Group 2: Philippic II

Cicero: Philippic II



Cicero, Philippics II: an introduction

by H H Allcroft

Cicero's early life

Marcus Tullius Cicero, the greatest of Roman orators, was born at Arpinum in 106 B.C. His family was of equestrian rank, but had never held any office in Rome. Cicero was therefore a novus homo, and his struggle to obtain the praetorship and consulship was on that account made harder. He was sent while still a young lad to Rome, and there studied under the best masters, such as Archias. In 91 B.C. he assumed the toga virilis, and then attended the lectures of orators and lawyers. He was entrusted by his father to the special care of Mucius Scaevola Augur, from whose side he hardly ever departed. At that time the easiest method of obtaining civic fame and success was by means of oratory, and as Cicero had a natural talent for this art, he cultivated it in preference to devoting himself to a military life. However, he served, as was usual with young Romans who aspired to public office, one campaign, and this happened to be in the Social War (89 B.C.) under Cn. Pompeius Strabo, the father of Pompey the Great. For the next six years he took no part in public affairs, but devoted his time to the study of rhetoric and the various schools of philosophy.

Cicero's early career

The first of his extant speeches is Pro P. Quinctio, which was delivered in 81 B.C. Two years later, in a criminal trial, he defended Sextus Roscius Amerinus, whose accuser was Chrysogonus, the powerful freedman of Sulla. It was very bold of Cicero to undertake this defence, but his boldness was equalled by his eloquence; and his success on this occasion placed him at once amongst the best orators of the day. Poor health obliged him to retire to Rhodes and Athens, where he continued his study of rhetoric and philosophy for two years, returned to Rome in 77 B.C., and was elected quaestor for the year 75 B.C. He served this office at Lilybaeum in Sicily, and acquired golden opinions from the natives through his integrity, impartiality, and self-denial. In 74 B.C., he returned to Rome and again devoted himself to his profession as an advocate. In 70 B.C. he undertook the impeachment of Verres, who was charged by the Sicilians with having been guilty of misgovernment, oppression, and extortion when quaestor in Sicily from 73-71 B.C. The result of Cicero’s onslaught was that Verres departed at once into exile without even attempting a defence.

Cicero's rise to the consulship

In politics, Cicero was a fairly consistent member of the senatorial party, or party of the nobles (Optimates). The Opposition was the Democratic party, or party of the people (Populares); and there were numbers of disappointed men of all ranks of society ready for revolution in any form if they could find a leader. Cicero was aedile in 69 B.C., praetor in 66 B.C. – in this year he advocated the Lex Manilia, giving to Pompeius the conduct of the war against Mithridates – and consul in 63 B.C. The revolutionary movement had by this time taken the form of a widespread conspiracy; its members were of every class, even senators and ex-consuls; it had branches in many Italian towns; its object was to overthrow the government of the Senate by violence and substitute a Democratic government; and from the name of its leader, it was known as the Catilinarian conspiracy. Cicero, by means of spies, kept himself informed of all its movements, and at the close of 63 B.C. suddenly arrested five of the leading conspirators. A few days later, acting upon the expressed opinion of a majority of the Senate, he had them executed, although as Roman citizens they were exempt from such punishment. The remainder, attempting to carry out their plans by force of arms, were defeated at Pistoria (62 B.C.), where Catilina fell.

Caesar's early life and career

C. Julius Caesar, born 102 B.C., boasted descent from the noblest gens in Rome, in fact from the legendary Iulus, the son of Aeneas. He was closely connected by marriage both with Marius and Cinna, the two democratic opponents of the Senate, and with its champion Sulla; for his aunt Julia married Marius, and the first wife of Caesar himself was Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna. By these democratic alliances and his own personal abilities, he speedily attracted so much of Sulla’s attention that he found it desirable to withdraw from Rome, only returning after Sulla’s death (78 B.C.). He did not, however, come prominently into public life until some years later, although as early as 63 B.C., being then praetor-elect, he was already recognised as perhaps the most capable member of the democratic party. This was the year of the Catilinarian conspiracy, and his enemies claimed that he was himself was involved with the plot. For this there is no evidence either way. In this year also he was elected Pontifex Maximus.

Tripartite power

Having served with distinction as pro-praetor of Further Spain in 61 B.C., Caesar returned to Rome in the following spring to find Pompey recently returned from the completion of the Mithridatic War. Pompey was by breeding and preference a senatorian, but he was still more a self-seeker; and, just as in 70 B.C., because the Senate refused to agree to his demands, he had led a democratic revolution, so now in 60 B.C., for similar reasons, he allied himself with the democrat Caesar. This alliance, when extended to include the millionaire M. Crassus, who represented the equites (the capitalists and commercial men of Rome), constituted the First Triumvirate. By the aid of these allies Pompeius obtained what he desired – complete ratification of all his doings in the East, lands in Campania for his veteran soldiery, and a triumph. With their help, P. Clodius was able to secure the banishment of Cicero on the ground that he had put cives (the five Catilinarians) to death without appeal; thus avenging himself for what he believed to be Cicero’s malice in witnessing against him when on trial for the profanation of the Mysteries in 62 B.C. Crassus received, as his reward for joining the alliance, better terms for the tax-farmers in Asia. A further result of the coalition, of far more vital importance, was that Caesar received (by the Lex Vatinia) an extraordinary appointment for five years as governor of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum. A few months later the Senate added Transalpine Gaul to his command, hoping that he might come to a bad end in the attempt to oust the German invader Ariovistus from Gaul. Caesar annihilated the Germans in a single battle (the Battle of Vosges, 58 B.C.), and then proceeded to conquer the whole of Gaul in detail. The task was a big one: it was so far from completed in 56 B.C. that he took steps to have his appointment prolonged for another term of five years.

The 50s

In the meantime, the other Triumvirs, Pompeius and Crassus, had quarrelled with one another, and with everyone else, and P. Clodius Pulcher had taken advantage of the fact to make himself the exponent of mob-rule. The Senate found a champion of the same stamp, but of opposite political opinions, in T. Annius Milo; and these two “gladiators” fought almost daily in the streets. Government was at a standstill; the Triumvirs were threatened with eclipse; Cicero (whose recall from exile had been effected in 57 B.C., mainly by Pompeius in order to spite Clodius) fondly believed that he was strong enough to rally the Senate to the recovery of its ancient supremacy, and to win over Pompeius to its side. But at the Conference of Luca in 56 B.C., where Caesar met his fellow Triumvirs again, fresh arrangements were made which secured for the three a further lease of power. Pompeius and Crassus were assured of the consulate of 55 B.C., and as consuls they secured the passing of a bill (Lex Licinia-Pompeia) by which the original term of Caesar’s command, as authorized by the Lex Vatinia of 59 B.C., was extended for a further five years. The two consuls also obtained five-year commands, Pompeius in Spain, Crassus in Syria against the Parthians. Pompeius never left Italy: Crassus did, and was slain with most of his army at Carrhae beyond the Euphrates, in 53 B.C.

The road to civil war

Meantime Pompeius’ natural inclination towards the senatorial party was steadily reasserting itself. This tendency was very materially quickened when (in 54 B.C.) he lost his wife Julia, Caesar’s daughter. He felt that he owed his position since Luca to Caesar, – felt, that is, that Caesar was the better man, and therefore felt jealous. He hoped to use the Senate to gratify his jealousy. The Senate, for its part, hoped to use Pompeius to rid it of Caesar. It flattered him, and he succumbed to the flattery, particularly when (in 52 B.C.) it appointed him sole consul to deal with the disorders consequent upon the assassination of Clodius by Milo. He felt himself strong enough to challenge Caesar. An account of the exact course of the quarrel between the two is not needful here. It is sufficient to explain that Pompeius’ plan was to reduce Caesar to the condition of a privatus, a man without office, in which condition he would be at the mercy of his enemies. Caesar’s aim was to prevent any such manoeuvres. Pompeius, though nominally the head of the senatorial party, was no statesman. He had neither resource, nor tact, nor the courage of his opinions; nor could he command the obedience of the party which he called his own. Caesar, on the other hand, had all these qualifications. He had already filled Rome with energetic agents (amongst them Antonius), bound to his interests by money lent, and allured by the prospect of honours to come in the event of Caesar’s success. A section, a small and feeble section, of the Senate was in favour of compromise, and strove to secure consideration of the overtures which Caesar made for a peaceful solution of the rival claims of himself and of Pompeius. Their well-meant efforts were overborne by the more extreme anti-Caesarians. One after another all attempts at conciliation were rejected by the extremists; one after another the high-handed proposals of the extremists were blocked by tribunes in Caesar’s interest or Caesar’s pay. The extremists finally forced through the Senate the Senatus Consultum Ultimum (§ 51), the resolution which was customarily passed in crises of extreme domestic peril, and which was tantamount to declaring martial-law, to branding Caesar as an outlaw, and to bidding the consuls arm against him. The tribunes Antonius and Cassius (§ 51), having in vain exhausted all constitutional means to prevent this step, believed, or professed to believe, their safety imperilled, and fled to Caesar at Ravenna, calling upon him to maintain the sacrosanct rights of the tribunate. It was on this plea, nominally, that Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and so doing declared war upon his country, in the early days of 49 B.C.

The rise of Antony

Marcus Antonius was born about 83 B.C., his father being another M. Antonius, nicknamed Creticus for his ill-success in dealing with the Cretan pirates 74 B.C., and his uncle being that C. Antonius Hybrida, who was colleague of Cicero in the consulship of 63 B.C. His grandfather M. Antonius, put to death by Marius in 87 B.C., was of some repute as an orator, but with this exception the family does not appear to have been distinguished either for morals or for ability. Cicero’s evidence is of course unreliable, but there is reason to believe that the morals of the young M. Antonius were even worse, if his abilities were greater, than those of his kinsmen. He first distinguished himself in public life as a partisan of P. Clodius Pulcher, the violent mob-leader, in his tribuneship of 58 B.C., though there is no reason to believe Cicero’s assertion (§ 48) that it was Antonius who inspired Clodius’ violence. On the contrary, he left Rome before Clodius had fully developed his lawless methods, and gained some credit for his services in the army of A. Gabinius in Egypt (§ 48) in 56 B.C. Thence he passed to Gaul, where he served as a legatus to Caesar in one or two campaigns (55, 54 B.C.), and it was doubtless now that he fell under the influence of the future Dictator; for when other means failed him, Caesar had a potent engine for securing adherents in the wealth which he gathered from his Gallic conquests, and there is good reason to think that Antonius was glad to sell his allegiance for the funds which he required to enable him to resume public life in Rome. At any rate he returned to the city in 53 B.C. to stand for the quaestorship, Caesar furthering his canvass by securing Cicero’s approbation (§ 49). Elected quaestor for 52 B.C., Antonius at once returned to Caesar, revisiting Rome in 50 B.C., when he was elected a member of the College of Augurs (§ 4), and stood as a candidate for the tribunate of 49 B.C. Amongst the outgoing tribunes of 50 B.C. was C. Curio, once a senatorian, but now a vehement partisan of Caesar as against Pompeius and the Senate. By Cicero’s account, Antonius was the victim, willing or unwilling, of Curio’s unscrupulousness: it is quite as likely that Caesar’s personal influence and Caesar’s money were the responsible factors.

Caesar Dictator

The speed with which Caesar acted upon the appeal of the tribunes and forthwith invaded Italy, took the Senate and Pompeius by surprise. Without attempting to defend Rome they retired upon Campania, and thence across the Adriatic to Epirus, there waiting idly while their opponent secured his hold upon the western portion of the empire. M. Aemilius Lepidus was named city prefect; the tribune Antonius was granted the rank and powers of a pro-praetor; and to these two officers was left the care of Italy and Rome. Caesar in person sailed at once for Massilia (Marseilles), a city of immense strength, which L. Domitius Ahenobarbus was holding for Pompeius. He stayed here only long enough to determine the plan of siege which his legatus C. Trebonius was left to carry out, hurrying thence across the Pyrenees to Spain, where at Ilerda on the Sicoris (Lerida on the Ségre) he destroyed a Pompeian army under Afranius and Petreius (§ 57). The capitulation of Massilia immediately followed, and Caesar returned to Rome in the autumn. He was named Dictator, was returned senior consul for the new year (48 B.C.), and spent the next few weeks in various measures for the restoration of public credit. By Cicero’s account Antonius had made only bad use of his authority, spending most of the time in a scandalous tour of the towns of Middle Italy (§ 58).

In the spring of 48 B.C. Caesar crossed into Epirus and laid siege to Pompeius in Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), Antonius doing brilliant work as officer in command of the line of communications, with his base at Brundisium. Pompeius cleverly made good his escape from Dyrrhachium, but Caesar, by an equally able movement, caught up with him in Thessaly, forced him (August 9th) to give battle near Pharsalus, and annihilated his army.

Cicero is pardoned

Cicero had withdrawn, like most of his party, to the camp of Pompeius at Dyrrhachium. Antonius sneered at his behaviour there. If what Cicero says is true, his attitude to Pompeius was in effect that of him who says “I always told you so,” though at the same time he claims to have kept Pompeius’ cordial good will (§§ 37-39). However, he had left the camp before the debacle, and Caesar, desirous of disarming him by amity, readily allowed him to return to Italy. He landed at Brundisium, where Antonius offered him no molestation. Cicero regards this as no kindness on Antonius’ part; Antonius, on the contrary, represented it as an act of mercy (§§ 5, 6, 60) for which the other was not sufficiently grateful. For obvious reasons Cicero took no part in public life from this time forward until Caesar’s death, save that he acted as counsel for the Galatian prince Deiotarus, when the latter was accused of plotting against Caesar’s life (§ 95). It was during these years of retirement (48-45 B.C.) that many of his philosophical works were written. Troubles in Egypt (the Alexandrine War) kept Caesar busy until 47 B.C., when he passed to Asia Minor to put down a rising led by Pharnaces of Pontus, the son of the great Mithridates. One battle sufficed to end this danger – the battle of Zela (47 B.C.), concerning which was penned the famous despatch veni, vidi, vici. It was now that Deiotarus suffered deposition (§ 91) for his Pompeian sympathies.

Caesar triumphs

After a brief stay at Rome, Caesar next crossed into Africa, where, since the death of Curio in 49 B.C., the Pompeian party had been left to rally at leisure under M. Cato, Metellus Scipio, Petreius, and Afranius. Their united forces were vanquished at Thapsus in the following spring (46 B.C.), Cato subsequently committing suicide at Utica. A small remnant led by the sons of Pompeius, fled once more to Spain, whither Caesar followed in 45 B.C., and at Munda (near Cordova) finally extinguished this, the last of the Pompeian armies. In neither the African nor the Spanish campaigns did Antonius participate (§ 71). He set out indeed to join his chief in Spain, but got no farther than Narbo (§ 75). Possibly the campaign was ended before he could complete the journey. He was, however, the first to proceed to welcome the conqueror on his return (§ 78).

Caesar had been a second time declared Dictator in 47 B.C. His Magister Equitum was Antonius. Cicero says that this appointment was made “without Caesar’s knowledge” (§ 62), which cannot be true. Antonius, however, seems to have been making high-handed and rather scandalous use of his opportunities, and of this fact, doubtless, Caesar was not aware. The overthrow of the Pompeians led of course to confiscations, and Antonius took the opportunity to buy in some desirable properties, notably the villa of Metellus Scipio and the town-house of Pompeius (§§ 62, 61). Cicero says that he never paid for his purchases (§§ 71, 72), and that he was surprised when Caesar demanded payment. He also says that Antonius abused his powers as Magister Equitum (§ 62) making a feeble joke thereon. Antonius was certainly hard up at this date, but such a fact was no more unusual at that time than it is now.


Caesar was sole consul in 45 B.C., and no other curule magistrates were even elected. After Munda, when the last of the Pompeian resistance was broken, it seemed feasible to revert to a more normal form of administration, and Caesar had given Cn. Dolabella reason to hope that he should have the consulship of 44 B.C. When the elections came, however, Dolabella was passed over, and Caesar himself was returned with Antonius as his colleague. Clearly, if there had been any coolness between the two, it was now ended. Dolabella revenged his disappointment by a violent attack on Antonius in the Senate House on New Year’s Day (§79), and in retaliation Antonius, who was at once augur and consul, publicly declared that he would prevent Dolabella’s election as consul suffectus, although Caesar (who intended to resign his own consulship before leaving Rome for the East) had given his word that Dolabella should succeed to the vacancy so caused (§ 80). Antonius carried out his threat as far as he could: the comitia returned Dolabella, and Antonius thereupon declared the election invalid. Whether or not his veto was to hold good even the Romans did not know. Cicero, himself an augur, says it was illegal, but there was so much of doubt in the matter that the point was down amongst the agenda of the Senate (§ 88) on the Ides of March. If the doubt subsisted then, we cannot hope to solve it now. Its solution was frustrated by the murder of Caesar at the moment when the question was to be raised.

Caesar's assassination

As to the goodness or badness of Caesar there is room for dispute. But whether good or bad, he was undoubtedly a great man; this even Cicero himself confesses in an eloquent eulogy (§ 116). On the other hand, as to his death there are no two opinions: “the foulest murder in all history” is the almost unanimous verdict. Cicero, who had himself received nothing but consideration from the victim, tries in vain to glorify the crime. Philosophy, when its practitioners instead of being original philosophers, are mere eclectic dabblers, can and does blind those who indulge in it overmuch. It blinded Cicero and destroyed his moral sense, just as it did that of M. Brutus and others of the conspirators. It is not possible to prove that any one of sixty or more conspirators had been injured by Caesar; many of them owed their all to his indulgence. The arch-conspirator, Brutus, Caesar had treated as his own son. And not one of the murderers belonged to the really great houses of the time, with whom the extinction of the old Republic might legitimately be a grievance. The murder was the outcome of a mistaken philosophy which argued that the old way, however bad, was still the best way: that Rome must be a Republic still, as she had been for five hundred years; that if it was glorious to expel a Tarquin, to kill a Cassius and a Maelius, it was glorious to kill Caesar too. Such a creed was the negation of all progress, but progress is stronger than creeds. It was stronger than the Liberatores. Caesar represented progress. He saw that the old régime was no longer workable, and he tried to replace it with a better. His only fault was that he did not take sufficient pains to hide the completeness of the change. As a man of facts, he lacked sentiment.

The leading conspirators were the two Bruti (Marcus and Decimus), C. Cassius, Tillius Cimber, and C. Casca. Their excuse was that Caesar had made himself king: and the substance of the charge was found in the fact that at the Lupercalia (February 15th) Antonius had publicly offered a regal diadem to Caesar. They assassinated Caesar in the Curia on the Ides (15th) of March. Antonius was not privy to the crime, indeed they feared his interference. Once before, says Cicero, he had been sounded by C. Trebonius at Narbo (§ 34), but without success. He had indeed everything to gain if Caesar lived, everything to lose if Caesar died.

The aftermath

The senators fled in terror on hearing of the murder. Antonius too fled (§ 88) for a time. But he quickly recovered his wits and tried to get possession of all Caesar’s papers and treasure. The conspirators, finding to their chagrin that their deed did not at once meet with universal approval, took refuge in the Capitol, and opened negotiations with the leaders of the senatorial party. The Senate met on March 17th, and passed resolutions that the murderers should be amnestied, and that Caesar’s acta – all that he had done and intended to do – should be regarded as law. The two resolutions were logically incompatible: if the murderers were blameworthy, they deserved no amnesty; if blameless, then their victim’s acta could not be legal. But the senators only sought to temporise. As a guarantee of his good faith Antonius gave his infant son by Fulvia as a hostage to the Liberators in the Capitol (§ 90).

Caesar's funeral and will

There followed Caesar’s funeral rites. By command of the Senate the dead man’s will was publicly read. It named as heir-in-chief his great-nephew C. Octavius (better known as Augustus); Antonius was amongst the heredes secundi (§ 71); and Caesar’s park on the north bank of the Tiber was bequeathed to the State, to the people a legacy of 300 sesterces per person. The knowledge of these facts caused a furious outburst of feeling, of which Antonius took instant advantage. The mob burned Caesar’s body in the open Forum upon an impromptu pyre. At least one senator’s house (§ 91) was burnt in the riot, and the liberators were compelled to flee for their lives. By way of condoning the effects of his inflammatory rhetoric, Antonius, as consul, moved one or two resolutions of a conciliatory tone: one was that the style of Dictator should be henceforth abolished (§ 91); another declared that no acta Caesaris should be taken into account if dating later than March 15th.
But it very soon became evident that Antonius was aiming at the very power from which Caesar had fallen. He took advantage of his position as consul, and of the fact that he had secured all Caesar’s papers, to drive a trade in alleged acta Caesaris, which he caused to be forged in return for a consideration. The civitas was given away, immunitas (exemption from taxation) was granted to at least one province (Crete) en bloc, preferments and privileges were openly sold, exiles were recalled and pardons provided for all who cared to buy them (§§ 6, 97). Further, to secure to his side the veteran troops whom Caesar had called out for the projected Parthian campaign, he caused an Agrarian Law to be passed, under cover of which he made assignments of the small remnant of ager publicus in Campania and at Leontini in Sicily. If Cicero’s account be true, he even reallotted lands which had been already disposed of, and did not hesitate to include his personal friends amongst the recipients (§§ 101, 102). In pursuance of this plan he spent most of April and May in another Italian tour, in which his conduct was marked, according to Cicero, by every form of dissipation and insolence. It was only at the end of May that he returned to Rome (§§ 100, 107).

The Liberators

The Liberators in the interim had disappeared. Those amongst them to whom provincial governorships had been allotted, in accordance with the acta Caesaris, withdrew to their respective provinces, D. Brutus to Cisalpine Gaul, C. Trebonius to Asia, and L. Tillius Cimber to Bithynia. The two ringleaders M. Brutus and C. Cassius were respectively praetor urbanus and praetor peregrinus for the current year, but not daring to reappear in Rome, they gladly received special permission from the Senate to absent themselves for a time (§ 31). In due course they hoped, at any rate, to take up their respective provincial commands in 43 B.C. (Brutus that of Macedonia, and Cassius that of Syria).

The provinces above named were all wealthy, and all were of first-class strategic importance. Gallia Cisalpina commanded the peninsula from the north; Macedonia interrupted communications between Rome and her eastern provinces; Syria, Asia, and Bithynia commanded the entire eastern frontier, and the enormous food resources of Egypt as well. Moreover, the provinces east of the Adriatic had been the chief supporters of Pompeius, and were still in the main devoted to the senatorian, i.e. the republican, interest. It was desirable to remove the Liberators from such dangerous positions. Antonius proceeded to disarm them in detail.

Antony's power grab

By means of further forged acta Caesaris, he obtained a law transferring the Syrian command of Cassius to Dolabella, now acting harmoniously with Antonius as consul suffectus; the Macedonian command of M. Brutus he transferred to himself; and to the two disappropriated praetors he offered commissions to control the corn supply in Crete and in Sicily (§ 31), commissions which gave no excuse for the maintenance of any armed force. Not content with these transparent forgeries, he presently came forward with further proposals, whereby Macedonia was given to his brother C. Antonius, while D. Brutus was ordered to surrender Cisalpine Gaul to M. Antonius personally. That province dominated Italy. It was, moreover, the province from which Caesar håd started upon his career of “tyranny.” It was plain that Antonius, like Caesar, was aiming at the despotism. Nevertheless, the proposals were duly made law, though the Liberators continued to treat them one and all as null and void. An armed collision between them and Antonius was evidently in the immediate future.

Cicero annoys Antony

Cicero had from the outset suspected the designs of Antonius. He had, so he believed, done all he could to rally the senatorial party and encourage them to take a firm attitude against all encroachments. But the task had proved too much for him, and in the early summer he too left Rome, pledging himself, however, to be back in the Senate House on the first day of the New Year. He presently resolved to start for Greece, and actually embarked with that purpose; but rough weather frustrated his purpose – he was a bad sailor – and landing again, he discarded all his plans and returned to Rome on the last day of August. He had been informed that Antonius had abandoned his dangerous courses and was all readiness to act in cordial unison with the Senate. But, on reaching Rome, he was disgusted to learn that Antonius’ principal motion amongst the agenda for the day following (September 1st) was to the effect that yet further tribute should be paid to Caesar’s memory, by adding to all supplicationes (days set apart for public prayer) an extra day in his honour. Cicero refrained from attending the House, and Antonius, who knew that he was in Rome and was impatient to learn what course he intended to adopt, used some violent expressions about Cicero’s indefinite behaviour.

The First and Second Philippics

On the next day, Cicero appeared in the House and delivered his First Philippic – an attempt to explain away his own uncertainty of movement, and a moderate, but vigorous complaint against Antonius’ general conduct. By his own account he was anxious for a complete reconciliation only. Antonius was not present, but in due course he heard of the matter of the speech. On September 19th, he banished any further illusions which Cicero may have entertained, by delivering in the Senate a virulent attack on Cicero. Cicero in his turn was absent from the House on this occasion; but he too soon knew what had been said, and accepting the gauntlet which the other had flung down, he replied in the Second Philippic – an invective which prudence prevented him from actually delivering, although he caused it to be published as his reply to Antonius’ attack. The feud thus begun was only terminated by the death of Cicero on December 7th, 43 B.C., when he fell a victim to the infamous proscription by which the Second Triumvirate – Antonius, Lepidus, and Octavianus Caesar – rid themselves of their several enemies. In the interval he delivered twelve other Philippics – fourteen in all – aimed more or less directly at Antonius; but it was to the Second Philippic that he owed his death. His head and hands were nailed up upon the Rostra in the Forum as a warning to all against further use (or abuse) of the old-fashioned republican freedom of speech.




And are you attentive to Caesar’s memory? Do you love him even though he is dead? What greater honour had he obtained than to have a holy couch, a statue, a temple, and a priest? Therefore, as there is a priest for Jupiter, for Mars, for Quirinus, so Marcus Antonius is the priest of the god Julius. So why are you delaying? Why are you not being inaugurated? Pick a day, look for someone to inaugurate you: we are colleagues; no one will refuse. O you detestable person, either because you are the priest of a tyrant or of a dead man! I ask next whether you are ignorant of what day today is. Do you not know that yesterday was the fourth day of the Roman games in the Circus? Furthermore, that you yourself brought a motion to the people, that a fifth day besides should be added in Caesar’s honour? Why are we not in our festival clothes? Why are we allowing the honour granted for Caesar by your own law to be abandoned? Did you allow the day to be polluted by the addition of supplications, but were unwilling for the holy couches (to be polluted)? Either take away religious scruple everywhere, or preserve it in every instance.




You ask if it pleases me that there is a holy couch, a temple, a priest. In fact, none of these things please me, but you, who are defending the acts of Caesar – what can you say about why you defend some bits, while you do not have regard for others? Unless, perhaps, you are willing to admit that you measure everything by your gain, not by his honour. What (do you have to say) to this, then? For I am awaiting a display of eloquence. I knew your grandfather (to be) a very eloquent man, but that you are even more open in speaking. He never addressed an assembly in the nude; we have seen your breast, that of a candid man. Will you speak in reply to this? Will you dare to open your mouth at all? Will you find any point in this long speech of mine which you are confident you can answer?




But let us leave aside the past: defend (your conduct on) this one day, the day today, I say, this point in time, in which I am speaking, if you can. Why is the senate surrounded by a ring of armed men? Why are your bodyguards listening to me with their swords (drawn)? Why are the doors of (the temple of) Concord not open? Why are you leading the most barbarous men of all nations, the Itureans, with their arrows into the forum? He says he is doing it for his own protection. So, is it not better to die thousands of times than to be unable to live in one’s own country without the protection of armed men? But that protection is nothing, trust me: you should be surrounded by the love and benevolence of the citizens, not by weapons.




The Roman people will seize them and tear them away from you – while we are still safe, I hope! But however you behave with us, as long as you employ these plans, you cannot be long-lasting, believe me. And indeed, that least avaricious lady, your wife, whom I describe without slander, has been owing for too long her third payment to the Roman people. The Roman people has (men) to whom it may entrust the helm of the Republic: wherever these men are in the world, there is the entire defence of the Republic, or rather there is the Republic itself, which so far has only just avenged itself, and has not yet recovered. Indeed, the Republic certainly has very noble young men prepared (to be) its defenders. Let them withdraw as much as they wish in the interests of peace; they will still be recalled by the Republic. The name of peace is sweet and the thing itself is beneficial; but between peace and slavery there is a very wide difference. Peace is calm freedom, slavery the worst of all evils, which needs to be driven away not only by war but even by death.




But if those liberators of ours have taken themselves away out of our sight, at least they have left behind the example of their deed. They did what no one had done. Brutus pursued Tarquinius with war, who was king at a time when it was lawful to be so in Rome; Spurius Cassius, Spurius Maelius, and Marcus Manlius were killed on suspicion of striving for royal power: these are the first men to make an attack with swords not on a man striving for a kingdom, but on one who was a king. This deed itself is not only glorious and godlike in and of itself, but it has also been put out for imitation, especially since they have acquired that glory which scarcely seems to be able to be contained by the heavens. For although there is enough enjoyment in the very consciousness of a very noble deed, nevertheless I do not think that immortality should be despised by a mortal.




So remember, Marcus Antonius, that day on which you abolished the dictatorship; place in front of your eyes the happiness of the Roman people; compare it with this trade of yours and of your associates: then you will understand how much difference there is between praise and profit. But evidently, just as some people, through some disease and numbing of sense, do not feel the pleasure of food, so lustful people, greedy people, criminal people have no taste for glory. But if glory is unable to entice you to do right, is not even fear able to call you away from the foulest deeds? You do not fear the courts: if it is because of your innocence, I praise you; but if it is because of violent means, do you not realise what a man should fear, who is not afraid of the courts through this method?




But if you do not fear brave men and outstanding citizens, because they are held back from you physically by weapons, your men, believe me, will not tolerate you much longer. Moreover, what a life it is to be afraid day and night (of danger) from one’s own men. Unless, indeed, either you have men who are bound to you by greater kindnesses than some of those, by whom he was killed, he (Caesar) had, or you are to be compared to him by any measure. There was in him talent, reason, a good memory, literary skill, concentration, reflection, and diligence; he had achieved things in war, though calamitous for the Republic, nevertheless important; intending to be king for many years, through great toil, through great dangers, he had done what he intended; by shows, by monuments, by handouts to the people, by feasts he had charmed the ignorant masses; he had bound his own men through rewards, his enemies through the appearance of clemency. Why (need I say) more? He had already brought the habit of servitude to a free state, partly through its fear, partly through its passivity.




In terms of lust for absolute power, I can compare you with him, but in all other respects in no way are you to be compared. But out of all the very many evils which have been burnt into the Republic by him, there is still this good thing – that now the Roman people has learned how much to trust each person, to whom it should entrust itself, whom to be aware of. Do you not think about these things? And do you not understand that it is enough for brave men to have learned how noble it is in the act, (how) grateful for the benefit, (how) glorious in the renown, to kill a tyrant? Will men tolerate you, when they did not tolerate him?




From now on, believe me, men will run competitively to this deed, nor will they wait for a late opportunity. Consider, I beg you, the Republic at long last, Marcus Antonius, think about those from whom you were born, not those with whom you are living. (Deal) with me as you wish: return to favour with the Republic. But you see to yourself; I myself shall speak about myself. As a young man I defended the Republic, I shall not abandon it as an old man: I despised the swords of Catiline, I shall not be terrified at yours. Indeed, I would gladly offer up my body, if the freedom of the state can be gained immediately by my death, so that the grief of the Roman people may give birth at last to what it has been in labour with for a long time now.




In truth, if nearly twenty years ago in this very temple I said that a premature death was not possible for a man of consular rank, how much more accurately will I say (the same) for an old man? Indeed, for me, O senators, death is now even to be desired, since I have fulfilled those things which I have achieved and which I have done. I only wish for these two things: one, that dying I leave behind a free Roman people – nothing greater than this can be gifted to me by the immortal gods – the other, that things turn out for each man just as each deserves from the Republic.