Worse Through Words: National Emergencies and War

Cicero, Philippic 8.2

“But what is the substance of the controversy? Some people were thinking that the title “war” should not be given in the statement; they were preferring to use the term “national emergency” because they are ignorant not only of the matter but of words too. For a war is possible without a “national emergency”, but a “national emergency”, however, cannot exist without a war. What thing could be a “national emergency” but a trouble so great that a serious fear arises?

This is where the terminology itself for “national emergency” [tumultus] comes from. For our ancestors used to say that there was a “national emergency” in Italy  which was domestic or a “national emergency” in Gaul, which is on our border, but they used to call nothing else that. And that a “national emergency” is, moreover, more serious than a war can be understood from the fact that exemptions from service are valid in war but they are not in “national emergency”.

Therefore, as I was just saying, a war can exist without a “national emergency” but a “national emergency” cannot exist without a war. And since there can be no middle-ground between war and peace, it is true that a “national emergency”, if it is not part of a war, must be part of a peace. And what could be a crazier to say or imagine? But I have gone on too long about a word. Let’s look at the matter itself, Senators, which I do think often can become worse through language.”

At in quo fuit controversia? Belli nomen ponendum quidam in sententia non putabant: tumultum appellare malebant, ignari non modo rerum sed etiam verborum: potest enim esse bellum ut tumultus non sit, tumultus autem esse sine bello non potest. Quid est enim aliud tumultus nisi perturbatio tanta ut maior timor oriatur? Unde etiam nomen ductum est tumultus. Itaque maiores nostri tumultum Italicum quod erat domesticus, tumultum Gallicum quod erat Italiae finitimus, praeterea nullum nominabant. Gravius autem tumultum esse quam bellum hinc intellegi potest quod bello [Italico] vacationes valent, tumultu non valent. Ita fit, quem ad modum dixi, ut bellum sine tumultu possit, tumultus sine bello esse non possit.4Etenim cum inter bellum et pacem medium nihil sit, necesse est tumultum, si belli non sit, pacis esse: quo quid absurdius dici aut existimari potest? Sed nimis multa de verbo. Rem potius videamus, patres conscripti, quam quidem intellego verbo fieri interdum deteriorem solere.

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There is a town called Cicero. It responds to emergencies.

An Address to a Senator Upon His Return to the Government

Cicero, In Catilinam 1.16-17

“But what is this life of yours like now? I shall speak to you in this way so that I do not seem to be moved by hatred but by the pity which you have earned from no one.

A little while ago you entered the senate. Who from that great crowd of your many friends and companions hailed you? If this treatment has affected no other person in human memory, are you waiting for verbal abuse even though you have been rejected by the weightiest judgement of their silence?

What do you make of the fact that the seats emptied at your arrival, that all the former consuls who were signaled for death by you left their seats naked and abandoned when you sat down? With what feelings do you think you should accept this?”

Nunc vero quae tua est ista vita? Sic enim iam tecum loquar, non ut odio permotus esse videar, quo debeo, sed ut misericordia, quae tibi nulla debetur. Venisti paulo ante in senatum. Quis te ex hac tanta frequentia, tot ex tuis amicis ac necessariis salutavit? Si hoc post hominum memoriam contigit nemini, vocis exspectas contumeliam, cum sis gravissimo iudicio taciturnitatis oppressus? Quid, quod adventu tuo ista subsellia vacuefacta sunt, quod omnes consulares qui tibi persaepe ad caedem constituti fuerunt, simul atque adsedisti, partem istam subselliorum nudam atque inanem reliquerunt, quo tandem animo tibi ferendum putas?

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Cicero: I Love Peace, Just not With Him

Cicero, Philippics 7.3

“In this way, I am one who has always been a proponent of peace, especially within the state; even though this is true for all good men, I have still hoped for it among the first ranks. All of the effort of my work has has been in the forum, in the senate house, and in the defense of friends from dangers. From this source we have earned the greatest honors, a modest amount of wealth, and however much dignity I have.

Therefore, I, a beneficiary of peace, as you might say, who, however much of a man I am and I do not claim anything for myself, I certainly would not have been like this within civil peace. I speak dangerously and I shake a little at the thought of the way you might receive this, Senators, but I plead and I ask you, based on my own endless longing to maintain and increase your dignity, that first, even if it is unbelievable that it was said by Marcus Cicero, which is bitter or incredible to your hearing, that you will take what I say without offense and not reject it outright before I explain what I mean. And I will say often that I am a constant champion of peace but I am not looking for peace with Marcus Antonius.

I am turning to the rest of this speech with great hope, Senators, because I have made it through the most dangerous part in silence. Why then do I oppose peace? Because it is corrupt, because it is dangerous, and because it is not possible.”

Itaque ego ille qui semper pacis auctor fui cuique pax, praesertim civilis, quamquam omnibus bonis, tamen in primis fuit optabilis—omne enim curriculum industriae nostrae in foro, in curia, in amicorum periculis propulsandis elaboratum est; hinc honores amplissimos, hinc mediocris opes, hinc dignitatem si quam habemus consecuti sumus—ego igitur pacis, ut ita dicam, alumnus, qui quantuscumque sum (nihil enim mihi adrogo) sine pace civili certe non fuissem—periculose dico: quem ad modum accepturi, patres conscripti, sitis, horreo, sed pro mea perpetua cupiditate vestrae dignitatis retinendae et augendae quaeso oroque vos, patres conscripti, ut primo, etsi erit vel acerbum auditu vel incredibile a M. Cicerone esse dictum, accipiatis sine offensione quod dixero, neve id prius quam quale sit explicaro repudietis—ego ille, dicam saepius, pacis semper laudator, semper auctor, pacem cum M. Antonio esse nolo. Magna spe ingredior in reliquam orationem, patres conscripti, quoniam periculosissimum locum silentio sum praetervectus. Cur igitur pacem nolo? Quia turpis est, quia periculosa, quia esse non potest.

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No peace with me?

A Protest Over a Conquered State

Livy, Ab Urbe Condita  6.38

“When the dictator, surrounded by a squad of patricians, was full of rage and threats as he sat down, the matter was pursued with the typical struggle among the tribunes of the plebs—for some of them were proposing a law while others were proposing it. As much as the force of the veto was more powerful, it was still overcome by the attraction of the laws themselves and the people who sponsored them.

Some were already voting “as you say” at the moment when Camillus said, “Romans, since the passion of the tribunes controls you and not authority, you are practicing that veto earned by the secession of the plebs with the same force by which you obtained it, I will support the veto as dictator no more for the whole republic than for your own sake and I will keep safe what has been overturned with my authority.

If at that point Gaius Licinius and Lucius Sextus yield to their colleagues veto, I will not impose a patrician office on the council of the plebs. But, if they try to force their protest as if over a conquered state, I will not allow the power of the tribunate to effect its own destruction.”

Cum dictator, stipatus agmine patriciorum, plenus irae minarumque consedisset atque ageretur res solito primum certamine inter se tribunorum plebi ferentium legem intercedentiumque et, quanto iure potentior intercessio erat, tantum vinceretur favore legum ipsarum latorumque et “uti rogas” primae tum Camillus “Quando quidem” inquit, “Quirites, iam vos tribunicia libido, non potestas regit, et intercessionem secessione quondam plebis partam vobis eadem vi facitis inritam qua peperistis, non rei publicae magis universae quam vestra causa dictator intercessioni adero eversumque imperio tutabor. Itaque si C. Licinius et L. Sextius intercessioni collegarum cedunt, nihil patricium magistratum inseram concilio plebis; si adversus intercessionem tamquam captae civitati leges imponere tendent, vim tribuniciam a se ipsa dissolvi non patiar.”

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Cicero On the Civil Conflict and the Punishment of Children

Cicero, Letters to Brutus, 23 (I.15), 43 BCE

“There has been no civil war in our state which I can remember in which, regardless of which side was victorious, there was not some hope for a government in the future. In this conflict, however, I could not easily confirm what government we would have if we are victorious, but there will surely never be another if we lose.

This is why I put forth harsh legislation against Antony and Lepidus too, not so much for the sake of vengeance as to frighten the lawless citizens among us from besieging their own country and to prepare for posterity a reason why no one should desire to emulate such insanity.

Although this idea certainly was not more mine than everyone’s, in one way it seems cruel: the fact that children, who have earned none of this, suffer the same punishment as their parents. But this is an ancient practice which has existed in every kind of state. Even the children of Themistocles lived in deprivation! If the same penalty attends citizens condemned in court, how could we possibly be easier against our enemies? And what can anyone complain about me when he would have to admit that if he had defeated me he would have treated me worse?”

nullum enim bellum civile fuit in nostra re publica omnium quae memoria mea fuerunt, in quo bello non, utracumque pars vicisset, tamen aliqua forma esset futura rei publicae: hoc bello victores quam rem publicam simus habituri non facile adfirmarim, victis certe nulla umquam erit. dixi igitur sententias in Antonium, dixi in Lepidum severas, neque tam ulciscendi causa quam ut et in praesens sceleratos civis timore ab impugnanda patria deterrerem et in posterum documentum statuerem ne quis talem amentiam vellet imitari. quamquam haec quidem sententia non magis mea fuit quam omnium. in qua videtur illud esse crudele, quod ad liberos, qui nihil meruerunt, poena pervenit. sed id et antiquum est et omnium civitatum, si quidem etiam Themistocli liberi eguerunt. et si iudicio damnatos eadem poena sequitur civis, qui potuimus leniores esse in hostis? quid autem queri quisquam potest de me qui si vicisset acerbiorem se in me futurum fuisse confiteatur necesse est?

Siege of Montargis. Chroniques de France ou de Saint Denis (from 1422 to 1460) France, N. (Calais?); 1487. ff. 1-299v. British Library, Royal 20 E VI f. 22
Siege of Montargis. Chroniques de France ou de Saint Denis (from 1422 to 1460) France, N. (Calais?); 1487. ff. 1-299v. British Library, Royal 20 E VI f. 22

How to Turn a Virtue into a Vice

Valerius Maximus 9. 2

“Not so vile is the deed and saying of Caius Fimbria, but on their own they are both extremely bold. He planned that Scaevola would be slaughtered at the funeral of Gaius Marius. Once he learned that [Scaevola] had healed from his wound, he turned to accuse him in court.

There, when he was asked what he had to say against someone whose character couldn’t possibly be sufficiently praised, he said that he would claim the man had let the weapon wound him too easily. What an excess of insanity that accompanied the groan of a sick country!”

Non tam atrox C. Fimbriae est factum et dictum, sed si per se aestimetur, utrumque audacissimum. id egerat ut Scaevola in funere C. Marii iugularetur. quem postquam ex vulnere recreatum comperit, accusare apud populum instituit. interrogatus deinde quid de eo secus dicturus esset cui pro sanctitate morum satis digna laudatio reddi non posset, respondit obiecturum se illi quod parcius corpore telum recepisset. licentiam furoris aegrae rei publicae gemitu prosequendam!

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Gaius Marius

Every Academic’s Dream: A Wealthy Patron Puts You on the Map

Suetonius, Lives of Illustrious Men: Rhetoricians 29

Sextus Clodius, from Sicily, was a teacher of both Latin and Greek oratory. He had bad eyesight and a mean tongue and used to claim that he wore out his eyes in friendship with Marcus Antonius the Triumvir. He also said that Antony’s wife Fulvia, who had one cheek rather swollen, “directs the point of his pen”. For this he was more not less pleasing to Antony!

After Antony became consul, Clodius got a great gift from him, as Cicero objects in his Philippics: “You hire on a school teacher for the sake of his jokes, raised up an orator with you and your drinking-buddies’ jokes, and you have let him say whatever he wants about you, this thoroughly witty man.

Ah, but it is pretty easy to say things against you and yours. Look at how much this orator was paid. Listen to this senators; observe the wound to your nation. You gave to this orator Sextus Clodius two thousand Leontine acres which are untaxable—such a great price to learn nothing!”

V (29). Sextus Clodius, e Sicilia, Latinae simul Graecaeque eloquentiae professor, male oculatus et dicax, par oculorum in amicitia M. Antonii triumviri extrisse se aiebat; eiusdem uxorem Fulviam, cui altera bucca inflatior erat, acumen stili tentare dixit, nec eo minus, immo vel magis ob hoc Antonio gratus. A quo mox consule ingens etiam congiarium accepit, ut ei in “Philippicis” Cicero obicit: “Adhibes18 ioci causa magistrum, suffragio tuo et compotorum tuorum rhetorem, cui concessisti ut in te quae vellet diceret, salsum omnino hominem, sed materia facilis in te1 et in tuos dicta dicere. At quanta merces rhetori est data! Audite, audite, P. C., et cognoscite rei p. vulnera. Duo milia iugerum campi Leontini Sex. Clodio rhetori assignasti et quidem immunia, ut tanta mercede nihil sapere disceres.”

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“I buy my teachers right….”