Philippics 2.78 essay

In March 45, Antony left Narbo in Southern Gaul for a surprise visit to Rome that caused some consternation in the city, not least because the reasons for his arrival in the capital remained unclear. Some feared that he had come as a henchman of Caesar, perhaps to prepare the ground for reprisals or even proscriptions. Cicero comments on the situation in a letter to Atticus (12.19.2 = 257 SB, 14 March 45), mentioning that Balbus and Oppius, two of Caesar’s chief lieutenants, wrote to him with reassurances that Antony’s sudden appearance in Rome was nothing to worry about. In the event, Antony felt obliged to announce publicly that he arrived on personal business and not at the behest of Caesar. In §§ 77–78a, Cicero elaborates on what this ‘personal business’ consisted in, suggesting that Antony desired to tell his wife Fulvia that he had stopped seeing his mistress; and that he was still struggling to service his debts and wanted to prevent the selling of his sureties. (He only mentions the latter when he speculates about Antony’s motives for the surprise visit in a letter to Atticus 12.18a.1 = 256 SB: … sed tamen opinor propter praedes suos accucurrisse — ‘… but I imagine he has hurried up to save his sureties’.)

Much of Cicero’s account — especially Antony’s confession of love to his wife Fulvia — is held in a low, comic key, and Cicero himself dismisses the affair, after emphasizing how much grievance and upset it caused to everyone else in Rome and Italy, as trifles (nugae) — a mere warm-up act for far more serious matters (maiora). The set text picks up halfway through § 78, when Antony (we are now in the summer of 45) left Rome again to meet Caesar on his way back from Spain, where he squashed the last republican resistance. Cicero alleges that there had been a cooling off in their relationship (§§ 71–77), but Antony’s ‘credentials’ (bankruptcy and moral depravity) were such that Caesar was overjoyed to re-establish friendly terms and make Antony the renewed beneficiary of his patronage. The paragraph thus also contains yet another scathing indictment of Caesar’s malign politics of friendship. It is important to note, however, that the estrangement between Caesar and Antony in 46–45 BCE (and hence also the reconciliation) is a malicious fiction put into circulation by Cicero to desparage Antony. Once we discount his invective aspersions all the evidence points to continuing excellent relations between Caesar and one of his most trusted lieutenants, who was in charge of liquidating Pompey’s assets during this period, a challenging task designed to raise much needed cash for Caesar’s military operations.