Iam acceptā in Pontō calamitāte ex eō proeliō, dē quō vōs paulō ante invītus admonuī, cum sociī pertimuissent, hostium opēs animīque crēvissent, satis fīrmum praesidium prōvincia nōn habēret, āmīsissētis Asiam, Quirītēs, nisi ad ipsum discrīmen eius temporis dīvīnitus Cn. Pompēium ad eās regiōnēs fortuna populī Rōmānī attulisset. Huius adventus et Mithridātem īnsolitā īnflammātum victōriā continuit et Tigrānem māgnīs cōpiīs minitantem Asiae retardāvit. Et quisquam dubitābit, quid virtūte perfectūrus sit, quī tantum auctōritāte perfēcerit? aut quam facile imperiō atque exercitū sociōs et vectīgālia cōnservātūrus sit, quī ipsō nōmine ac rūmōre dēfenderit?

    45: Case study II: Pompey’s auctoritas and psychological warfare

    As his second case study to illustrate Pompey’s auctoritas, Cicero chooses the impact of his presence in Asia after Mithridates’ crushing defeat of the Roman forces under the command of C. Triarius at the battle of Zela in 67 BC...[full essay]

    Study Questions:

    • What kind of construction is accepta in Ponto calamitate?
    • What kind of ablative is paulo?
    • Parse pertimuissent, crevissent and haberet.
    • Specify and explain the mood and tense of amisissetis and attulisset.
    • What form is divinitus? What is the subject of the nisi-clause?
    • What kind of ablative is magnis copiis?
    • Parse minitantem.
    • What kind of clauses do quid and quam introduce?
    • What forms are perfecturus sit and conservaturus sit?
    • Specify and explain the mood of perfecerit and defenderit.
    • What are the accusative objects of defenderit?
    • Explore how Cicero represents the complementary impact of the virtus and the auctoritas of Pompey.

    Stylistic Appreciation:

    How does the syntax of the first sentence reinforce Cicero’s themes and rhetorical agenda?

    Discussion Point:

    What entity/force does Cicero refer to with fortuna populi Romani?

    Iam accepta in Ponto calamitate ex eo proelio, de quo vos paulo ante invitus admonui, cum socii pertimuissent, hostium opes animique crevissent, satis firmum praesidium provincia non haberet, amisissetis Asiam, Quirites, nisi ad ipsum discrimen eius temporis divinitus Cn. Pompeium ad eas regiones fortuna populi Romani attulisset. This is a complex sentence, best taken piece by piece.

    • (i) We begin with an ablative absolute: the participle is accepta and the noun is calamitate. But unlike ‘standard’ ablative absolutes, this one is not self-contained. ex eo proelio belongs to the ablative absolute, just as much as the relative clause de quo vos paulo ante invitus admonui (the antecedent of quo is proelio) and a quick-fire sequence of three asyndetic cum-clauses: (a) cum socii pertimuissent, (b) [cum] hostium opes animique crevissent, (c) [cum] satis firmum praesidium provincia non haberet.
    • (ii) This sets up the main clause: amisissetis Asiam...
    • (iii) amisissetis Asiam forms the apodosis of a conditional sequence and is followed by the protasis, the dependent clause that specifies the condition, here introduced by nisi, which takes us to the end of the sentence (attulisset).

    Overall, this is a highly dramatic syntax – the sentence is designed to generate a sense of crisis, evoke, if counterfactually, an ultimate disaster (the loss of Asia), before resolving the crisis with reference to our hero Pompey. By having the initial ablative absolute used to present the Roman defeat in battle ‘overflow’ into further constructions, Cicero gives an impression of the disastrous repercussions of the military disaster, an effect further enhanced by the use of asyndeton in the sequence of cum-clauses (and the elision of the conjunction after the first), which lead up to the centre of the sentence: the main clause amisissetis Asiam and a direct address to the audience (Quirites). By inverting the usual order of the conditional sequence (protasis followed by apodosis), Cicero can use the negated protasis to specify why the loss of Asia ultimately did not happen: according to him, it was the arrival of Pompey in the nick of time that turned an imminent into an averted catastrophe. Great stuff!

    ex eo proelio: the reference is to the battle between the forces of Mithridates and a part of the Roman army that Lucullus had left under the command of C. Triarius near the city of Zela in 67 BC (the same year in which Pompey held the command against the pirates). The Romans were soundly defeated.

    paulo ante: ante is an adverb, preceded by an ablative of the measure of difference: a little bit (paulo) earlier (ante). Cicero already touched upon the defeat in § 25.

    invitus: even though it happens to serve his rhetorical agenda, Cicero is keen to stress, for obvious reasons, that he mentions this military disaster only with the greatest reluctance.

    nisi ad ipsum discrimen eius temporis divinitus Cn. Pompeium ad eas regiones fortuna populi Romani attulisset: Cicero ascribes Pompey’s presence in the region to divine agency. fortuna here should probably be capitalized: see our discussion of the phrase fortuna rei publicae in § 28. Together with the adverb divinitus, which means something akin to ‘by divine providence or influence’, the phrase Fortuna populi Romani implies that the appointment of Pompey to his command against the pirates happened according to a supernatural plan, chartered by Rome’s patron deity.

    ad ipsum discrimen eius temporis: a somewhat pleonastic expression of time to enhance the significance of the crisis: ipsum discrimen refers to the actual moment of crisis, eius temporis to the larger period of time within which it occurred.

    Huius adventus et Mithridatem insolita inflatum victoria continuit et Tigranem magnis copiis minitantem Asiae retardavit.: The subject of the sentence is adventus – one of the various ‘arrivals’ by Pompey (who is of course meant with the demonstrative pronoun huius) that Cicero recalls at different moments in the speech: see also §§ 13 and 30. It goes with both verbs (continuit, retardavit), each with its own accusative object (Mithridatem, Tigranem). Both enemies of Rome receive further specification by means of a participle construction. Cicero portrays Mithridates as ‘puffed up’ (inflatum) because of his rare victory (insolita ... victoria is an ablative of cause), whereas Tigranes is threatening Asia with his troops: minitor, a deponent verb, takes the dative of the person or object under threat, here the Roman province of Asia (Asiae). magnis copiis is an instrumental ablative.

    The sentence here reiterates an observation already made in § 13: cuius adventu ipso atque nomine, tametsi ille ad maritimum bellum venerit, tamen impetus hostium repressos esse intellegunt [sc. Rome’s friends and allies in the region] ac retardatos (‘the fact of his arrival, his reputation alone, although it is for a naval war that he has come, they feel to have checked and restrained the onslaughts of their foes’).

    Et quisquam dubitabit, quid virtute perfecturus sit, qui tantum auctoritate perfecerit? aut quam facile imperio atque exercitu socios et vectigalia conservaturus sit, qui ipso nomine ac rumore defenderit?: The main clause is et quisquam dubitabit, which governs two indirect questions each leading up to a relative clause of characteristic.

    Main Clause Indirect questions Relative clauses of characteristic
    Et quisquam dubitabit (i) quid virtute perfecturus sit (i) qui tantum auctoritate perfecerit
    (ii) quam facile imperio atque exercitu socios et vectigalia conservaturus sit (ii) qui ipso nomine ac rumore defenderit

    The subject of the two verbs in the indirect question (perfecturus sit, conservaturus sit) and the relative clauses of characteristic (perfecerit, defenderit) is Pompey.

    perfecturus sit ... conservaturus sit: indirect questions in Latin take the subjunctive, but here the actions to which Cicero is referring lie in the future – and Latin does not have a straightforward future subjunctive. To indicate future intent, he therefore uses the so-called ‘future active periphrastic subjunctive’, which consists of the future active participle form (perfecturus, conservaturus; note that Latin doesn’t have a future passive participle) and the present subjunctive of sum (sit). (It’s called ‘periphrastic’ because separate words, rather than inflection, are being used to express the grammatical form.) The problem does not arise in the relative clauses of characteristic: here Cicero is referring to past deeds and can use the perfect subjunctive (perfecerit, defenderit).

    virtute ... auctoritate ... imperio atque exercitu ... nomine ac rumore: ablatives of means or instrument.


    Pontus, -ī, [Πόντος], m.: Pontus, a large country in the northeastern part of Asia Minor, south of the Pontus Euxinus, from which it received its name.

    calamitās, -ātis, f.: loss, damage, hurt; calamity, misfortune, ruin, disaster, adversity.

    invītus, -a, -um, adj.: unwilling, reluctant, against the will.

    admoneō, -ēre, -uī, -itum, [ad + moneō], 2, a.: remind, suggest; advise, urge, warn; bid.

    pertimēscō, -ere, pertimuī, —, [per + timēscō], 3, inch.: be greatly alarmed, be much frightened; fear greatly, be much afraid of.

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

    Asia, -ae, [Ἀσία], f.: Asia, usually referring to Asia Minor.

    Quirītēs, -ium, [Curēs, an ancient town of the Sabines], m., pl.: originally people of Cures; after the union of the Sabines with the Romans, Roman citizens, Quirītēs; sometimes in sing., Quirīs, -ītis, a Roman citizen, Quirite.

    discrīmen, -inis, [discernō], n.: intervening space, interval; separation, division; distinction, difference; turning point, decisive moment, crisis; peril, danger, hazard.

    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.

    dīvīnitus [dīvīnus], adv.: divinely, by inspiration; marvelously, admirably.

    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.

    fortūna, -ae, [fors], f.: chance, luck, fate, fortune; condition, lot, circumstances; prosperity, success; misfortune, adversity; by metonymy, possessions, property; personified, Goddess of Fortune, Fortune. per fōrtūnās, for heaven's sake!

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

    adventus, -ūs, [adveniō], m.: a coming, approach; arrival; presence.

    Mithridātēs, -is, [= Μιθριδάτης, name of Persian origin, = given to Mithras, gift to the Sun], m.: Mithridātēs, name of several kings of Pontus, of whom the best known is Mithridātēs Eupatōr, also called the Great. He waged war with Rome for many years. He committed suicide, B.C. 63. Imp. P. viii. et al.

    īnsolitus, -a, -um, [in- + solitus], adj.: unaccustomed, unwonted, unusual; uncommon, strange.

    īnflō, -āre, āvī, -ātum, [in + flō], 1, a.: blow into, breathe upon; inspire; puff up, elate.

    Tigrānēs, -is, [Τιγράνης], m.: Tigrānēs, king of Armenia and neighboring regions, and son-in-law of Mithridates, whom he assisted in the wars with Rome. He surrendered to Pompey B.C. 66, who left him the government of Armenia proper and the title of king. Imp. P. ii. et al.

    minitor, -ārī, -ātus sum, [freq. of minor], 1, dep.: keep threatening, threaten, menace.

    retardō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [re- + tardō, impede], 1, a. and n.: keep back, hinder, impede; delay, tarry.

    perficiō, -ficere, -fēcī, -fectum, fut. part. perfectūrus, [per + faciō], 3, a.: carry through, complete, accomplish; bring about, cause, effect.

    tantum [tantus], adv.: so much, so greatly, to such a degree; only so much, only, merely.

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

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

    cōnservō, -āre, -āvī, -ātum, [com- + servō], 1, a.: preserve, keep safe, keep, maintain, save; keep intact, observe, guard.

    rūmor, -ōris, m.: report, rumor, common talk; current opinion, reputation.

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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/45