Contexts and Paratexts

Character Assassination as a Means of Politics in Late-Republican Rome | The Antagonists: Cicero and Antony | The Philippics: Background, Dates of Composition, Corpus and Title | The Wider Corpus and the Title

1.1 (Character) Assassination as a Means of Politics in Late-Republican Rome

The convulsive showdown between Cicero (berating) and Antony (beheading) is just one episode in a long series of violent confrontations between members of Rome’s ruling elite that eventually resulted in the collapse of the republican commonwealth. But the ‘extremist’ politics of Cicero and Antony (and their generation) that aimed at the complete verbal and/or physical annihilation of a peer-turned-enemy, was a fairly recent phenomenon in Roman history. While we should not imagine early and mid-republican Rome as a conflict-free zone where sober ancestors beholden to a set of peasant values practised consensual politics in happy harmony, the murderous savagery of civil warfare, so familiar from the last generation of the Roman republic, did not really take off until the second half of the second century BCE. True, narratives that bemoan a decline in personal and political morality began to circulate from c. 200 BCE onwards. This was (not coincidentally) the time when Rome’s imperial success and exploitation started to take off in earnest and resulted in increasing inequalities in wealth within Rome’s ruling elite, which opened up novel possibilities for specific individuals to accumulate degrees of wealth and political power difficult to accommodate within an oligarchic system. But one could do worse than single out 133 BCE as the moment in time when the fabric of Rome’s political culture first started to unravel violently: in that year, the pontifex maximus and ordinary senator Scipio Nasica, unaided by the consuls, took charge of the murder of one of the tribunes of the plebs, Tiberius Gracchus, and around three hundred of his supporters, on the suspicion that he aimed for tyranny.

In a commonwealth fundamentally grounded in power sharing, consensus politics, and default friendship among members of the ruling elite — but also with a pronounced ethics of revenge — the phenomenon of political murder proved deeply divisive.[1]

It was the moment when Romans first started to become deadly serious about turning ‘adversaries’ into ‘enemies’ — to use a distinction recently made by Michael Ignatieff.[2]

From then on, political measures designed to validate ‘extremist’ politics (such as the so-called ‘hostis declaration’, the decision to regard a Roman citizen as an external enemy), which amounted to the ‘othering’ of part of the self, coincided with repeated episodes of outright civil war. The series of violent clashes (Marius with Sulla, Caesar with Pompey, Cicero and the senate with Mark Antony, to name only the most obvious) only ended in 31 BCE at the battle of Actium between Caesar Octavianus and Antony and Cleopatra. This led to the establishment of the principate, an autocratic form of government prefigured, not least, by the dictatorships of Sulla and Caesar. Philippic 2 is an explosive exhibit of ‘the Roman culture of civil conflict’[3] — composed in the brief period of republican revival that began with the murder of Caesar in March 44 and ended with the battle of Philippi in Northern Greece in October 42, where Antony and Caesar Octavianus triumphed over Caesar’s foremost assassins, Brutus and Cassius. Philippi sounded the ultimate death knell of politics in a republican key. Previously, Cicero’s Philippics, not least Philippic 2, arguably hastened along the final demise of the libera res publica by advocating a second act of (prospective) tyrannicide and pushing the senate into an armed confrontation with Antony that turned out to be ill-advised. (Savour the paradox!)

1.2 The Antagonists: Cicero and Antony

Born in 106 BCE, Cicero reached political maturity during the reign of Sulla (82–79 BCE), who first introduced proscriptions (the drafting of ‘kill lists’) into Rome’s political repertory, and lost his life in 43 BCE when the triumvirs resorted once more to the same measure (or, in the words of Seneca the Elder, Suasoria 6.3, when ‘Sulla’s thirst for citizen blood returned to the state’ (civilis sanguinis Sullana sitis in civitatem redit). The autobiography that emerges from Cicero’s oratorical self-fashioning throughout his career as a public speaker reflects the tumultuous historical context in which he was operating. The following six stages can be distinguished:

  1. c. 81–66 BCE: in his early defence speeches Cicero adopts the stance of the inexperienced novice, who, in the name of justice, dares to speak truth to power and gradually rises to the top. This early period culminates in the speeches against Verres, who stood accused of imperial exploitation, through which he dethroned Hortensius (a part of Verres’ defence team) as ‘king of the courts’. 
  2. In his first political speech the De Imperio Gnaei Pompeior Pro Lege Manilia delivered in 66 BCE, the year he held the praetorship (the second highest political office after the consulship), Cicero promotes himself as the ‘new man made good’, who puts himself at the service of the commonwealth. 
  3. He follows up on this with the consular ethos (optimate or popularis, as the occasion demanded) he projects in the orations he gave during and shortly after his consulship (63–59 BCE) — the apex of his political ambitions, which tragically also resulted in his first devastating career break: in 58 BCE, Cicero was driven into exile for his illegal execution of the Catilinarians without trial. 
  4. Upon his return in 57 BCE, he tries to regain lost political prestige by adopting a ‘L’État, c’est moi’ [‘The state am I’] posture, starting with his two speeches of thanks-giving to the senate and the people for his recall and culminating in the pro Milone (52 BCE). Soon after the pro Milone, Cicero left Rome on a pro-consular appointment in the Near East and returned just shortly before the outbreak of civil war. 
  5. With a dictator in charge, Cicero turns himself into a principled republican, who struggles to find, but manages to assert, a meaningful voice in the presence of autocratic omnipotence: all three speeches he delivered before Caesar — the pro Marcello and pro Ligario in 46; and the pro Rege Deiotaro in 45 — testify to his republican convictions (but also his willingness to enter into dialogue with the dictator), though the mood of the orations progressively darkens. 
  6. After Caesar’s assassination, Cicero, in his Philippics(1–14, dating to 44–43 BCE), casts himself in the role of an ardent patriot, who tries to rally the senate and the people under the slogan ‘give me liberty or give me death’. Philippic 2 thus belongs to the last phase of Cicero’s career, leading up to — indeed helping to bring about — his murder.[4]


Born in 83 or 82 BCE, Antony, unlike Cicero, was not a homo novus:[5]the gens Antonia belonged to the nobility (though was not of patrician origins). The most illustrious representative of the family clan was Antony’s grandfather, the eponymous Marcus Antonius (I), one of the consuls of 99 BCE and immortalized by Cicero as one of the two principal interlocutors in his dialogue On the Ideal Orator (de Oratore). The next generation failed to live up to his lofty standards: Marcus Antonius (II), son of Marcus Antonius (I) and father of our Mark Antony did reach the praetorship in 74, but soon after suffered a fatal career break because of military failure followed by bankruptcy. His brother Gaius Antonius Hybrida got chucked out of the senate in 70, though managed a comeback as Cicero’s colleague in the consulship in 63. Cicero quite literally bought his support against Catiline, not least by agreeing to swap pro-consular provincial assignments. But upon his return from Macedonia in 59, Hybrida was dragged into court for his approach to provincial government and went into exile. If Hybrida harboured significant sympathies for Catiline, Antony’s stepfather P. Cornelius Lentulus Sura, one of the consuls of 71, but (just like Antonius Hybrida) stricken off the senatorial register the following year, was one of Catiline’s ringleaders and among those whom Cicero had executed without trial.

Antony therefore had to overcome the failings of the previous generation of Antonii, but he could rely on the distinction of his grandfather and some family resources, which ‘included the large Antonian clientela and access to wealth, arising both from the family’s business interests in the East and from a possibly lucrative first marriage to Fadia, the daughter of a freedman’.[6]

His talents in the military sphere served as catalyst for a remarkable career. Antony first distinguished himself in service under Gabinius in the Near East (57–55), before joining Caesar in Gaul and becoming one of his most trusted lieutenants.[7]

With the help of Caesar’s patronage, he started on his cursus honorum in Rome, holding the quaestorship in 52 and the tribuneship in 49. The outbreak of civil war then turbo-charged his rise to the top: ‘In the first two years of the Civil War, Caesar twice deputed Antony to serve as his chief representative in Italy during prolonged periods of absence. Caesar did so first in April 49 when he set out for Spain to do battle with Pompey’s legions. From April until Caesar’s return in December, Mark Antony was granted pro-praetorian power by Caesar and entrusted with administering the whole of Italy, although at the time Antony was only a tribune of the plebs…. A year later, in 48–47 Antony’s powers were even more sweeping. As Caesar’s magister equitum during Caesar’s extended absence in Egypt and Asia Minor, Mark Antony exercised control over all of Italy and Rome until Caesar returned in September 47’.[8]

 In the following years, he was busy raising much needed cash for Caesar by ‘liquidating Pompey’s assets by resale’ — a ‘complex financial enterprise’ which he managed to carry off with aplomb and handsome rewards from Caesar in the form of further political offices and advancement.[9]

In the year of Caesar’s death, Antony was consul — but the assassination of his patron left him very much exposed: while he initially tried to reach a compromise with the conspirators and work towards a peaceful resolution of the simmering tensions between Caesarians and republicans, he soon came under pressure from Caesarian hard-liners, and in particular Caesar’s adopted heir Octavianus, who eroded his support among the veterans and other loyalists by adopting a strident stance towards the conspirators. To rally support, shore up his base, and increase his influence, Antony began to pursue a much more confrontational approach that included pronounced pro-Caesarian measures of his own — which brought him into open conflict with Cicero and set the stage for the Philippics.

Cicero did manage to forge an alliance against Antony, consisting of a reluctant senate (under his leadership), the two (Caesarian) consuls of 43 (Aulus Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa) and their armies, and Caesar’s heir Octavianus (and his private army of Caesarian veterans); but his success was short-lived. By the summer of 43, Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus had formed their triumvirate and taken control of Italy. Cicero was one of the first — and certainly the most prominent — victim of their kill list. Despite their successful squashing of the republican opposition, the alliance between Antony and Octavian remained uneasy — and it ultimately broke down entirely in the late 30s BCE. In preparation for the final showdown, Octavian picked up where Cicero left off: with a wholesale propaganda war against the character and (its failings) of his adversary.[10]

At the centre of the effort stood the contention that Antony had lost his Roman ways and had fallen under the evil influence of the queen of Egypt, Cleopatra.[11]After Antony and Cleopatra lost the battle of Actium against Octavian (and his general Agrippa), they fled to Egypt and ended their lives. Here is Shakespeare’s take (Antony and Cleopatra 4.15.52–70):

Mark Antony:

The miserable change now at my end

Lament nor sorrow at, but please your thoughts

In feeding them with those my former fortunes,

Wherein I lived, the greatest prince o’ th’ world,

The noblest, and do now not basely die,

Not cowardly put off my helmet to

My countryman — a Roman by a Roman

Valiantly vanquished. Now my spirit is going.

I can no more.


Noblest of men, woo’t die?

Hast thou no care of me? Shall I abide

In this dull world, which in thy absence is

No better than a sty? O see, my women,

The crown o’ th’ earth doth melt. My lord!

[Antony dies]

O, withered is the garland of the war,

The soldier’s pole is fall’n: young boys and girls

Are level now with men. The odds is gone,

And there is nothing left remarkable

Beneath the visiting moon.

For Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, at least, Mark Antony was the world. As we stride into the Billingsgate that is Philippic 2, it is worth bearing in mind that hardly any politician in history has otherwise been treated more unfairly…

1.3 The Philippics: Background, Dates of Composition, Corpus and Title

Quite a few historians argue, blessed with the benefit of hindsight, that the murder of Caesar simply arrested for a brief and bloody period of time the inevitable transformation of an oligarchic into an autocratic regime at Rome that had long been underway and was finally completed by Octavian. But for those living in the thick of things, the period after the Ides of March 44 was one of high crisis and contingency: everything was suddenly up in the air again, with all options on the table — a reconstituted libera res publica, centered in the senatorial aristocracy; a prolonged descent into civic bloodshed with uncertain outcome; the rise of another autocrat.[12]

Cicero, for one, was overjoyed at Caesar’s assassination (even though he did not seem to have been partial to the conspiracy). But disillusion quickly set in. Antony’s behaviour in particular started to grate on him — and he began to suspect him of trying to assume Caesar’s mantle. Already in April, Cicero gloomily toyed with the idea of leaving Rome for Athens, to visit his son and sit out the year of Antony’s consulship in self-imposed withdrawal from active politics (Att. 14.10.1 = 364 SB; 19 April 44). But soon after he had finally departed in the summer, he changed his mind and decided to return to Rome (Att. 16.7 = 415 SB; 19 August 44).[13]

He arrived back in the capital on 31 August and, finding that the main item on the agenda for the senate meeting the following day was ‘Honours for Caesar’, sent in his apologies, claiming that he was too worn out by travel to attend. Antony, who was behind the motion of heaping further honours on the dead dictator, took this as a personal insult and furiously attacked Cicero in absentia during the meeting. Cicero replied at the senate meeting on the following day (2 September) with an oration that would become his first Philippic and constitutes a masterpiece of passive-aggressive insinuation.[14]

Antony stewed on this over the next fortnight or so and then burst into a tirade against Cicero during the senate meeting on 19 September. Philippic 2 pretends to be a spontaneous riposte to Antony’s vituperations (with Antony still on hand to be put on the spot — in fact, it was Cicero who was not present on the day!) but was actually composed and edited in the aftermath of the meeting. In Philippic 5, Cicero himself gives an account of the verbal sparring between himself and Antony in September 44 (5.19–20):[15]

Huc nisi venirem Kalendis Septembribus, fabros se missurum et domum meam disturbaturum esse dixit. Magna res, credo, agebatur: de supplicatione referebat. veni postridie: ipse non venit. locutus sum de re publica, minus equidem libere quam mea consuetudo, liberius tamen quam periculi minae postulabant. at ille homo vehemens et violentus, qui hanc consuetudinem libere dicendi excluderet … inimicitias mihi denuntiavit; adesse in senatum iussit a. d. XIII Kalendas Octobris. ipse interea septemdecim dies de me in Tiburtino Scipionis declamitavit, sitim quaerens; haec enim ei causa esse declamandi solet. cum is dies quo me adesse iusserat venisset, tum vero agmine quadrato in aedem Concordiae venit atque in me absentem orationem ex ore impurissimo evomuit. quo die, si per amicos mihi cupienti in senatum venire licuisset, caedis initium fecisset a me; sic enim statuerat.

[If I did not come here on the Kalends of September (= 1 September) he said he would send workmen to vandalize my house. Important business was on the agenda, I seem to remember: discussion of a public thanksgiving! I came the following day (= 2 September): he himself didn’t. I spoke on the commonwealth — less freely, for sure, than I am accustomed to, though more freely than his threats of danger warranted. Then this man of vehemence and violence, who wished to ban this custom of free speech, … declared me his personal enmity and ordered me to be present in the senate on 19 September. Meanwhile he spent seventeen days declaiming about me in Scipio’s villa at Tibur, seeking to work up a thirst — his usual reason for declaiming. When the day on which he had ordered me to be present came, he entered the Temple of Concord with his bodyguard in battle formation and vomited from that foulest of mouths a speech against me in my absence. If my friends had allowed me to come to the senate on that day as I wished, he would have started his slaughter with me; that was his resolve.]

Cicero here mocks Antony’s rigorous rhetorical exercises in the run-up to the rant he unleashed on 19 September. But at least Antony delivered his speech in person — unlike Cicero. While posturing as an impromptu response, Philippic 2 is, rather, a long-deferred written response, carefully drafted (and edited) over several weeks and (as far as we can tell) never orally performed in the senate.

The cited passage from Philippic 5 contains an implicit apology for this unusual practice: Cicero claims that had he been present, he would not have had the opportunity to reply since he would have been killed in cold-blood.

Cicero attaches a draft of the oration to a letter to Atticus written on 25 October, wondering when (if ever) the moment for wider circulation might come (Att. 15.13 = 416 SB):

orationem tibi misi. eius custodiendae et proferendae arbitrium tuum. sed quando illum diem cum tu edendam putes?

[I am sending you the speech, to be kept back and put out at your discretion. But when shall we see the day when you will think proper to publish it?]

By 5 November 44, Atticus had read the speech and sent Cicero some comments, suggestions, and criticisms to which Cicero responded in turn.[16]

Overall, then, as Sussman (1994: 54) puts it: ‘the characterization of Antony was painstakingly premeditated and the speech itself is a consummate piece of craftsmanship’. At the same time, the long process of gestation also shows how difficult it was for Cicero to find a voice (and make it heard). Even the final product, if one reads between the lines of the invective bluster, shows up Antony as a frightfully powerful adversary, capable and competent in equal measure, a power broker of the first order — if perhaps no Julius Caesar. Indeed, ‘maybe the only glove that C really lands on him is the easy shot of billing him as a JC clone, one helluva disappointment after the real thing’.[17]

1.4 The Wider Corpus and the Title

Cicero finally disseminated the text more widely in late November or early December.[18]He was now fully committed to three interrelated objectives: to drag a reluctant senate into a military confrontation with Antony, whom he configured as the new tyrant-in-waiting; to act as self-appointed mentor of Octavian, who was courting Cicero as an influential establishment figure, and thereby ensure his support for the traditional order; and most importantly to restore the senatorial regime to power.

Over the next few months, Cicero weighed in with twelve more speeches against Antony.[19]On 20 December 44, he addressed both the senate (Phil.3) and the people (Phil.4) and did so again on 1 January 43 (Phil.5, to the senate; Phil.6, to the people). The remaining eight Philippics were all delivered in the senate: Phil.7 (mid-January 43), Phil.8 (4 February 43), Phil.9 and 10 (both in early February 43), Phil.11 (end of February 43), Phil.12 (beginning of March 43), Phil.13 (20 March 43), and Phil.14 (21 April 43). All seem to have been published rapidly (Kelly 2008).

The last intervention occurred just after news had reached Rome of the battle of Forum Gallorum near Mutina (14/15 April 43). While the ‘senatorial’ alliance that Cicero helped put together against Antony won this encounter as well as a follow-up battle on 21 April at Mutina, the victories turned out to be temporary: soon after, Caesar Octavianus switched sides and Cicero was history.[20]

 By choosing Philippicsas the label for his last oratorical efforts, he preternaturally seems to have known where he was heading.

The name Philippics alludes to the corpus of speeches that the Athenian orator Demosthenes (384–322 BCE) delivered against Philip II of Macedon (382–336 BCE), the father of Alexander the Great, who threatened to invade the Greek peninsula from the North and ‘enslave’ the Greek city-states, in particular Athens. He realized his ambitions after winning the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, and Demosthenes’ oratorical efforts against Philip acquired an iconic status as an eloquent stand on behalf of liberty against tyranny and oppression. In the 40s, Demosthenes more generally had become a prominent point of reference for Cicero’s theorizing on oratory, and he began to think of himself as the Roman equivalent (Wooten 1983: 49).

The label Philippics for the set of speeches against Antony deftly extended the affinities he felt with Demosthenes to the sphere of politics and helped to endow Cicero’s endeavours with historical prestige. It suggests an analogy: just as Demosthenes fought for the freedom of the Greeks against Philip, the Macedonian tyrant, so Cicero was fighting for the freedom of the Romans against Mark Antony, the would-be tyrant of Rome. 

When, precisely, he started to conceive of the speeches against Antony as a thematically unified set in conscious imitation of Demosthenes’ resistance to Philip II is impossible to reconstruct; it certainly happened while the corpus was still evolving, but seemingly some time after the initial two interventions were first drafted. In a letter written to Cicero (Brut. 2.3.4 = 2 SB; 1 April 43), written after perusal of Philippic 5 and 7, Brutus praises Cicero for his spirit (animus) and his genius (ingenium) before signing off on the label Philippics that Cicero himself had proposed, half in jest (because of its potentially presumptuous implications): iam concedo ut vel Philippici vocentur, quod tu quadam epistula iocans scripsisti (‘I am now willing to let them be called by the name of ‘Philippics’, as you jestingly suggested in one of your letters’).[21]

In the letter to Atticus that accompanied a draft of what would turn into Philippic 2, Cicero does not yet use the label, though one could argue that the speech already manifests a Demosthenic flavour: ‘in the Philippics, beginning with the Second Philippic, one sees the first genuine attempt on Cicero’s part to imitate Demosthenes’ use of style and argumentation. After Antony’s furious attack on him in the senate on 19 September, Cicero realized that reconciliation was not possible and that he was engaged in a death struggle to preserve the only form of government in which he himself could function effectively (cf. Letters to Friends 12.2). Moreover, Antony had attacked Cicero’s whole career, as a politician, as an orator, and as a man; and Cicero realized that his reply had to be a defence of his entire life. Less than two years before, Cicero had put his hand to a Latin translation of Demosthenes’ speech On the Crown. He had already come to think of himself, both as an orator and as a politician, in terms of Demosthenes’.[22]

You may want to ask yourself: does this analogy mean the speeches were pre-destined to make a posthumous hero out of Cicero (as they did of Demosthenes) but also doomed to seal permanent political failure? Though unlike Demosthenes’, Cicero’s Freedom Speech couldn’t even turn up and make its Big Moment. Even within its own corpus, Philippic 2 is unusual: ‘the speech is in fact something of an anomaly within the collection as a whole. Its function as invective means that it contains little of the deliberate style of oratory found elsewhere in the Philippics; and with a total of 119 sections it is more than twice as long as any of the other speeches’ (Hall 2002: 275).

 See also Wooten (1983: 156): ‘… the primary aim of Philippic II is to establish firmly the character of the major participants in the conflict, very much like the first speech in the second action against Verres. As in this speech and as in Demosthenes’ Philippics and Olynthiacs, narrative is used to discredit the character of the opponent. There is nothing in the speech about what actions should be taken to oppose Antony, nothing about Cicero’s own political program, no rational analysis of the situation. Emotional appeals are used to galvanize Cicero’s supporters, and vilification of character is used to set the stage for the exposition of the specific proposals that Cicero would eventually make’ (from the third Philippic onwards).

Its special status raises all sorts of questions: do the rest of the speeches step around or recycle it, only this time for real in the public spaces of the city? Has Cicero integrated Philippic 2 in with the rest or does it stick out like a surgically removed thumb? Might it be the dustbin for everything he didn’t get into the rest — highlights too juicy to chuck away?


[1]On default friendship: you might get a thought-provoking kick out of reading the exchange of letters between Cicero and Antony attached to Cicero’s Letter to Atticus 14.13 = 367 SB, dating to 26 April 44 BCE.

[2]See Michael Ignatieff, ‘Enemies vs. Adversaries’,, an op-ed piece for The New York Times à propos the emergence of new forms of radical or even extremist politics across the globe, including Western democracies: ‘For democracies [and, one might add, the Roman republic] to work, politicians need to respect the difference between an enemy and an adversary. An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement’.

[3]For the phrase (and a gloss), see the conference announcement by Wolfgang Havener, ‘A Culture of Civil War? — bellum civile in the Late Republic and the Early Principate’, 

[4]Writing in the early imperial period, Seneca the Elder (54 BCE–39 CE) put together collections of materials for declamatory exercises. Two of his Suasoriaedeal with the circumstances of Cicero’s death: Suasoria6 debates whether Cicero should have begged Antony’s pardon if the opportunity had presented itself (and concludes with a collection of accounts of his actual death, including Livy’s); Suasoria7 explores the (again fictional) scenario: ‘Antony Promises To Spare Cicero’s Life If He Burns His Writings: Cicero Deliberates Whether To Do So’. Debate Away!

[5]For his date of birth (disputed), see Denniston (1926: 100).

[6]Welch (1995: 184), with further bibliography. She proceeds to offer the following character sketch of Mark Antony: ‘Bluff good humour, moderate intelligence, at least a passing interest in literature, and an ability to be the life and soul of a social gathering all contributed to make him a charming companion and to bind many important people to him. He had a lieutenant’s ability to follow orders and a willingness to listen to advice, even (one might say especially) from intelligent women. These attributes made Antony able to handle some situations very well. There was a more important side to his personality, however, which contributed to his political survival. Antony was ruthless in his quest for pre-eminence’.

[7]Cicero covers these chapters of Antony’s career in Phil. 2.48: see below.

[8]Ramsey (2004: 162).

[9]Ramsey (2004), with citations from 172.

[10]Scott (1933).

[12]Excellent accounts of this period include the incisive treatment by Gotter (1996), to which this entire commentary is much indebted, and (on a broader canvass) Osgood (2018).

[13]See Ramsey (2001) for discussion of the circumstances.

[14]Stevenson (2009), Usher (2010).

[15]See also Fam. 10.2 = 341 SB (to Plancus, c. 19 September 44 BCE): Meum studium honori tuo pro necessitudine nostra non defuisset si aut tuto in senatum aut honeste venire potuissem; sed nec sine periculo quisquam libere de re publica sentiens versari potest in summa impunitate gladiorum nec nostrae dignitatis videtur esse ibi sententiam de re publica dicere ubi me et melius et propius audiant armati quam senatores(‘As a friend I should not have failed to support the decree in your honour, had I been able to enter the Senate in security and dignity. But it is dangerous for any man of independent political views to move about in public when swords are drawn with complete impunity; and it does not seem to comport with my dignity to make a speech in a House where men-at-arms would hear me better and at shorter distance than members’).

[16]See Att. 16.11 = 420 SB: nostrum opus tibi probari laetor; ex quo ἄνϑη ipsa posuisti, quae mihi florentiora sunt visa tuo iudicio… — ‘I am glad you like my work. You have quoted the very gems, and your good opinion makes them sparkle the brighter in my eyes…’).

[17]John Henderson, per litteras.

[18]See Hall (2002: 275, n. 6): ‘While a written text of the speech was certainly being prepared in late October 44 (Att. 15.13.1–2; 15.13a.3; 16.11.1–2), the precise date of its circulation is not known. Early December seems plausible, given Antony’s departure for Cisalpine Gaul at the end of November’.

[19]Stroh (1982), followed by Manuwald (2008), argues that they form a cycle of twelve speeches in imitation of Demosthenes in their own right, to which Philippic 1 and 2 were later added.

[20]For a more detailed account of the historical context for each individual speech (and the nature of its intervention) see Manuwald (2007: 9–31: ‘2.1. Events in 44–43 BCE’).

[21]See also Brut. 2.4.2 = 4 SB (Cicero to Brutus, 12 April 43): haec ad te oratio perferetur, quoniam video delectari Philippicis nostris(‘The speech [= Philippic 11] will be sent to you, since I see you enjoy my Philippics’).

[22]Wooten (1983: 50–51). (In his speech On the Crown, Demosthenes defended a fellow Athenian citizen Ctesiphon who had been dragged into court by Demosthenes’ rival Aeschines for daring to propose that Demosthenes ought to be honoured with a civic crown for outstanding services to the city; Demosthenes used this occasion to justify his person and his politics.) NB: you might want to question Wooten’s dogmatism: ‘…realized that…’, ‘Cicero realized…’ — as if Cicero did not have any other options or might not have misjudged the situation. Likewise, imitation of his Greek models does not preclude emulation, not least in the area of hard-hitting verbal abuse. See Worman (2008: 321–22): ‘Many of Cicero’s most effective character assassinations rely on demonstrating that his opponents fail miserably in this bodily restraint. His extravagant portrait in the Philippics of Antony’s appetitive outrages echoes in much more extreme form the excesses … that Demosthenes attributes to his opponents, most particularly Aeschines but also Meidias, Androtion and, of course, Philip’.

Suggested Citation

Ingo Gildenhard, Cicero: Philippic 2.44–50, 78–92, 100–119. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2020. ISBN: 978-1-947822-12-2