement dependent on sciamus Cicero switches into an ‘anthropological register’ with a statement about how humans behave in extreme situations. What is the rhetorical effect of this switch?

    Discussion Point:

    Can you think of figures in your life who are formally invested with power of one sort or another because of their social role or office (= potestas) but have little or no auctoritas (‘commanding respect’) – or, conversely, of individuals who do not possess any formal powers but nevertheless command respect and obedience? How would you explain this?

    Et quoniam auctoritas quoque in bellis administrandis multum atque in imperio militari valet, certe nemini dubium est quin ea re idem ille imperator plurimum possit. The main clause is certe nemini dubium est; it is preceded by a causal subordinate clause introduced by quoniam (quoniam ... valet) and followed by a quin-clause. dubium governs the dative nemini: ‘doubtful to nobody’.

    multum: a so-called ‘adverbial accusative’: with certain adjectives such as multus or plurimus (for which see below) the neuter accusative singular serves as adverb; it goes with the verb of the quoniam-clause, i.e. valet.

    quin ... possit: after negated expressions of doubt or hesitation (here the negation is nemini and the expression of doubt dubium), quin is a conjunction meaning ‘that’. Such quin-clauses are in indirect speech and hence take the subjunctive (possit).

    ea re: an ablative of respect that refers back to auctoritas: ‘in this matter’.

    idem ille imperator: the subject of the quin-clause.

    plurimum possit: plurimum, the neuter accusative singular of plurimus (the superlative of plus) is another ‘adverbial accusative’: see above on multum. It goes with possit: note the alliteration. There is a nice step-up in intensity from multum valet to plurimum possit.

    Vehementer autem pertinere ad bella administranda, quid hostes, quid socii de imperatoribus nostris existiment, quis ignorat, cum sciamus homines in tantis rebus, ut aut contemnant aut metuant, aut oderint aut ament, opinione non minus et fama quam aliqua ratione certa commoveri?: The main clause is the question quis ignorat...? ignorat governs an indirect statement with (the impersonal verb) pertinere as infinitive and the quid-clauses functioning as subject accusatives. quis ignorat is followed by a causal cum-clause (cum ... commoveri). It explains why Cicero considers this to be a rhetorical question. The verb of the cum-clause is sciamus, which governs an indirect statement with homines as subject accusative and commoveri as infinitive. ut introduces a result clause set up by tantis.

    ad bella administranda: a gerundive governed by the preposition ad, which here expresses purpose.

    quid hostes: supply de imperatoribus nostris existiment from what follows.

    cum sciamus homines in tantis rebus, ut aut contemnant aut metuant, aut oderint aut ament, opinione non minus et fama quam aliqua ratione certa commoveri?: Cicero here states a generally agreed truth (cf. the first person plural verb sciamus) about human nature: homines, the generic term for ‘human beings’, elevates his discourse to the level of universalizing reflections about humanity, subsuming in the process the two categories he specified previously, i.e. hostes and socii. Notionally, the subject of contemnant, metuant, oderint, and ament is homines, but contemnant and metuant refer back to hostes (enemies despise a weak and are afraid of a strong, authoritative general), whereas oderint and ament pick up socii (allies hate a weak and love a strong, authoritative general). By associating auctoritas with fama and opinio, and contrasting these social phenomena with ratio, Cicero pinpoints the irrational element inherent in auctoritas. (See also the end of § 45, where Cicero affiliates auctoritas with nomen and rumor, all of which are, however influential they might be, less substantial than virtus, imperium, and exercitus.)

    opinione non minus et fama quam aliqua ratione certa: opinione, fama, and ratione are all ablatives of means or instrument.

    Quod igitur nomen umquam in orbe terrarum clarius fuit? quod is an interrogative adjective agreeing with nomen (‘which name...’). The question it introduces is rhetorical. clarius is the comparative form of the adverb. Cicero leaves the comparison implicit: no name is more famous than that of Pompey.

    cuius res gestae pares [sc. fuerunt]? The verb is elided but can easily be supplied from the previous clause. Again Cicero does not spell out the comparison: nobody’s deeds are equal to those of Pompey.

    de quo homine vos, id quod maxime facit auctoritatem, tanta et tam praeclara iudicia fecistis? quo is another interrogative adjective agreeing with homine. The parenthetical id quod maxime facit auctoritatem states a general principle (hence the present tense), which finds its historical application in the main clause (vos tanta et tam praeclara iudicia fecistis). For Cicero’s identification of the populus as a source of special auctoritas, see the Introduction 2.4.


    administrō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [ad + ministrō, from minister], 1, a.: manage, control, handle, administer, regulate; direct, guide, serve.

    multum [multus], adv.: much, greatly, far; often, frequently.

    mīlitāris, -e, [mīles], adj.: of a soldier, of war, warlike, military. rēs mīlitāris, art of war. sīgna mīlitāria, military standards.

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

    vehementer, comp. vehementius, sup. vehementissimē, [vehemēns], adv.: eagerly, impetuously, vehemently; strongly, exceedingly, very much, extremely.

    ignōrō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [cf. ignārus], 1, a. and n.: not know, be unacquainted with, be ignorant.

    opīniō, -ōnis, [opīnor], f.: opinion, supposition, conjecture, expectation. praeter opīniōnem, contrary to expectation, opīniōne celerius, sooner than was expected.

    commoveō, -movēre, -mōvī, -mōtum, [com- + moveō], 2, a.: stir, shake, move, used especially of violent motion; trouble, disturb, disquiet; affect, influence.

    magis [root mag in māgnus], adv.: more, in a greater measure; in a higher degree, far more, rather, in preference.

    praeclārus, -a, -um, [prae + clārus], adj.: very bright; splendid, admirable, excellent; distinguished, famous, illustrious, renowned.

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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.