Four Years of Presidential Memories: 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

Sulla As Dictator and the Evils of Civil War

Velleius Paterculus 2.28

“The evils of the civil war seemed to have ended when they were rekindled by Sulla’s cruelty. Once he was made dictator—and this honor had been avoided for a hundred and twenty years since the last time it had been used was one year after Hannibal quit Italy—and it is obvious that the fear which prompted the Roman people to want a dictator was less than how much they feared his power. As dictator, Sulla applied the power which earlier dictators had used only to save the country from the greatest dangers with unmeasured degrees of savagery.

He was the first—and I wish he had been the last—to discover the model of proscription with the result that in the same state in which legal recourse is available to an actor booed from the stage, in that state a price was set for the murder of a Roman citizen: he would have the most who killed the most! The reward for the killing of an enemy would be no greater than for the murder of a citizen.

In essence, each man was valued for the price of his own death. Such savagery was applied not only to those who had carried arms against them, but against many innocents too. In addition to this, the goods of the proscribed were offered for sale: children already deprived of their father’s goods were also prohibited from the right of seeking public office and, the most unjust thing of all, they had to maintain the standards of their social rank without recourse to the rights.”

Videbantur finita belli civilis mala, cum Sullae crudelitate aucta sunt. Quippe dictator creatus (cuius honoris usurpatio per annos centum et viginti intermissa; nam proximus post annum quam Hannibal Italia excesserat, uti adpareat populum Romanum usum dictatoris haud metu desiderasse tali quo timuisset potestatem) imperio, quo priores ad vindicandam maximis periculis rem publicam olim usi erant, eo in inmodicae crudelitatis licentiam usus est.3 Primus ille, et utinam ultimus, exemplum proscriptionis invenit, ut in qua civitate petularitis convicii iudicium histrioni ex albo redditur, in ea iugulati civis Romani publice constitueretur auctoramentum, plurimumque haberet, qui plurimos interemisset, neque occisi hostis quam civis uberius foret praemium Geretque quisque merces mortis suae.4 Nec tantum in eos, qui contra arma tulerant, sed in multos insontis saevitum. Adiectum etiam, ut bona proscriptorum venirent exclusique paternis opibus liberi etiam petendorum honorum iure prohiberentur simulque, quod indignissimum est, senatorum filii et onera ordinis sustinerent et iura perderent.

Sulla - Wikipedia

Elections or Street Violence

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 4.3 [22 November 57]

“The candidate Marcellus has been snoring so loudly that his neighbor—me—can hear him. I have learned that Clodius’ yard is almost completely empty, only a few nobodies with a lamp. They all claim that this has come about thanks to my plan, ignorant of how much is in the spirit of that Milo, and how great his judgment is too.

I won’t talk about certain recent miracles, but this is the essence of it. I don’t think the elections will happen, Clodius will be a defendant, unless he is killed beforehand and I think it is in Milo’s hands. If he thrusts himself into that mob, I suspect that he will be killed by Milo himself. He is not at all in doubt about it and looks forward to it. He does not fear what I faced—he’s never going to listen to jealous and deceptive advice or trust his life to a lazy nobility.”

Marcellus candidatus ita stertebat ut ego vicinus audirem. Clodi vestibulum vacuum sane mihi nuntiabatur: pauci pannosi sine lanterna. <m>eo consilio omnia illi fieri querebantur, ignari quantum in illo hero<e> esset animi, quantum etiam consili. miranda virtus est. nova quaedam divina mitto, sed haec summa est: comitia fore non arbitror, reum Publium, nisi ante occisus erit, fore a Milone puto; si se in turba ei iam obtulerit, occisum iri ab ipso Milone video. non dubitat facere, prae se fert; casum illum nostrum non extimescit. numquam enim cuiusquam invidi et perfidi consilio est us<ur>us nec inerti nobili<tati> crediturus.

Cicero denouncing Cataline (from The Comic History of Rome, c. 1850)

What Binds Uncertain Minds

Lucan, Pharsalia 5.249-259

“Caesar did not learn better in any other struggle
How he looked down from an unstable, shaky precipice
And that even the ground he stood on was trembling.

Undone by so many hands cut down, left only
His own sword, this man who forced so many peoples to war
He understood that the drawn sword is the soldier’s not the general’s.

The murmur was no longer timid, no more was anger
Hidden in the heart: for what binds together uncertain minds,
That each person fears the others he causes terror
And everyone thinks that they alone are oppressed by injustice,
Was no longer a cause to restrain people.”

Haud magis expertus discrimine Caesar in ullo est,
Quam non e stabili tremulo sed culmine cuncta
Despiceret staretque super titubantia fultus.
Tot raptis truncus manibus gladioque relictus
Paene suo, qui tot gentes in bella trahebat,
Scit non esse ducis strictos sed militis enses.
Non pavidum iam murmur erat, nec pectore tecto
Ira latens; nam quae dubias constringere mentes
Causa solet, dum quisque pavet, quibus ipse timori est,
Seque putat solum regnorum iniusta gravari,
Haud retinet.

Julius Caesar on Horseback, Writing and Dictating Simultaneously to His Scribes. Painted by artist Jaques de Gheyn II (1565–1629).

The Ideal Statesman and Pompey’s True Aims

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, Ep.  8.11 (27 Feb 49)

“I believe it is in his fifth book that Scipio says ‘Just as a favorable trip is a captain’s task, health is the doctor’s, victory is the generals, the duty of the leader of a state is the happy life of its citizens: strength for their safety, abundance for their goods, fame for their self-worth, and truth for their virtue. I wish for the accomplishment of the best men among us to be this.’

‘Our’ Gnaeus has never before thought about this, nor now in the present affair at all. Domination has been sought by both of them—nothing has been done for the happiness and honesty of the state. [Pompey] did not leave the city because he could not defend it nor Italy because he was driven away, but from the beginning he planned to attack every land and sea, to annoy foreign kings, and to bring alien peoples to Italy in arms—to raise the largest armies. He has been salivating for a long time for that type of Sullan rule—and many who follow him long for it to. Do you believe that there was no way for them to come to an agreement, that no pact was possible? It is possible today, but neither man cares whether we are happy. Both want to rule.”

nam sic quinto, ut opinor, in libro loquitur Scipio: ‘ut enim gubernatori cursus secundus, medico salus, imperatori victoria, sic huic moderatori rei publicae beata civium vita proposita est, ut opibus firma, copiis locuples, gloria ampla, virtute honesta sit; huius enim operis maximi inter homines atque optimi illum esse perfectorem volo.’ hoc Gnaeus noster cum antea numquam tum in hac causa minime cogitavit. dominatio quaesita ab utroque est, non id actum, beata et honesta civitas ut esset. nec vero ille urbem reliquit quod eam tueri non posset nec Italiam quod ea pelleretur, sed hoc a primo cogitavit, omnis terras, omnia maria movere, reges barbaros incitare, gentis feras in Italiam armatas adducere, exercitus conficere maximos. genus illud Sullani regni iam pridem appetitur, multis qui una sunt cupientibus. an censes nihil inter eos convenire, nullam pactionem fieri potuisse? hodie potest. sed neutri σκοπὸς est ille, ut nos beati simus; uterque regnare vult.

Image result for Cicero rome

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.

Image result for cicero national emergency
There is a town called Cicero. It responds to emergencies.

Life In Exchange for Burning Your Books?

The following piece from the elder Seneca (Yes, Seneca the Elder, not the Younger) is based upon the imaginary story that Marcus Antonius offered to preserve Cicero’s life in exchange for the destruction of all his books. 

Seneca the Elder, Suasoria 7

Cicero Deliberates whether to burn all his writings since Antony has promised his safety if he did so

Deliberat Cicero an scripta sua conburat, promittente Antonio incolumitatem si fecisset, 11

Here the conditions [of the agreement] were intolerable. For nothing is so intolerable as to burn up the proofs of your own genius. In addition, this was an insult to the Roman people, whose language Cicero had elevated so that their eloquence outstripped the knowledge of arrogant Greece as much as their fortune in war. This would be a crime against humanity! Cicero would regret breaths bought at so high a price, since he would have to grow old as a slave using his eloquence only for one thing: praising Antony. This was a wretched sentence: to be granted life, but surrender genius.

Pompeius Silo proceeded to argue that Antony was not negotiating but instead was mocking Cicero. This was a not a condition, it was an insult: For even after the books were burned he would still kill him. Antony was not so foolish that he believed that burning the books was a concern to Cicero, a man whose writings were already famous over the whole world. Antony did not seek this thing he could do himself, unless of course he did not have the power over Cicero’s books which he had over Cicero. He sought nothing other than to kill Cicero after reducing him to a state of shame because he had spoken bravely and often about his contempt for death. Hence, Antony was not giving him life on a condition, but he was seeking his death in dishonor. Thus, Cicero ought to suffer bravely now what he would certainly suffer later in shame.

Hic condiciones intolerabiles. <Nihil tam intolerabile> esse quam monumenta ingenii sui ipsum exurere. Iniuriam illum facturum populo Romano, cuius linguam huc ipse extulisset ut insolentis Graeciae studia tanto antecederet eloquentia quantofortuna; iniuriam facturum generi humano. Paenitentiam illum acturum tam care spiritus empti, cum in servitute senescendum fuisset <et> in hoc unum eloquentia utendum, ut laudaret Antonium. Male cum illo agi: dari vitam, eripi ingenium.

Silo Pompeius sic egit ut diceret Antonium non pacisci sed inludere: non esse illam condicionem sed contumeliam; combustis enim libris nihilominus occisurum; non esse tam stultum Antonium ut putaret ad rem pertinere libros a Cicerone conburi, cuius scripta per totum orbem terrarum celebrarentur, nec hoc petere eum, quod posset ipse facere, nisi forte non esset in scripta Ciceronis ei ius cui esset in Ciceronem; quaeri nihil aliud quam ut ille Cicero multa fortiter de mortis contemptu locutus ad turpes condiciones perductus occideretur. Antonium illi non vitam cum condicione promittere, sed mortem sub infamia quaerere. Itaque quod turpiter postea passurus esset, nunc illum debere fortiter pati.

 

Image result for Ancient Rome Cicero and Marcus Antonius
Not a fan of Cicero.

The Ideal Statesman and Pompey’s True Aims

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, Ep.  8.11 (27 Feb 49)

“I believe it is in his fifth book that Scipio says ‘Just as a favorable trip is a captain’s task, health is the doctor’s, victory is the generals, the duty of the leader of a state is the happy life of its citizens: strength for their safety, abundance for their goods, fame for their self-worth, and truth for their virtue. I wish for the accomplishment of the best men among us to be this.’

‘Our’ Gnaeus has never before thought about this, nor now in the present affair at all. Domination has been sought by both of them—nothing has been done for the happiness and honesty of the state. [Pompey] did not leave the city because he could not defend it nor Italy because he was driven away, but from the beginning he planned to attack every land and sea, to annoy foreign kings, and to bring alien peoples to Italy in arms—to raise the largest armies. He has been salivating for a long time for that type of Sullan rule—and many who follow him long for it to. Do you believe that there was no way for them to come to an agreement, that no pact was possible? It is possible today, but neither man cares whether we are happy. Both want to rule.”

nam sic quinto, ut opinor, in libro loquitur Scipio: ‘ut enim gubernatori cursus secundus, medico salus, imperatori victoria, sic huic moderatori rei publicae beata civium vita proposita est, ut opibus firma, copiis locuples, gloria ampla, virtute honesta sit; huius enim operis maximi inter homines atque optimi illum esse perfectorem volo.’ hoc Gnaeus noster cum antea numquam tum in hac causa minime cogitavit. dominatio quaesita ab utroque est, non id actum, beata et honesta civitas ut esset. nec vero ille urbem reliquit quod eam tueri non posset nec Italiam quod ea pelleretur, sed hoc a primo cogitavit, omnis terras, omnia maria movere, reges barbaros incitare, gentis feras in Italiam armatas adducere, exercitus conficere maximos. genus illud Sullani regni iam pridem appetitur, multis qui una sunt cupientibus. an censes nihil inter eos convenire, nullam pactionem fieri potuisse? hodie potest. sed neutri σκοπὸς est ille, ut nos beati simus; uterque regnare vult.

Image result for Cicero rome

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

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.

Image result for cicero national emergency
There is a town called Cicero. It responds to emergencies.