theilian (theilian) wrote,

Cicero vs. Antony <1>: 1st Philippic

... Marcus Antonius made a fine speech on that day [1] , and his intentions were excellent... He offered admirable recommendations to the Senate. At that stage nothing was disinterred from Caius Caesar's notebooks except what was already well known to everybody, and he gave answers to every question that was asked of him with the greatest consistency. Were any exiles restored? He said that one was, and only one. Were any immunities granted? He answered, None. He wished us even to adopt the proposal of Servius Sulpicius, that most illustrious man, that no tablet purporting to contain any decree or grant of Caesar's should be published after the Ides of March were expired. I pass over many other things, all excellent--for I am hastening to come to a very extraordinary act of virtue of Marcus Antonius. He utterly abolished from the constitution of the republic the Dictatorship, which had by this time attained to the authority of regal power... For we had won liberation from the tyranny under which we had been labouring and, what is more, from all fears of similiar tyranny in the future. Although there had often a legitimate dictator in the past, men could not forget the perpetual dictatorship of recent times, and by abolishing the entire office, Marcus Antonius gave the state a mighty proof that he wanted our country to be free... So determined was his action that I am amazed by the contrast [2] between that day and all the others which have followed.

For by the first of June, on which day they had given notice that we were all to attend the Senate, everything was changed. Nothing was done by the Senate, but many and important measures were transacted through Assembly of the people, though people were both absent and disapproving. The consuls elect declare that they did not dare to come into the Senate. The liberators of their country were excluded from the very city which they had rescued from servitude... Being elevated with the consciousness of his great and glorious exploit, Brutus had no complaints to make about his own fate - but lamented your fate exceedingly. It was he who gave me my first information about Lucius Piso's speech [3] in the Senate on August the first. Piso had received little support, Brutus said, from the people who ought to have backed him... And so I hastened back to lend him my aid. My purpose was not so much to accomplish anything concrete, for such a thing I neither expected nor, in fact, achieved. But this is the a time when many things contrary to the order of nature and even against the ordinary course of fate seem likely to happen at any moment, and, in case the doom that is common to all of us should come my way, I wanted to bequeath our country the sentiments I am now expressing, as a testimonial of my eternal devotion to its welfare...

And now before I begin to speak of the republic, I feel obliged to enter a brief protest about the injustice Antonius did me yesterday. I am his friend, and, because of a service he rendered me, [4] I have always insisted on maintaining that this is so. Then why, I should like to know, did he show such bitter hostility in endeavouring to drag me into the Senate yesterday? Was I the only person who was absent? Have you not repeatedly had thinner houses than yesterday? Or was a matter under discussion of such importance under that even sick men had to be brought down? Are you telling me that Hannibal himself was at the gates?... But no: the motion was about public thanksgivings, and that is a subject for which Senators are not usually in short supply... I was hardly recovered from the fatigue of my journey, and not very well. So for friendship's sake, I sent a message to inform Antonius that I should not be there. Whereupon, he declared, in your hearing, that he would come to my house with a demolition squad. This was a remarkably ill-tempered and immoderate way to talk. Whatever sort of a crime did he suppose he was penalizing by this harsh declaration, in the presense of the Senators, of his intention to use state employees to demolish a residence that had been erected at state expense in accordance with a decision of the Senate? [6]... But if he had known what opinion I should have delivered on the subject, he would have remitted somewhat of the rigor of his compulsion.

Do you think, O conscript fathers, that I would have voted for the resolution which you adopted against your own wills, of mingling funeral obsequies with supplications? [7] of introducing inexplicable impiety into the republic? of decreeing supplications in honor of a dead man? I say nothing about who the man was. Even had he been that great Lucius Brutus [8] who himself also delivered the republic from kingly power, and who has produced posterity nearly five hundred years after himself of similar virtue, and equal to similar achievements- even then I could not have been induced to join any dead man in a religious observance paid to the immortal gods... But I pray that the immortal gods may pardon this act, both to the Roman people, which does not approve of it, and to this order, which voted it with reluctance...
In the first place, then, I declare my opinion that the acts of Caesar ought to be maintained: not that I approve of them; (for who indeed can do that?) but because I think that we ought above all things to have regard to peace and tranquillity. I wish that Antonius himself were present (though I should prefer his advisors [9] to remain elsewhere!), but I suppose he has the right to feel unwell, a privilege which he refused to allow me yesterday. If he were here, he would tell you, conscript fathers, to what extent he himself defended the acts of Caesar. Are all the acts of Caesar which may exist in the bits of notebooks, and memoranda, and loose papers, produced on his single authority, and indeed not even produced, but only recited, to be ratified? [10] And shall the acts which Caesar himself caused to be engraved on brass, in which he declared that the edicts and laws passed by the people were valid forever, be totally disregarded? ... I think it intolerable that the acts of Caesar in the most important instances, that is to say, in his laws, are to be annulled for their sake. What law was ever better, more advantageous, more frequently demanded in the best ages of the republic, than the one which forbade the praetorian provinces to be retained more than a year, and the consular provinces more than two? Supress this law, and how can you still speak of preserviang Caesar's acts?...

Another law was proposed, that men who had been condemned of violence and treason may appeal to the Assembly if they please. But, I ask you, is this a law at all - is it not rather a law to end all laws? And anyway, who cares nowadays whether this bill is persevered with or not? For there is not, in fact, one single person today awaiting trial under the laws concerned with those offences. [11] And I do not suppose that there will be anyone in the future either - since acts perpetrated by force of arms will certainly never be impeached in a court of justice... For what prosecutor will be found insane enough to be willing, after the defendant has been condemned, to expose himself to the fury of a hired mob? or what judge will be bold enough to venture to condemn a criminal, knowing that he will immediately be dragged before a gang of bribed toughs?...

Now it is far from agreeable, I can see, when a man who has something against you holds a weapon in his hand, especially at a time when men can use their swords with such impunity. But I will propose a condition which I myself think reasonable, and which I do not imagine Marcus Antonius will reject. If I utter one single insulting remark against his private life or his morals, I shall not object to him treating me as a bitterest enemy. But if, on the other hand, I merely adhere to the custom of my entire political career and pronounce my my frank opinion about national issues, first of all, I beg him not to be indignant with me, and next, if that please fails, I at least urge that he will show his anger only as he legitimately may show it to a fellow-citizen. Let him employ arms, if it is necessary, as he says it is, for his own defence: only let not those arms injure those men who have declared their honest sentiments in the affairs of the republic. Now, what can be more reasonable than this demand? But if, as has been said to me by some of his intimate friends, every speech which is at all contrary to his inclination is violently offensive to him, even if there be no insult in it whatever; then we will have to bear with the natural disposition of our friend. But those men, at the same time, say to me, "You will not have the same indulgence granted to you who are the adversary of Caesar as might be claimed by Piso his father-in-law." And at the same time they give me a word of warning which I do not propose to neglect, and it is this: being ill has not served me as an excuse for absence from the Senate - but I shall have a better excuse if I am dead!

But, in the name of the immortal gods! for while I look upon you, O Dolabella [12], who are most dear to me, it is impossible for me to keep silence about the mistake you are both making... And as for you, Marcus Antonius, you are not with us now, but I have an appeal to address to you all the same. Do you not prefer that day on which the Senate was assembled in the temple of Tellus?... For what a splendid speech you made about national unity!...When your little son was sent by you to the Capitol to be a hostage for peace, your words freed the veterans from all apprehensions about their position, and indeed delivered our entire nation from its anxieties... but the greatest of all presents was that, when you abolished the name of the dictatorship. This was in effect branding the name of the dead Caesar with everlasting infamy, and it was your doing- yours, I say... so you, on account of the hatred excited by one dictator, have utterly abolished the name of dictator. When you had done these mighty exploits for the safety of the republic, did you regret the good fortune, the dignity and renown and glory which you had acquired? I wonder how the sudden transformation came about. I cannot bring myself to suspect you were corrupted by financial considerations. Let people say what they like, one is not forced to believe them: and I have never found anything squalid or mean in your character... I am only sorry that your freedom from guilt is not equalled by your freedom from suspicion.

But what frigtens me more than such imputations is the possibility that you yourself may disregard the true path of glory, and instead consider it more glorious to possess more power than all your fellow-citizens combined - preferring that they should fear you rather than like you. And if you do think so, your idea of where the road of glory lies is mistaken... This is clear enough from the play in which the man said, "Let them hate me provided that they fear." [13] He found to his cost that such a policy was his ruin...I wish, Antonius, that you could recollect your grandfather [14], of whom, however, you have repeatedly heard me speak. Do you think that he would have regarded his claim to immortality as being best served by terrorizing people with armed gangs? No, what life and good fortune meant to him was being equal to the rest of the citizens in freedom, but their superior in his honourable way of life. About his glorious successes I shall say nothing now; but I want to record my conviction that the last tragic day of his life was preferrable to the tyranny of Lucius Cinna [15], by whom he was most barbarously slain.

But I see no hope of influencing you by what I say. For if the end Gaius Caesar cannot influence you to prefer being loved to being feared, no speech of anyone will have the slightest effect or success. People who say Caesar was enviable are profoundly mistaken. For no one can be said to have a happy life when its violent end brings his slayers not merely impunity but the height of glory. So change your ways, I entreat you, and look back upon your ancestors, and govern the republic in such a way that your fellow-citizens may rejoice that you were born...
1 The Senate had met in the Temple of Tellus (Earth) on 17 March 44, in which Antony and Cicero made speech for compromise (amnesty for conspirators and confirmation of Caesar's acts among others), which Senate ratified.
2 The sudden transformation is a dramatic exaggeraton, as Cicero's letters show.
3 L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, Caesar's father-in-law evidently took a bold and indepedent line in the speech to which Cicero refers.
4 Antony claimed that he had saved Cicero's life at Brundisium in 48. In any case, he had treated him courteously.
6 Cicero's house on the Palatine was rebuilt at public expense after his return from exile, during which it was razed by Clodius.
7 Perhaps Antony's proposal was that at the end of every thanksgiving to the gods prayers be offered to Caesar, whose deification Cicero refused to accept.
8 L. Junius Brutus was the quasi-legendary hero of the expulsion of the Tarquins, the last king of Rome (c. 510 BC)
9 An ironical reference to Antony's bodyguards
10 Antony exploited his possession of Caesar's papers, presenting them (sometimes forged papers, according to Cicero) as his acta that should be ratified under agreement of March 17.
11 Leges Juliae of Caesar against riot and treason respectively
12 co-consul with Antony and Cicero's former son-in-law
13 words of Atreus, in Accius' tragedy of that name. He was killed by his nephew Aegisthus.
14 Antony's grandparents were M. Antonius Orator and L. Julius Caesar, and his maternal uncle was L. Julius Caesar.
15 L. Cornelius Cinna held four successive consulships (87-84). Antony's grandfather, Antonius the Orator was beheaded, and his head was displayed on rostra.
Tags: cicero speeches
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