Cicero : Pro Marcello

This speech was delivered for M. Marcellus, in 46 B.C.

The translation is by N.H. Watts (1931). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.

[1.] L   [1] To-day, conscript fathers, has brought to a close the long silence, due not to a feeling of fear, but to mingled feelings of grief and of diffidence, which I had observed during the recent troubles ; to-day, too, marks the resumption of my old habit of expressing freely my desires and my opinions. For such humanity, such exceptional, nay, unheard-of clemency, such invariable moderation exhibited by one who has attained supreme power, such incredible and almost superhuman loftiness of mind I find it impossible to pass by in silence. [2] For in the restoration of Marcus Marcellus, conscript fathers, to yourselves and to the state I feel that my own voice and influence, as well as his, have been preserved and restored to yourselves and to the state. For it was a grief to me, conscript fathers, and a bitter mortification, that so great a man, though serving the same cause as myself, should have met with a fate so different ; and I could not bring myself, nor indeed did I think that it was right for me, to pursue my old path of life, when he who had been the rival and the imitator of my pursuits and my toils had been separated from me, viewing him, as I did, in the light of a comrade and a companion.

Thus it is, Gaius Caesar, that you have not only thrown open to me the erstwhile pursuits of my life, from which I was debarred, but for all here you have, if I may so put it, raised aloft a standard ** which shall lead them to form fair hopes for the state at large. [3] For it has been made clear to me in the case of many and especially in my own - as it was a short while ago to all of us, when you vouchsafed Marcus Marcellus to the Senate and the state after mentioning your grounds of offence - that you place the authority of this order and the dignity of the commonwealth before any resentments or suspicions of your own. Marcellus has indeed on this day, by reason both of the hearty concurrence of the Senate and of your own most weighty and authoritative decision, received what is the crowning reward of all his past life, and from that you cannot fail to understand what distinction attaches to the bestowal of a benefit, when the acceptance of it brings such glory. [4] And happy indeed is that man whose restitution has brought to all a joy scarce inferior to that which bids fair to accrue to himself. His good fortune is merited, is no more than his right ; for who is there that can surpass him in nobility, in integrity, in devotion to humane pursuits, in blameless life, or in any other title to praise ?

[2.] L   There is no genius so overflowing, no power of tongue or pen so lofty or so exuberant that it can adequately describe, let alone embellish, your achievements, Gaius Caesar. Still I do assert, with all deference to yourself, that no prouder glory is comprised therein than that which you have on this day attained. [5] It is my practice to let my vision dwell upon the fact - aye, and to maintain it eagerly in daily speech - that all the achievements of our generals, of foreign nations and sovereign peoples and of the most renowned kings, can be compared with your own neither in the importance of the issues, nor in the multitude of engagements, nor in the diversity of battle-grounds, nor in the speed of completion nor in the manifold variety of warfare they present ; and that lands the most widely severed could have been traversed by the footsteps of none in shorter time than they have been traversed ** I will not say by your marches but by your victories. [6] Were I to refuse to admit that these achievements were greater than scarce any thought or imagination could embrace, I should indeed be infatuated ; still, there are others yet greater. For there is a class of men who use disparaging terms of the honours of war; they would take them from the generals and make them the common property of the rank and file, refusing a monopoly of them to the higher command ; and it is undeniable that in warfare the courage of the soldiers, advantage of position, allied assistance, fleets and supplies are important factors; but the lion's share is claimed for herself, as of right, by Fortune, [7] who counts as her own nearly every success that is won. But this glory, Gaius Caesar, which you have more recently acquired, none shares with you; all of it, to its whole extent (and its extent is beyond question great), all, I say, is yours. No jot nor tittle of that credit of yours is appropriated by centurion, by prefect, by cohort, or by squadron. Nay, even Fortune herself, the mighty mistress of human destinies, does not obtrude herself into partnership in this your glory. To you she yields it; yours, wholly and individually, she admits it to be ; for there is no taint of recklessness in your sagacity, and chance has no right of entry to your deliberations.

[3.] L   [8] You have subdued nations barbarous in their brutality, innumerable in their multitude, infinite in their extent, and abounding in every description of resource; but at the same time the powers you conquered were powers whose nature and circumstances made them amenable to conquest. or there is no might so great that sword and strength cannot enfeeble and crush it. But to conquer the will, to curb the anger, and to moderate the triumph - not merely to uplift from the dust the foe whose rank, genius, and merit were pre-eminent, but even to enhance his previous greatness - him who acts thus I do not compare to the greatest of men, but I judge him most like to a god. [9] This, Gaius Caesar, is why, though the honours you have won in war shall indeed be acclaimed by the literature and the eloquence not only of our own but of well-nigh every nation, nor shall any future age fail to make mention of your praise, still such a tale, even in the very reading, seems, I know not how, to be drowned in the yells of soldiery and the blare of trumpets. But when we hear or read of some act of mercy, of kindliness, of justice, of moderation, and of wisdom, above all if performed in the hour of wrath, which is the foe of counsel, and of triumph, which in its very nature is haughty and overweening, how our hearts burn within us, whether it be fact or merely fiction that we study, so that our affection oft goes forth to men whom we have never seen! [10] But you, whom we behold face to face, whose mind and emotions and countenance declare to us as we view them that you have at heart the salvaging of whatever wreck of the constitution the fortune of war has left us - with what praise shall you be extolled by us? With what zeal shall you be honoured? With what gratitude embraced? I swear that the very walls of this Senate-house seem to me to be yearning to express to you their thankfulness that ere long Marcellus's honoured presence shall grace the halls which have been a home to his ancestors as to himself.

[4.] L   For my own part, when a short while ago I witnessed, as did you yourselves, the tears of Gaius Marcellus, ** at once so excellent and so noteworthy for brotherly affection, my heart was overwhelmed with recollection of all who bear that name, to whom, even those of them that are no more, you have by your preservation of Marcus Marcellus restored their pristine dignity, and rescued from all but extinction a family which had dwindled to a mere handful. [11] This day, therefore, will rightly be given preeminence by you over all the proud and innumerable occasions on which thanks have been offered to you. ** It is the occasion of a distinction which belongs peculiarly to Gaius Caesar, and to none else. The other achievements performed under your leadership have been doubtless great, but great and numerous have been your associates therein; while in this achievement you are at once sole leader and sole participant. So great indeed is it that though to your trophies and memorials the lapse of time will set a period (for there is no work of man's hands and labour which shall not sooner or later fade and pass away with time), [12] still this your justice and your mercy shall blossom day by day more brightly, and what age steals from your handiwork it shall add to your glory. You had already vanquished all other victors in civil wars by your equity and your compassion ; but on this day you have vanquished yourself. I fear lest the sense conveyed to the ear by what I say may not quite correspond to the thought that springs in my mind, when I declare that you seem to have vanquished Victory herself, now that you have surrendered to the vanquished all that Victory had gained. For though in accordance with the universal law of conquest all we, the conquered, were undone, by your deliberate clemency have we been preserved. Truly then are you alone invincible, since by you the law and might of Victory herself has been vanquished !

[5.] L   [13] And observe, conscript fathers, how far-reaching in its effects is the action which Gaius Caesar has decreed to take. For all of us who were impelled by some lamentable and fatal destiny that attends the state to espouse the cause we did, though we are amenable to some blame on the ground of human error, have at least been acquitted of any crime. When Caesar, at your intercession, preserved Marcellus for the commonwealth, and when, without any intercession, he restored me both to myself and also to the commonwealth, and these other eminent men, whom you see gathered at our meeting in large numbers and in full enjoyment of their dignity, both to themselves and to their country, he did not bring enemies into the Senate-house ; but he decided that the greater number were induced to enter into the war rather by ignorance and by a false and groundless apprehension than by self-interest or rancour. [14] Throughout that war I held to the opinion that proposals for peace should be listened to; and I never ceased to regret that not merely peace, but all the arguments of public men who agitated for peace, were rejected. For myself, indeed, I espoused neither that nor any cause in the civil war, and my aims were always such as went with peace and the arts of civil life, not with war and arms. It was an individual ** whom I followed, through private and not political obligation; and the loyal recollections of a grateful heart had such sway over me, that, unmoved by any self-interest and even by any hopes, I rushed deliberately and with open eyes upon a self-chosen doom. [15] I made no secret of these aims; for not only did I plead earnestly for peace in this House while the question was still open, but in the thick of the war I retained the same opinions even at the risk of my life. Consequently no critic of events will be so prejudiced as to question what were Caesar's wishes with regard to war, seeing that he has lost no time in declaring for the restitution of those who advocated peace, while displaying some measure of resentment against the rest. That declaration was perhaps less surprising when the issue and fortune of the war yet hung in a doubtful balance ; but he who in the hour of triumph cherishes the advocates of peace surely declares that he would have preferred not to fight at all rather than to conquer.

[6.] L   [16] This is a truth to which I can bear evidence on Marcus Marcellus's behalf ; for our sentiments, as ever in peace, so also in war, were in unison. How often, and with what deep mortification, have I seen his terror not only of the extravagant attitude adopted by persons ** I could name, but also of the savagery even of victory! For this reason should we, who have lived to witness both, hold your liberality, Gaius Caesar, in the deeper gratitude ; for it is not cause with cause that we must compare to-day, but victory with victory. [17] We have seen your triumphant career consummated by the issue of successive battles, but in the city we have never seen the sword bare of its scabbard. The citizens we have lost have been struck down by the might of Mars, not by the vindictiveness of victory, and none, accordingly, has just cause for doubt that there are many whom, were it possible, Gaius Caesar would recall from the world of the dead, seeing that he preserves the lives of such survivors of that encounter as he can. As for the other side, I will merely say that the universal fears would have been realised in the passionate excesses that would have attended their victory. [18] For there were some of them who uttered threats ** not only against their armed foes, but sometimes against non-combatants ; and said that it was not what a man thought but where he had been ** that should be taken into account ; so that to me at least it seems that the immortal gods, even if they did exact retribution from the Roman people for some sin, in that they roused a civil war so grave and so lamentable, have yet at last been so far appeased or sated that they have transferred all prospects of a happy issue to the clemency and sagacity of the victor.

[19] Rejoice then in this your crowning bliss, and reap the full harvest not only of your fortune and your glory but above all of your own inborn goodness; for therein does the wise man find his highest profit and delight. When you shall call to mind all else that is yours, though very often it will be your virtues, still frequently it will be your happy star that you will thank; whenever, on the other hand, your thought shall dwell upon us, whom you have desired to see associated in policy with yourself, then also shall it dwell upon your own great kindnesses, your amazing generosity, your unrivalled wisdom. These I will venture to call not merely the highest, but even the only blessings of life. For so bright is the lustre of true glory, so high the merit that lies in magnanimity and prudence, that while these seem to be a gift of virtue's bestowal, all else is but a loan of fortune. [20] Be not, therefore, weary in the work of preserving loyal patriots, above all those whose fall is due not to some selfish or crooked course but to a conception of their duty which, though perchance deluded, is at all events not depraved, and to a sort of political idealism ** ; for no blame is yours if some have feared you, but rather the greatest commendation, because they knew that you were to be feared so little.

[7.] L   [21] I pass now to the discussion of those awful suspicions ** which you have made the subject of a vehement protest, suspicions which demand the attention of the general body of citizens as well as your own, but above all the attention of us who owe to you our preservation. I trust that they are groundless, but no expression that I may use shall ever belittle them. For precautions which you take for your own self are precautions taken for us; and if we must err either by excess or by default, I would rather appear too timid than too short-sighted. But who is the lunatic who is in your mind? Is it one of your own friends - and yet who are more truly your friends than those to whom you have restored a security for which they dared not hope - is it one of those who were once on your side ** ? It is an infatuation unbelievable in any man that he should not count his own life of less import than the life of one under whose leadership he has won all his highest possessions. Or, if your own adherents brood upon no dark scheme, need you take heed lest your foes do so? What foes? For all who were your foes have either forfeited their lives to their own obstinacy, or have retained them at the bidding of your mercy ; and if all your foes have not perished, those who survive have become your firmest friends. [22] Still, since there are in the human mind corners so dark and recesses so unexplored, let us by all means intensify your suspicions ; for by so doing we shall intensify your watchfulness. For what man on earth is there so ignorant of life, so unversed in politics, so utterly careless of his own well-being and that of the community, as not to realise that his own well-being is bound up in yours, and that on your sole life hang the lives of all? For my part, as I ponder by day and night upon you, as I cannot but do, it is but human chances, the doubtful issues of bodily disorder and the frailness of our common nature, at which I shudder; and I mourn that, while the commonwealth must be immortal, its existence should turn upon the mortal breath of a single man. [23] But if to human chances and the uncertain instability of bodily health there is also added conspiracy for criminal and treacherous ends, what god are we to suppose could succour the state, should he so desire ? [8.] L   It is for you alone, Gaius Caesar, to reanimate all that you see shattered and laid low as was inevitable, by the shock of the war itself; courts of law must be set on foot, licentiousness must be checked, and the growth of population fostered; all that has become disintegrated and dissipated must be knit together by stringent regulation. [24] It had to be expected that in a civil war so grave, amid passions and combats so embittered, the stricken state, whatever the issue, would lose many that lent distinction to her pride and protection to her stability ; that the leader on either side would be responsible, under a state of war, for many acts that under peace conditions he would have forbidden ; and it is all these wounds of war's infliction which you are called upon to heal, and which none but you can treat. [25] Consequently it was with regret that I listened to those famous and philosophic words of yours: "I have lived long enough either for nature or for glory." Long enough, perhaps, if you will have it so, for nature, - and for glory too, if you like ; but, what is more than all this, for your country all too brief a span. Speak not to us then, I beg, of the wisdom of philosophers who make light of death; let it not be at our peril that you play the sage. For indeed it frequently comes to my ears that this same utterance, that you have lived long enough for yourself, is all too often upon your lips. It may be so; but only if for yourself alone you lived, or if for yourself alone you had been born, would I listen to that word. It is the welfare of the community, it is the whole range of public life that your achievements have embraced ; so far are you from consummating your chiefest labours, that you have not yet laid the foundation of all your plans. And will you at this juncture determine the limits of your life not by the welfare of the state, but by the tranquillity of your own mind ? What if that limit is sufficient not even for your glory ? For all your wisdom, you will not deny that you are consumed with desire for that. [26] "Shall I then," you will say, "leave behind me an achievement all too small ?" Nay, but what you leave would be enough for other men, however many they be; for yourself alone it would be too small. For whatever it is, how great soever it be, so long as there is aught greater, your achievement is too small. But if this, Gaius Caesar, was destined to be the issue of your mortal works, that, after subduing your adversaries, you should leave the state in the condition where it stands to-day, look to it, I beg of you, that your superhuman qualities win not admiration rather than glory - if indeed glory be the bright and widespread fame won by great services conferred upon a man's own friends or upon his country or upon the human race at large.

[9.] L   [27] This chapter, then, still awaits you; this act yet remains to be played, to this must you summon all your powers - to plant the constitution firmly, and yourself to reap the chiefest fruits thereof in peace and tranquillity. Then and then only, if you will, when you have paid your country what you owe her, when satiety of life has enabled you to make full discharge to Nature herself, we give you leave to say that you have lived long enough. For what, in any case, is the significance of this same word 'long' if it involves an idea of finality ? When that comes, all past pleasure goes for nothing, because there shall be none thereafter. And yet your mighty spirit has never been content with the confines wherein nature has cribbed our lives; it has ever burned with the passion for immortality. [28] But in truth it is no fabric moulded of body and breath that we should deem your life to be; nay, that - that, I say - is your true life, which shall energise in the memory of all ages, which posterity shall nourish and eternity itself always sustain. This is the life to which you should consecrate yourself, this to which you should reveal your true character; this for many years past has had much to admire ; now it looks too for deeds which it may extol. Doubtless generations yet to come will be struck dumb when they hear and read of the commands you have held and the provinces you have won - the Rhine, the Ocean, the Nile - your countless battles, your amazing victories, your memorials, your largesses, and your triumphs ; [29] but if this city is never to be tranquillised by your measures and your institutions, the passage of your name to the ends of the earth will be but a wayward roaming; fixed resting-place and assured home it will never have. Among those yet unborn there shall arise, as there has arisen among us, sharp division ; some shall laud your achievements to the skies, and others perchance shall find some quality, and that the chiefest, to be lacking, should you fail to quench the fires of civil war, and thereby bring salvation to your country, with the result that your achievements in war will be attributed to fate but the establishment of order to design. Look then to the verdict even of those who shall pass judgement upon you many ages hence, a judgement that will in all probability be less prejudiced than ours ; for they will judge without partiality or interest, as without animosity or hatred. [30] And even if this verdict, as some are so deluded as to think, shall affect you not at all, ** still at the present moment it is a matter that does assuredly affect you, that you should so bear yourself that no forgetfulness may ever dim the lustre of your fame.

[10.] L   Divergent, indeed, have been the aims of our countrymen, and widely sundered their views; for ours was a difference not merely of policies and ideals, but of arms and camps as well. The issues were perplexed, for two generals of the first renown stood in the lists against each other ; many hesitated as to the best course, many as to the most expedient for themselves, many as to the most becoming; some even hesitated as to what was lawful. [31] The commonwealth went through to the bitter end with this wretched war wherewith fate had burdened it. The conqueror was not one to let success kindle, but rather to let his innate kindliness mollify his hatred ; not one to account all who had deserved his resentment deserving also of exile or of death. Some laid down their arms, others had them wrenched from their grasp. That citizen knows neither gratitude nor justice who, when released from the peril of arms, still keeps his soul armed ; so that the better man is even he who has fallen upon the stricken field ** and poured out his life-blood for a Cause. For what appears to some as obstinacy may be strength of purpose in the eyes of others. [32] Now, however, all dissension has been shattered by the arms, quenched by the impartiality of the victor; and it remains that all should be united in purpose who have but a modicum not of wisdom necessarily, but of sound judgement. Only through your safety, Gaius Caesar, and by your adherence to the policy on which you have hitherto, but above all to-day, acted, can there be any safety for ourselves. For this reason all of us, who have the safety of the existing frame of things at heart, urge and implore you to look to your own life and welfare; and, if I may say on behalf of others what I personally feel, since you think that some danger lurks which should be guarded against, we all promise you not merely sentinels and bodyguards, but the shelter that our own breasts and bodies can afford.

[11.] L   [33] But, that my speech may conclude even where it began, we all express to you, Gaius Caesar, our deepest gratitude, and feel it even more deeply ; all our hearts beat as one, as you have been enabled to realise by the prayers and tears of all. But since it is not necessary that all should stand up ** to give expression to these sentiments, they at least desire that they should be expressed through me, on whom such expression is especially incumbent; and such action as should fittingly follow upon the restoration of Marcus Marcellus by you to this order and to the Roman people and state is, I understand, being taken; for I feel that all rejoice at the deliverance not of a single person, but of the community at large. [34] Moreover, as regards the duties of the deepest affection (and how deep my affection is towards my friend has always been a matter of public knowledge ; indeed I would scarce yield place in this respect to his excellent and devoted brother Gaius, and certainly to none save him), since I have ever fulfilled these by my anxiety, my interest, and my efforts, so long as his restoration was still an open question, at this time assuredly, released as I am from grave solicitude, distress, and grief, I am bound to fulfil them. Accordingly, Gaius Caesar, while I thank you, I yet remember that, after I had been in all respects not only preserved but even distinguished by you, the countless services you have conferred upon myself individually have, though I thought it impossible, been gloriously crowned by your present action.


1.(↑)   A flag hung from the general's tent was a signal for taking the field for battle or for going forth to found a colony.

2.(↑)   The verb translated has religious associations, i.e. to purify by traversing, as in the procession at the Ambarvalia ; cf. the Rogation Day ceremonies of the Catholic church.

3.(↑)   Brother of M. Marcellus, consul 49.

4.(↑)   i.e. for victories in Gaul (57), 15 days: for the same (55 and 52), 20 days; for victory in Africa (46), 40 days.

5.(↑)   Pompey the man, not P. the political leader; cf. Ad Att. viii. 2. 6.

6.(↑)   e.g., L. Lentulus and L. Domitius Ahenobarbus.

7.(↑)   C. says of Pompey: "sullaturit animus eius et proscripturit iamdiu" (Ad Att. ix. 10. 6).

8.(↑)   Plutarch (Pomp. 61) tells us that P. when he fled from Rome gave notice that "he should consider all the senators who stayed behind as partisans of Caesar."

9.(↑)   'Species' here means "visionary image" ; cf. Ad fam. iv. 4. 3, 4.

10.(↑)   i.e., of plots against his life.

11.(↑)   A corrected re-statement of 'de tuisne'.

12.(↑)   If Sallust (Cat. li.) is to be trusted, Caesar was no believer in a future life; for this reason Weiske would bracket falso, as likely to offend Caesar.

13.(↑)   e.g., the Pompeians in Africa.

14.(↑)   Senators stood only to make a speech at length on a motion.

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