1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 37: SPQR CONFIDENTIAL

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 This follows on from Cicero’s announcement at the end of the previous paragraph that Pompey’s ‘soft qualities’ stand out with particular clarity when compared to the behaviour of others in similar positions of power. Without naming names (ego autem nomino neminem), he goes on to imply that corruption is rife among Rome’s military leaders, who use public resources for despicable private ends: personal advancement or enrichment. Such illegal activities violate public trust and have their roots, so Cicero suggests, in an unwholesome character. Ambition and greed, he implies, run rampant in Rome’s ruling elite. The consequences are not just felt at Rome, with the embezzlement of public funds, but also in the provinces – wherever Roman armies go, they descend upon the local population (regardless whether it consists of Roman citizens or allies) like a swarm of locusts. The argument here feeds into Cicero’s promotion of Pompey: he has the qualities needed to win the hearts and minds of provincials, which is a key asset in Rome’s war against Mithridates.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 In a sense, Cicero here continues the theme that was at the centre of his prosecution of Gaius Verres in 70 BC for misconduct in provincial administration, as recorded (with a considerable dose of artistic license) in his Verrine Orations. And it is tempting to read the de imperio as part of the story of Cicero, Scourge of Bad Provincial Governance or General Corruption. The problem with this is that after securing Verres’ exile, he went on to defend several people accused of provincial exploitation (Marcus Fonteius in 69, for example). The response might be that those people (unlike Verres) were innocent, but it seems more likely that Cicero was playing by the rules of the game, whereby you defend whoever asks for your help (especially if they are politically/socially prominent people), whatever you think of their personal innocence.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Still, the alleged corruption of Rome’s provincial government and the ruthless exploitation of the allies remain leitmotifs of Cicero’s argument right to the very end of the speech. He even uses the vices of his contemporaries to put Pompey’s greatness into perspective, most explicitly in § 67: quasi vero Cn. Pompeium non cum suis virtutibus, tum etiam alienis vitiis magnum esse videamus (‘as though indeed it were not obvious that Pompeius owes his greatness not to his own merits alone but also to the demerits of other men’). This ‘comparative levelling’ of Pompey’s ‘absolute’ excellence also informs the section here, and comes out most notably in § 40 when Cicero revisits the reasons for Pompey’s seemingly extraordinary speed – he implies there that the speed wasn’t extraordinary at all: Pompey simply refuses to let himself get sidetracked by the temptations that routinely slow down all the others.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Quem enim imperatorem possumus ullo in numero putare, cuius in exercitu centuriatus veneant atque venierint?: The main verb of the sentence is possumus, which takes the object infinitive putare. putare governs the accusatives Quem imperatorem. Quem is either an interrogative adjective (‘which general can we believe to be of any esteem…?’) or an interrogative pronoun, with imperatorem in predicative position (‘whom can we believe to be a general of any esteem…?’)

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 ullo in numero: the phrasing of (in) numero with a pronominal adjective (in this case ullus) is idiomatic: OLD s.v. numerus 11a. in aliquo (nullo) numero (haberi) means ‘(to be held) of some (no) account/esteem’. Cicero’s question here is rhetorical: one cannot consider a general who sells posts in his army to be ‘of any account/esteem’ – that is, he is no general at all.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 cuius in exercitu centuriatus veneant atque venierint?: cuius is a possessive genitive in the masculine singular of the relative pronoun, dependent on exercitu and referring back to imperatorem: ‘in whose army…’ The subject of the relative clause is centuriatus (a 4th-declension noun here in the nominative masculine plural). The verbs are veneant (3rd person plural present subjunctive active [in form, but passive in meaning]) and venierint (3rd person plural perfect subjunctive active [in form, but passive in meaning]), from veneo, –ire, –ii (-itum), which functions as the passive to vendo (‘to sell’) – ‘to be sold’. veneo is easily confused with venio, venire, veni, ventum (‘to come’). In the perfect active subjunctive the forms of the two verbs are indeed identical, but the 3rd person plural present subjunctive active of venio would be veniant. veneant atque venierint are in the subjunctive because the relative clause is one of characteristic: ‘a general of the sort who…’.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 centuriatus: the nominative masculine plural of the 4th-declension noun centuriatus, –us, i.e. ‘office of the centurion’ – a relatively well remunerated position in the Roman army.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 quid hunc hominem magnum aut amplum de re publica cogitare, qui pecuniam ex aerario depromptam ad bellum administrandum aut propter cupiditatem provinciae magistratibus diviserit aut propter avaritiam Romae in quaestu reliquerit?: The main verb (possumus) and its object infinitive (putare) need to be supplied from the previous sentence. putare introduces an indirect statement with hunc hominem as subject accusative and cogitare as infinitive. magnum aut amplum agree with quid: ‘What [matter ] grand and edifying can we believe this man to be thinking about the state, who…’ qui introduces another relative clause of characteristic, which explains the subjunctives diviserit and reliquerit. They are in the perfect: Cicero is referring to apparently well-known incidences in the past. pecuniam is the accusative object of both diviserit and reliquerit, coordinated by aut aut. At issue are two forms of corrupting passion – cupiditas (‘desire for power and glory’) and avaritia (‘greed, i.e. desire for wealth’) – that lead to illegal use of public funds: bribery and embezzlement. What makes the clause difficult to take in is the participle depromptam, which agrees with pecuniam and governs the phrases ex aerario and ad bellum administrandum:

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 qui

pecuniam [ex aerario depromptam ad bellum administrandum]

aut propter cupiditatem provinciae magistratibus


aut propter avaritiam Romae in quaestu


16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 qui pecuniam … magistratibus diviserit: the construction of dividere here is ‘to distribute an accusative object (pecuniam) among recipients in the dative (magistratibus)’.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 pecuniam ex aerario depromptam ad bellum administrandum: depromptam is the perfect passive participle of depromere in the accusative feminine singular agreeing with pecuniam. It governs the prepositional phrases ex aerario and ad bellum administrandum. The preposition ad here expresses purpose: ‘for war to-be-waged’, ‘in order to wage war’.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 ex aerario: an aerarius is someone who works in copper or other precious metals (aes, aeris, n.). The adjective aerarius refers to something that pertains to, or is made of copper, bronze, etc. Hence the Latin phrase for treasury, i.e. aerarium stabulum – ‘a dwelling/stable (stabulum) pertaining to precious metal’. stabulum was considered redundant, hence the freestanding aerarium, i.e. ‘a place where precious metal is kept’ – or, specifically, the place in the temple of Saturn at Rome, where the state treasury was located, or, simply, ‘the treasury’. In the late republic, the urban quaestors were in charge of its administration, overseen by the senate. They would provide funds for magistrates or pro-magistrates to finance their military operations, on the understanding that such funds would be invested in the best public interest, rather than for illegal private benefits.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 propter cupiditatem provinciae: provinciae is an objective genitive dependent on propter cupiditatem. As Macdonald points out, ‘this must mean “ambition to retain his province” rather than “obtain a province”.’ ((Macdonald (1986) 69.))

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Romae: a locative (‘in Rome’).

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites, ut agnoscere videamini, qui haec fecerint: literally, Cicero says: ‘your murmuring of disapproval, citizens, makes it that you seem to recognize [those], who have done these things’. ‘makes it’, of course, is awkward English – ‘shows’ or ‘demonstrates’ is much more elegant. Cicero elides the accusative object of agnoscere (eos), which is also the antecedent of the relative pronoun qui. qui haec fecerint is an indirect question dependent on agnoscere: hence the subjunctive. Note that Cicero treads very carefully here, by means of one of his favourite hedges: the use of videor. He does not say, factually and brutally, ut agnoscatis (‘that you recognize’) but ut agnoscere videamini (‘that you seem to recognize’).

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites: Cicero here makes it out that he is reacting spontaneously to the audience. Instances such as these raise the question of the relationship between three different versions of the same speech: (a) what Cicero prepared beforehand (though he would have spoken freely, rather than read from a script); (b) what he said during the oral delivery of the speech; (c) the version disseminated in writing afterwards. Did Cicero anticipate an admurmuratio from the audience at this moment already in the planning phase? Did the admurmuratio arise spontaneously and Cicero captured the moment in the written version? Was there perhaps no admurmuratio during the delivery at all, but Cicero kept, or added it, in the published version to convey a sense of ‘life delivery’ and interactivity for those who encountered the speech in writing? We simply do not know. ((For a more detailed discussion of written v. spoken versions of Cicero’s speeches see Gildenhard (2011) 14-15, with further bibliography.))

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 ego autem nomino neminem; quare irasci mihi nemo poterit, nisi qui ante de se voluerit confiteri: Cicero here introduces a comment on his own behalf, which almost sounds like a parenthesis.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 ego autem nomino neminem: Cicero implies that his audience knows very well whom he is referring to, but still refrains from naming names. The autem, then, has adversative force: despite the fact that everyone knows whom I am talking about, Cicero is saying, I (notice the emphatic use of the personal pronoun ego), for my part, keep my hands clean and will abstain from explicit mudslinging. nomino neminem constitutes a deft paronomasia, which partly makes up for the anti-climactic neminem. Imagine Cicero to pause ever so slightly after nomino – raising the expectation that he is about to crucify rhetorically a corrupt aristocrat; perhaps some members in the audience are beginning to sweat nervously at this point – only to let the air out with the categorical neminem.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 quare irasci mihi nemo poterit, nisi qui ante de se voluerit confiteri: poterit is future, voluerit future perfect. Cicero argues that since he has not named anyone, nobody will be able to be angry with him unless that person ‘will have wanted’ to out himself as guilty beforehand. nisi does not introduce a conditional clause; it has a limiting function – ‘except he, who…’. The antecedent of the relative pronoun (is) is elided.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 ante: used adverbially: ‘beforehand’.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Itaque propter hanc avaritiam imperatorum quantas calamitates … nostri exercitus ferant, quis ignorat?: The main clause is the question quis ignorat, which governs the indirect question introduced by the interrogative adjective quantas: hence the subjunctive of ferant. propter hanc avaritiam imperatorum belongs into the indirect question, but is pulled up-front for emphasis.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Itaque: the connective itaque (‘hence’, ‘therefore’) introduces a sentence or thought that emerges from, and stands in some sort of causal relation to, what comes before. Here, though, the link is not with the immediately preceding (ego autem nomino neminem; quare irasci mihi nemo poterit, nisi qui ante de se voluerit confiteri) but the prior vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites, ut agnoscere videamini, qui haec fecerint. It thus reinforces the sense of ego … confiteri as a parenthetical aside.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 quocumque ventum est: only verbs that take an accusative object in their active forms have a complete passive (they are so-called ‘transitive verbs’). Verbs that are ‘intransitive’, i.e. don’t take an accusative object, only form an impersonal passive in the third person singular. venio, venire, veni, ventum (‘to come’) is intransitive, and ventum est is its impersonal perfect passive. Its use here stresses the action and obfuscates agency: Cicero could have said quocumque venerunt [sc. nostri exercitus]. Another nuance to note is the indicative (ventum est): given that the indefinite relative clause is part of the indirect question, Cicero could have used the subjunctive by assimilation; but he retains the indicative to enhance the graphic nature of his rhetoric: the disgraceful conduct of Roman armies is an indisputable matter of fact.

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