¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Cicero has reached the last of the four qualities he considers essential attributes of the perfect general: after scientia rei militaris, virtus, and auctoritas, he turns his attention to felicitas, which signifies ‘divinely sponsored success’. As we already had occasion to note in our commentary on § 41, an outstanding individual’s special relationship with the gods (or, indeed, his semi-divine status) was difficult to reconcile with the principle of oligarchic equality, which underwrote the senatorial tradition of republican government. After Sulla’s dictatorship, no-one in Rome needed a reminder of this fact: in his autobiography, the autocrat professed to confer with supernatural beings rather than his consilium before making important decisions, considered himself to be in a special relationship with Aphrodite/Venus, and added the attribute ‘felix’ to his name, thereby claiming felicitas (‘divine support’) as a permanent, personal possession. ((Steel (2001) 135.))
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 This act of nomenclature went down in the annals of Rome as a revolting outrage. Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79), writing more than a century after the fact, still remonstrates as follows when commenting on it (Natural History 7.137):
unus hominum ad hoc aevi Felicis sibi cognomen adseruit L. Sulla, civili nempe sanguine ac patriae oppugnatione adoptatus. et quibus felicitates inductus argumentis? quod proscribere tot milia civium ac trucidare potuisset? o prava interpretatio et futuro tempore infelix!
[The only human being who has so far added ‘Felix’ to his name was L. Sulla, who, sure enough, secured it through civil bloodshed and an attack on his country. Indeed, what evidence for his luck led him on? That he had been able to put so many thousands of citizens on hit lists and have them slaughtered? A disgraceful justification, with evil consequences for the future!]
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 It was precisely the fear that Pompey would turn into another Sulla (who, after all, had established his dictatorship upon his return from a war against Mithridates) that fuelled opposition to the lex Manilia and the appointment of Pompey among aristocratic circles. At the same time, divine support was an absolutely crucial element in the panegyric promotion of a military commander. In the early portion of his speech, Cicero himself had made this point, when he praised Lucullus for his virtus, but lamented the absence of fortuna from his military operations.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 One of the most fascinating aspects of §§ 47-48 is accordingly how Cicero tries to square the circle of claiming extraordinary felicitas for Pompey while avoiding the impression that Pompey is an alter Sulla in the making. A key ploy, at least initially, is his differentiation of felicitas into a traditional variant and its permutation (indeed perversion) by Sulla. The differences may be tabulated as follows:
|Gingerly, by others
|Temporary (hostage tofortune)
|Permanent (fortune takenhostage) (perpetuum)
|Examples from history
|Maximus, Marcellus, Scipio,Marius and others
|Sulla (unmentioned, butclearly implied)
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 In § 47 Cicero speaks out strongly in favour of the traditional conception, within general reflections on the discursive protocols to be observed when felicitas becomes the topic of public speech. Given that felicitas belongs properly to the supernatural domain (it is a gift from the gods), human beings, he argues, should observe the same reverent respect owed to divine matters in other contexts. In the light of these considerations, Cicero brands any attempt on the part of a human being to claim felicitas for himself as an intolerable act of hubris, liable to provoke the anger of the gods. The target of his criticism is easy to idenify: Sulla. The dictator did what Cicero claims must not be done, i.e. proclaim himself felix and to consider felicitas a personal and permanent possession. Remaining conspicuously unnamed in Cicero’s list of Roman statesmen who were blessed with divine support, Sulla nevertheless looms large in these paragraphs, an exemplum malum best condemned to oblivion, a spectre called up only to be exorcised. After thus sketching out the range of possibilities, from the positive exempla of generals that were blessed with special fortune according to some divine plan (divinitus) to the unidentified exemplum malum Sulla, Cicero proceeds to suggest that Pompey is a special case that does not fit conventional categories. He does not share in Sulla’s hubris of making felicitas an aspect of his self-promotion; but his luck significantly outclasses that enjoyed by any other Roman general. Indeed, in § 48 it emerges as unprecedented and off the scale.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Reliquum est ut de felicitate, quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest, meminisse et commemorare de altero possumus, sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum [sc. dicere], timide et pauca dicamus.: The main clause reliquum est signals the transition from the treatment of auctoritas to the last quality to be covered, felicitas. The ut-clause that follows is consecutive: it explicates what remains to be discussed. Within the ut-clause, Cicero has added a relative clause that falls into two antithetical halves juxtaposed asyndetically: (i) quam … potest; (ii) [quam] meminisse … possumus. The antecedent of quam is felicitate. A further subordinate clause introduced by sicut glosses the two adverbs that go with the verb of the ut-clause (dicamus), i.e. timide et pauca: ‘we speak about divinely sponsored luck in the same way as it is fit that human beings speak about the power of the gods, namely apprehensively (timide) and briefly (pauca).’ Here is the sentence set out schematically:
|Main clause: Reliquum est
|Ut-clause: ut de felicitate,
|quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest,
|[quam] meminisse et commemorare de altero possumus,
|Sicut-clause: sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum [sc. dicere],
|Ut-clause (cont.): timide et pauca dicamus.
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 The intricate syntax and the adversative asyndeton in the relative clause reflect the fact that praising someone for his felicitas is a potential minefield in late-republican Rome.
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum [sc. dicere]: aequum est introduces a indirect statement with homines as subject accusative; the infinitive needs to be supplied from dicamus.
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Ego enim sic existimo, Maximo, Marcello, Scipioni, Mario, et ceteris magnis imperatoribus non solum propter virtutem, sed etiam propter fortunam saepius imperia mandata atque exercitus esse commissos: the main verb is existimo, which governs an indirect statement, with imperia and exercitus as subject accusatives and mandata (sc. esse) and esse commissos as infinitives. Maximo, Marcello, Scipioni, Mario, et ceteris magnis imperatoribus are dative objects with both infinitives.
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Roman heroes, with high degree of ‘name recognition’ (not least since Cicero proceeds in chronological order ), which enables him to keep the nomenclature short and to the point:
|Dates and offices
|Best known for
|Quintus FabiusMaximus Cunctator
|c.280-203 BCconsul 233, 228, 215,
|Managed to wear downHannibal in Italy during
|268-208 BCconsul 222, 215, 214,
|222: killed the Gallic kingViridomarus in hand-
|Publius ScipioAemilianus Minor
|185-129 BCconsul 146, 134
|146: The destruction ofCarthage in the Third
|157-86 BCconsul 107, 104, 103,
|Defeat of the Germanictribes of the Cimbri and
¶ 36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 Cicero’s inclusion of these generals adds weight of evidence to his point about good fortune as well as subtly ranking Pompey alongside (or even above) them. The inverse is also true, for one name is conspicuously absent from this list: Sulla. He was the general who hitherto had made most of felicitas in his self-promotion, but in doing so overstepped certain boundaries that Pompey, as Cicero is keen to stress, painstakingly observes.
¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 saepius: the comparative form of the adverb saepe; the object of comparison isn’t mentioned explicitly, hence it is best translated with ‘rather frequently’, and not ‘more often’
¶ 38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 Fuit enim profecto quibusdam summis viris quaedam ad amplitudinem et ad gloriam et ad res magnas bene gerendas divinitus adiuncta fortuna: the absence of Sulla from Cicero’s list of summi viri becomes even more conspicuous, given that Sulla adopted the epithet Felix, thereby claiming permanent affinity with divinely sponsored success. This, however, took matters a step too far. What Cicero is willing to concede is the existence of some providential force (cf. divinitus) that attached fortuna (here used synonymously with felicitas) to these outstanding individuals – which is something quite different from these outstanding individuals claiming to have a special purchase on fortuna. ad amplitudinem et ad gloriam et ad res magnas bene gerendas: the triple ad here expresses purpose. Cicero uses a tricolon crescens, anaphora, and polysyndeton, swelling his rhetoric in line with his theme.
¶ 39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 De huius autem hominis felicitate, de quo nunc agimus, hac utar moderatione dicendi, non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam, sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare videamur, ne aut invisa dis immortalibus oratio nostra aut ingrata esse videatur.: After stressing how carefully one has to tread when it comes to felicitas, Cicero here specifies how he will moderate his discourse so that it meets his own protocols of restraint. The idiom recalls the beginning of the paragraph. non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam harks back to (felicitate) quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest and sicut aequum est homines de potestate deorum (dicere); and sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare videamur reworks meminisse et commemorare de altero possumus. Put differently, Cicero indeed does not claim felicitas for himself, and even when he talks about the felicitas of someone else, i.e. Pompey, he does not declare it his permanent, personal possession – rather, he observes that Pompey had felicitas in the past (praeteritia meminisse) and hopes that he will have further felicitas in the future (reliqua sperare). This kind of careful calibration, he suggests, will prevent his oration from drawing the ire of the gods. (At the same time, one may wonder about the force of the praeteritio. After all, his moderation consists in the fact of not saying that Pompey holds fortune hostage: hac utar moderatione dicendi, non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam. The statement could imply, however, that Pompey’s power over fortune is a fact – only Cicero refrains from spelling this out. Something similar could be said about his use of videor. The focus on what he appears to be doing (with two uses of videor) suggests that what he is actually doing is something quite different.
¶ 40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 hac utar moderatione dicendi: uti (like frui, fungi, vesci, and potiri) belongs to a number of deponent verbs (best memorized as a group) that take an ablative object (here hac … moderatione). utar is first person singular future indicative (though in form it could also be present subjunctive).
¶ 41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 non ut in illius potestate fortunam positam esse dicam, sed ut praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare videamur: a bipartite consecutive ut-clause (hence the subjunctives dicam and videamur), with the negation non pulled up front in structural parallel to sed, to bring out the antithesis. dicam introduces an indirect statement with fortunam as subject accusative and positam esse as infinitive.
¶ 42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 praeterita meminisse, reliqua sperare: praeterita and reliqua, the accusative objects of, respectively, meminisse and sperare, are adjectives in the neuter plural used here in lieu of nouns: ‘things that have passed’ (praeterita); ‘things that are left, i.e. will come to pass’ (reliqua).