blame, late speeches, oratory

The point of no return. Cicero’s ‘Philippics.’

1. Copy of J. R. King (1878), The Philippic Orations of M. Tullius Cicero from BU Mugar Library. Annotated readers from May 1893 to April 1979.

2a. Modern depictions of Mark Antony:


2b. Silver denarius of Mark Antony, 32 BCE (RRC 543/1). Left: Antony; Armenian tiara behind portrait as an allusion to his conquests in the East. Right: Cleopatra with diadem, in front of the bust, a ship’s bow as an allusion to her war fleet. Image: CRRO. Sources on Cleopatra from CL 206.

3. Cicero, Philippics (1.14-15). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

I feel great anguish that men who have enjoyed the greatest benefits the Roman people can grant did not support the leadership of Lucius Piso in his noble proposal. Did the Roman people elect us to the consulship so that, having been granted so high a position, we should consider the Republic as nothing? Not only did no ex-consul verbally support Piso, no one supported him even by a look. [15] For pity’s sake, what is this voluntary slavery? I admit you had to do something; I do not require that those who speak from the ex-consuls’ bench do as I am doing. Those whose silence I forgive are a different case from those I ask to speak out; I feel sorrow that the Roman people are beginning to think those men suspect, not because they were afraid to live up to their position (which itself would be shameful) but because they all did so for different and individual reasons. This is why I am expressing the immense gratitude I feel to Piso, a man who thought not about what he could do for the Republic, but what he personally ought to do.

4. Cicero, Philippics (1.38). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

Members of the Senate, since I have reaped the rewards of my return, whatever misfortune I may encounter, I have said words which stand as testimony of my steadfastness and you have heard them with attentive kindness. And if the power to speak out frequently falls to my lot, without danger to you or me, I shall use it. If not, to the best of my ability, I shall hold myself in reserve for the Republic rather than for myself. It is enough for me that I have lived long enough for a decent lifespan and to achieve my own fame; if any extra time is granted, it will not have been granted so much to me as to you and the Republic.

5. Cicero, Philippics (2.7). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

Why, the man even read out a letter, which he said that I sent to him, being completely unaware of civilized behaviour and ignorant of how people deal with each other. What man who was even marginally familiar with the way decent men behave ever made public and openly read out letters sent to him by a friend because there was now some quarrel between them?

6. Cicero, Philippics (2.10). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

And even if he is in no sense a consul, either inhis life-style, his governing of the Republic or the way he was elected, I am without debate an ex-consul.

7. Cicero, Philippics (2.20). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011). See See Cicero’s poetry.

And, dear gods, you even wished to be witty at one point, something which does not suit you. In this you should accept a certain amount of blame, for you could have acquired some wit from your mime-actress wife. ‘Let weapons yield to the toga.’ And? Surely they yielded then! But later the toga yielded to your weapons. Let us ask, therefore, whether it was better if weapons of criminals yielded to the freedom of the Roman people or our freedom to your weapons? But I shall not respond more to you about my poetry; I shall only say briefly that you do not understand it, or any literature at all. I have never failed the Republic or my friends, but in every genre of the writings I completed in odd scraps of time, I have worked so that what I wrote in hours while others slept would bring some praise to Rome and be something of use to our youth. But this is not the moment for that subject; let us look at more important subjects.

8. Cicero, Philippics (2.28-29). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

Recall how that sharp man proved me guilty. ‘Right after Caesar was killed,’ he said, ‘Brutus, as he held high his bloody dagger cried out the name of Cicero and congratulated him that freedom had been restored.’ Why me in particular? Because I was in on it? Perhaps he named me because, having achieved something very like my past achievements, he wanted me in particular to witness that he had rivalled my fame. But you, since you are the stupidest man alive, do not understand that if (as you allege) it is an offence to have wished for Caesar’s killing, it is also an offence to have rejoiced at Caesar’s death. For what is the difference between someone who suggests something and someone who applauds it? What does it matter whether I wanted it done or am delighted that it was done? Is there anyone, with the exception of those who were happy that he was our king, who did not want it done or disapproved that it was done? Everyone is at fault then. Indeed, all decent men, as far as they could, killed Caesar; some may have lacked a plan, other courage, and still others the opportunity, but no one lacked the desire.

9a. Cicero, Philippics (2.63), cf. 2.50, 2.75, 84, 104; Fam. 12.2.1, 12.25.4. Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

But let me say no more about the activities of his more mature depravity; let me speak, rather, about the most excessive example of his lack of respect. That throat of yours, those lungs of yours, the whole body of yours with its gladiators’ strength, sucked down so much wine at Stud’s [Hippias’] wedding that you had to vomit it up in the sight of the Roman people the next day. What a revolting thing not just to see, but to hear about! If this had happened to you at a feast right in the middle of those famous giant drinks of yours, who would not have thought it disgusting? In a gathering of the Roman people, as he was dealing with public business, the master of the horse – for whom it would be disgusting even to belch – he filled his lap and the whole platform, vomiting wine mixed with chunks of putrid food! But he admits this himself, along with his other sins – so let us come to his more splendid activities.

9b. Plutarch, Life of Mark Antony (9.3-4). Translated by Thomas Browne (1920).

This course naturally made him odious to the multitude, and to men of worth and uprightness he was not acceptable because of his life in general, as Cicero says, nay, he was hated by them. They loathed his ill-timed drunkenness, his heavy expenditures, his debauches with women, his spending the days in sleep or in wandering about with crazed and aching head, the nights in revelry or at shows, or in attendance at the nuptial feasts of mimes and jesters. We are told, at any rate, that he once feasted at the nuptials of Hippias the mime, drank all night, and then, early in the morning, when the people summoned him to the forum, came before them still surfeited with food and vomited into his toga, which one of his friends held at his service.

10. Cicero, Philippics (2.116-117). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

What sort of life is it fearing your own followers day and night, unless you have men bound to you by greater favors than the men Caesar had bound to him—and some of them killed him? Or is it that you are to be compared to him somehow? That man had brilliance, calculation, memory, literary ability, carefulness, thoughtfulness, precision. He was successful in a war, which, although it was disastrous to the Republic, was still great; for many years he aimed to rule and he achieved what he had planned with great effort and great risks. He softened up the ignorant masses with games, buildings, gifts and feasts. He bound his followers to himself with rewards, his opponents with the appearance of clemency. Why go on? He brought to a free state acceptance of slavery, partly through fear, partly through familiarity. Although I can compare you to him in your lust for power, you cannot be compared to him in anything else.

11. Cicero, Philippics (2.119). Translated by Siobhán McElduff (2011).

I would also freely offer up my person if my death would immediately bring back freedom to our state, so that the anguish of the Roman people would give birth to what it has been carrying within for along time. For, if almost twenty years ago I denied, in this very temple, that death could be premature for a man who had held the consulship, how much more truly will I deny it is premature for an old man. embers of the Senate, I should desire death after the political offices I have attained and the deeds I have done. I long for these two things only: one, that as I die i shall leave behind a free Roman people (there is nothing greater that the immortal gods can give to me); second that everyone will get his just rewards for his treatment of the Republic.

Standard