At the end of the previous paragraph, we left Antony with Caesar in furthest Gaul (54 BCE). Now we have moved on a year: in the summer or fall of 53, Antony returned to Rome to stand for election to the quaestorship. His quest for public office coincided with the hot phase of street brawling between the gangs of Clodius and Milo that ended with the former dead and the latter exiled for his murder. Antony’s role in all of this was marginal at best, but Cicero had his reasons for dwelling on the affair. Antony seems to have blamed him for Clodius’ death — a charge Cicero already rebutted at length in the first half of the speech (2.21–22). § 49 completes the argument by turning the tables on Antony: the one with Clodius’ attempted murder on his CV is Antony, not Cicero. Cicero is at pains to point out yet again that he has no blood on his hands: he has no wish to take credit for any attempt on Clodius’ life, whether it failed (as was the case with Antony’s) or succeeded (Milo’s). There may also have been secondary considerations for returning to Clodius: from the very beginning of the speech, where Cicero imputes to Antony the (perverse) wish to appear more insane than the former tribune (2.1: … furiosior quam Clodius viderere) the two keep company. Any mention of Clodius inevitably also brings to mind Clodius’ spouse Fulvia, who went on to marry Curio after Clodius’ death and then, after Curio died in the civil wars, became Antony’s wife in 46 BCE: she, too, is a major target of invective abuse throughout the speech.

Chronology: the precise moment of Antony’s return to Rome, his activities in the run-up to his election as quaestor, and indeed the year of his quaestorship, are not easy to determine from our (seemingly conflicting) sources. As Linderski and Kaminska-Linderski point out: ‘We do not know exactly when Antonius left Gaul and returned to Rome ad quaesturam petendam but it was in the period of armed clashes between Milo and Clodius who were canvassing respectively for the consulship and the praetorship. As the consuls for 53 were elected only in July or August of that year, the electoral comitia for 52 could only have been summoned, at the earliest, late in August or in September, and Antonius cannot have come to Rome long before that date’ (1974: 216). In their reconstruction of what happened, ‘Antonius came to Rome in 53 with a clear plan to obtain the quaestorship of 52’, but then changed his plans: ‘The Clodius affair caused him to withdraw his candidature for 52 and to stand for 51. On his election in the summer or autumn 52 he hurried to Caesar without waiting for an appropriate senatus consultum’ (223) (see further on § 50 below). Set out schematically, we are dealing with the following likely chronology: 

Late August / September 53

Antony returns to Rome with the intention to stand for the quaestorship

Autumn / Winter 53

Antony gets embroiled in the street-fighting around Clodius and his gang and on one occasion almost kills Clodius; he decides to postpone standing for the quaestorship

18 January 52 + aftermath

Clodius gets killed by Milo’s slaves in a street brawl | this is followed by popular unrest; Pompey is declared consul sine collega

April 52

Trial of Milo, with Cicero acting on behalf of the defence and Antony as a member of the prosecution

Summer / Autumn 52

Antony gets elected to the quaestorship for 51 and right away returns to Caesar in Gaul, without waiting for the passing of the senatorial decree on the assignment of the quaestors to specific provinces, the Senatus Consultum de provinciis quaestorum (Cicero picks up on this in § 50: see below)

5 December 52

The tenure of Antony’s quaestorship begins

Favours and (political) friendships: much in § 49 involves key social protocols that governed aristocratic interaction in republican Rome. Friendship networks and patronage-relations were a big part of how the Roman elite exercised power, resulting in an economy of favours and services received and rendered, frequently with shifting alliances. In order to be a successful patron, it helped to be on good terms with as many other members of the ruling elite as possible. And it often happened that people who disliked each other and had significant run-ins saw themselves helping each other and collaborating at the request of a third party. In the 50s, the triumvirs, and Caesar in particular, twisted Cicero’s arm, forcing him to lend his support to individuals he deemed repulsive and despicable, such as Gabinius. One of the favours that Caesar asked of Cicero was reconciliation with Antony. Cicero obliged (no choice), but here pretends that Antony, on account of the favour he received from Cicero at Caesar’s behest, i.e. support in his candidacy for the quaestorship, tried to return it by having a shot at killing Clodius, one of Cicero’s arch-enemies.