Cicero : Philippic 12

This speech was delivered against Marcus Antonius, in March 43 B.C.

The translation is by W.C.A. Ker (1926). 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] Though it seems most unseemly, conscript fathers, that a man, to whose advice on most important matters you often assent, should be deceived, cajoled, should err, yet I console myself as it is in your company and together with a consul of the greatest wisdom that I have erred. For when two consulars ** had brought us the hope of an honourable peace, seeing that they were friends of, were intimate with Marcus Antonius, they seemed likely to know of some mishap that had befallen him which was unknown to us. At the house of one are his wife and children; the other was daily writing to, and hearing from him, and was Antonius' avowed partisan. [2] These men, in suddenly inviting us to make peace - a thing they had not done for a long time - appeared to be acting not without a reason. Their invitation the consul supported. And what a consul! If we look for prudence, one that could not easily be deceived; if for patriotism, one that would never approve of a peace except when Antonius was yielding and indeed conquered ; if for greatness of mind, one to prefer death to slavery. But you, conscript fathers, did not appear so much to be forgetful of your most weighty decrees as, when there came the hope of a surrender which his friends would prefer to call a peace, to contemplate the imposition, not the acceptance, of conditions. My hopes indeed, and also I believe yours, had been increased by my hearing that the house of Antonius was afflicted with mourning, and that his wife was in lamentation. Here too I saw that the partisans of Antonius, on whose faces my eyes continually dwell, were depressed. [3] If this be not so, why has mention been made of peace, by Piso and Calenus especially, why at this time, why so unexpectedly, why so suddenly? Piso says he knows of nothing, he says he has not heard of anything; Calenus says no news has arrived. And they now make these denials when they think we are involved in an embassy for peace. What need then for a new policy if in the facts there be nothing at all new ?

[2.] L   We have been deceived, deceived, I say, conscript fathers ; it is the cause of Antonius that has been pleaded by his friends, not that of the State. This indeed I saw, but as it were through a mist; the safety of Decimus Brutus had dulled the edge of my intelligence. But if substitutes were commonly allowed in war, I would gladly suffer myself to be shut in instead of him so that Decimus Brutus might be let out. [4] Then too we were taken by this remark of Quintus Fufius: "Even if he withdraw from Mutina, shall we not listen to Antonius? not even if he says he will submit to the jurisdiction of the Senate?" It seemed hard; and so our resolution broke down ; we yielded. Does he then withdraw from Mutina? "I do not know." Does he obey the Senate? "I believe so," says Calenus, "but on condition that he maintain his dignity." By Hercules, conscript fathers, you must stoutly strive to lose your own dignity, which is very great, and maintain that of Antonius, which neither exists nor can exist, that he may by your means recover what by himself he has renounced! If he were abject in his negotiations with you, I perhaps would listen to him, though ** - but I prefer to say "I would listen to him." While he stands firm, you must resist him, or together with your dignity you must resign your liberty.

[5] "But," they say, "the question is not open; an embassy has been appointed." What is not open to a wise man that can be corrected ? Every man is liable to err; it is the part only of a fool to persevere in error; for the later thoughts, as the saying is, are usually the wiser. That mist has been dispelled I spoke of just now ; light has broken ; the case is clear ; we see everything, nor with our own eyes only, but we are warned by our friends. You heard just now the speech of a most distinguished man. "I found," he says, "the house, the wife, the children, in mourning. ** Good men were wondering, my friends were chiding me, that I had in the hope of peace undertaken an embassy." And no wonder, Publius Servilius; for by your most proper and weighty proposals Antonius had been deprived, I do not say of his dignity, but even of hope of safety. [6] Who would not marvel that you should go to him as an envoy? I argue from my own experience: I feel how my course of action, identical with yours, is blamed. Are we the only ones blamed? What! was it without cause that the bravest of men, Pansa, just now made such a precise and lengthy speech? What did he intend but to ward off from himself a suspicion of treachery? And what did that suspicion spring from? From the hasty advocacy of peace which he suddenly adopted, being taken in by the same error as ourselves.

[3.] L   [7] But if there has been an error, conscript fathers, induced by a vain and fallacious hope, let us return into the right path ; the best harbour for repentance is a change of counsel. By Heaven! what advantage to the State can our embassy bring? Advantage, do I say? What if it is even likely to injure it? Likely to injure? What if it has already hurt and injured it? Do you not think the Roman people's most eager and steadfast longing for the recovery of liberty has been lessened and weakened when they hear of an embassy for peace? What do you think of the municipia? What of the colonies? What of the whole of Italy? That it will be filled with the same zeal with which it had blazed out against the common conflagration? Do we not suppose there will be repentance on the part of those that have professed and manifested hatred against Antonius, those that have promised money, promised arms, and have devoted themselves wholly, soul and body, to the safety of the State? In what fashion will Capua, that is in these days a second Rome, approve this resolution of yours? She judged them disloyal citizens, and cast and shut them out. That is the city, that, I say, from which, when it made a valiant effort to crush him, Antonius was by force rescued. **

[8] Again, are we not by this policy cutting the sinews of our legions? for who is likely to have spirits inflamed for war if hope of peace be offered him? That very Martian legion, though a legion of a god-like and divine spirit, will on this report grow languid and soft, and lose that most glorious name of Martian ; their swords will fall down, their arms will drop from their hands. For, as it has followed the Senate, it will not think it owes a greater hatred towards Antonius than does the Senate. We are shamed before this legion, shamed before the Fourth, which, esteeming our authority with equal loyalty, deserted Antonius, not as being a consul and their general, but as an enemy and opponent of his country; we are shamed before that most loyal army composed of the two legions, which has been already reviewed, ** and has set out for Mutina; for if it hear the name of peace, that is, of our fear, though it may not retreat, it will assuredly halt. For why, when the Senate's trumpet sounds the recall should it hasten to fight ?

[4.] L   [9] And what is more unjust than this - that we should, without the knowledge of those who are waging the war, decide on peace, and not merely without their knowledge, but also against their will ? Aulus Hirtius, that most illustrious consul, or Caius Caesar, one by the blessing of Heaven born for this crisis, whose letters declaring their hope of victory I have in my hand - do you think they wish for peace? They seek to conquer, and have desired to win that sweetest and fairest name of peace, not by bargaining, but by victory.

Again, with what feelings, pray, do you think Gaul will hear of this thing? for she has the preeminence in repelling, and conducting, and sustaining the burden of this war. Gaul, which followed the mere nod, for I will not say the command, of Decimus Brutus, has laid firm the foundations of the war with arms, men, and money; she too has presented her whole body to the cruelty of Marcus Antonius; she is being drained, devastated, burnt with fire; all the injuries of war she suffers with equanimity if only she may repel the danger of slavery. [10] And to say nothing of the remaining parts of Gaul - for they are all alike - the Patavians have shut out some, and cast out others of the emissaries of Antonius; they have assisted our commanders with money, with soldiers, and - what was principally lacking - with arms. The rest have done the same, who were formerly in the same case as Patavium, and who, because of the wrongs of many years, were thought to be alienated from the Senate; and yet there is very little wonder they are faithful, now they have been admitted to the franchise, when even without it they always maintained their loyalty. ** When all these, then, are hoping for victory, shall we offer them the name of peace, that is, the despair of victory ?

[5.] L   [11] And what if no peace be even possible? For what kind of peace is that where no concession can be made to the man with whom you make peace? Antonius has on many occasions been invited by us to peace, yet he has preferred war. Envoys have been sent though I disapproved: yet they have been sent; orders have been issued: he has not obeyed them. He was solemnly warned not to besiege Brutus, to withdraw from Mutina; he has pressed the siege more vehemently. And shall we send envoys to treat for peace to a man who has rejected the messengers of peace? Do we think he will be more moderate in his demands in their presence than he was formerly when he sent his orders ** to the Senate? And yet then he asked things which, though they seemed wholly presumptuous, yet might in a way be conceded; he had not as yet been cut to pieces by the verdicts, so severe, so numerous, so ignominious which you passed on him; now he requires what we cannot in any way give unless we are first willing to confess we have been beaten in war.

[12] We have decided that false decrees of the Senate have been entered at the Treasury ; can we decide that they were genuine? We have resolved that laws have been proposed by violence and in defiance of the auspices, and that by them neither the whole people nor the commons are bound ; do you think they can be upheld? You have decided that Antonius has embezzled seven hundred millions of sesterces of public money; can he be acquitted of peculation? Exemptions from taxation for communities, priestly offices, thrones, have by him been put up for sale ; shall those advertisements be again posted up which you by your decrees have torn down?

[6.] L   But if we can rescind our decrees, can we also expunge the memory of the facts? For when will any future generation forget by whose crime it was we have worn this unseemly garb? ** Though the blood of the centurions of the Martian legions shed at Brundisium may be washed away, can the story of his cruelty be washed away? To pass over intermediate events, what length of time shall obliterate the most foul memorials of his works around Mutina, the proofs of his crime, and the traces of his brigandage ?

[13] To this savage and foul murderer what concession then, in Heaven's name, can we make? Further Gaul and an army? What is that but not making peace, but prolonging the war? not only extending war, but also surrendering victory ? Will he not have conquered if on any terms he come into this city with his followers? By force of arms we now hold the mastery of all things; in authority we are at the strongest; a host of abandoned citizens are away from Rome, having followed their nefarious leader; none the less to see and listen to those of their number that are left in the city we find intolerable. What think you? When so many of them shall have burst in on us at once, when we have laid down our arms while they have not laid down theirs, shall we not by our own policy be beaten eternally ? [14] Set before your eyes Marcus Antonius as consular, add to him Lucius hoping for a consulship; fill up with the rest - and not of our own order only - who look for honours and commands; do not despise even the Tiros, the Numisii, the Mustelas, the Seii ** ; peace made with them will not be peace, but a pact of slavery. A noble utterance made by that most eminent man Lucius Piso has been justly praised by you, Pansa, not only in this assembly but also at a public meeting. He said he would depart from Italy, would abandon his household Gods and his paternal home, if - may the Gods already have averted the omen! - Antonius had crushed the State.

[7.] L   [15] I ask you therefore, Lucius Piso, would you not think the State was crushed if so many disloyal, audacious, guilty men were admitted back? Men we hardly endured while they were not yet stained with so many murders - do you think, now they are covered with every kind of crime, the State will find them tolerable? "We must either, believe me, adopt your advice, yield, depart, and pursue a life needy and vagrant; or our necks must be given over to brigands, and we must fall in our own country. Where, Caius Pansa, are those most noble exhortations of yours with which the Senate was aroused, the Roman people kindled by you, and not merely heard, but learned the lesson, that nothing is so disgraceful to a Roman as slavery? [16] Was it for this we have assumed military garb, taken up arms, and sifted all our youths from the whole of Italy, that, when we had a most efficient and numerous army, envoys should be sent for peace? If to receive peace from Antonius, why are we not so asked in the motion? if to demand it, of what are we afraid? Am I to be one of this embassy, or to mix myself up with that policy in which the Roman people will not even know if I dissent from the rest? The result will be that, if any allowance or concession be made, the misdeeds of Antonius will always be at my risk, as the power of misdoing will appear to have been conceded to him by me.

[17] But if peace with the brigandage of Marcus Antonius is to be considered, yet I was the last man who should have been chosen to bring about that peace. It was I who never thought envoys should be sent; who, before the return of the embassy, ventured to say that even if they brought Peace herself, since under the name of peace lurked war, she should be rejected ; I who was the chief adviser of military garb ; I who always called him an enemy when others called him an adversary, always called this a war when others called it a tumult. ** And this not only in the Senate; I always took the same line before the people; and not only against Antonius himself have I always inveighed, but also against his abettors and agents in crime, both those here and those with him, in a word against the whole house of Marcus Antonius. [18] Accordingly, just as disloyal citizens were alert and joyful at the prospect of peace, and were congratulating one another as if they had conquered, so they protested against my being an envoy as being prejudiced; they complained of me; ** they also distrusted Servilius; they remembered that by his votes Antonius had been pierced as with stabs; that Lucius Caesar, though a brave and steadfast Senator, was nevertheless his uncle; that Calenus was his agent; that Piso was his intimate friend; you yourself, Pansa, though a most energetic and valiant consul, they already think inclined to leniency ; not that it is or can be so, but your mention of peace has created a suspicion in many that your mind has changed. That I should be thrown among these persons ** the friends of Antonius take hardly; and we must humour them, now we have once begun to be obliging. [8.] L   [19] Let the envoys set out with the best of omens, but let those set out at whom Antonius may not be offended.

But if you are not concerned about Antonius, you ought, conscript fathers, at least to consider me. At any rate spare my eyes, and make some allowance for a just grief. For with what countenance shall I be able to look upon - I say not the enemy of the country: my hatred to him on that account is common to you as well - but how shall I look on him who is my particular cruel enemy, as his most bitter harangues about me declare? Do you think me so made of iron that I can meet or look on the man who lately at a public meeting, when he was making gifts to those who appeared to him to be the boldest among his band of murderers, said he gave my possessions to Petissius of Urbinum, who, after the wreck of a splendid patrimony, was cast on these Antonian rocks? [20] Shall I be able to look on Lucius Antonius, whose cruelty I could not have escaped had I not defended myself with walls and gates and the zeal of my own borough? ** And this same Asiatic gladiator, ** the brigand of Italy, the colleague ** of Lento and Nucula, when he was giving golden coins to Aquila the centurion, said he gave them as part of my possessions: for had he said he gave them as part of his own he did not think even Aquila would believe him. My eyes, I say, will not endure Saxa, nor Cafo, nor the two praetors, ** nor the tribune of the plebs, nor the two tribunes elect, ** nor Bestia, nor Trebellius, nor Titus Plancus. I cannot see with equanimity so many savage, wicked enemies, and that not because of any squeamishness on my part, but from love to the State.

[21] But I will control my feelings and command myself; my most just grief, if I cannot crush it, I will conceal. What! conscript fathers, do you not think I should take some concern for my life? It is indeed very little dear to me, especially as Dolabella has made death desirable if it be only without tortures and racks ** ; but to you and to the Roman people my life should not be cheap. For I am one, unless perhaps I deceive myself, who, by my vigils, anxieties, votes, aye, and by the many perils I have faced on account of the most bitter hatred towards me of all disloyal men, have contrived not to be harmful to the State - for I would not seem to speak too arrogantly. [22] This being so, do you think I should have no thought of my danger?

[9.] L   Here, while in the city and at my own house, nevertheless many attempts have been made on me, though here not the fidelity of friends alone, but the eyes of the whole community guard me. What think you? that, when I have entered on a journey, most of all a long one, there are no ambushes to be dreaded? There are three ways to Mutina, whither my imagination hastens that I may behold as soon as I can that pledge of the liberty of the Roman people, Decimus Brutus; in whose embrace I would gladly breathe out my latest breath, when all my actions during these past months, when all my proposals have attained that goal which I have set before me. **

There are then three ways, as I have said; by the higher sea the Flaminian; by the lower the Aurelian; in the middle the Cassian. [23] Now attend, I pray you, and consider whether my suspicion of danger errs from probability. The Cassian divides Etruria. Do we then know, Pansa, in what districts the authority of Lento Caesennius the septemvir now prevails? He is certainly not with us either in mind or body. But if he is either at home, or not far from home, he is certainly in Etruria, that is, on my road. Who then guarantees me that Lento is content with one victim? ** Tell me besides, Pansa, where Ventidius ** is, whose friend I always was before he became so openly unfriendly to the State and all good men. I can avoid the Cassian, and keep to the Flaminian. What then? if Ventidius has gone to Ancona as he is said to have done shall I be able to reach Ariminum safely? There remains the Aurelian. Here indeed I shall actually have a guard; for here are the lands of Publius Clodius. The whole household will meet me, it will invite me to stay because of our most notorious friendship! **

[10.] L   [24] Shall I entrust myself to these roads who lately at the Terminalia did not dare, though I was to return the same day, to go into the suburbs? Within my own house-walls I protect myself with difficulty without a guard of friends. So, if I may, I will remain in the city. Here is my place; here I keep watch ; here I stand sentinel; here I have my fixed garrison. ** Let other men hold camps, and conduct affairs of war; let them hate their enemy - for that is the chief thing - I, as I do and have always done, will, in conjunction with you, protect the city and the affairs of the city. Not that I refuse this office, although I see the Roman people refuses it on my behalf. No man is less timid than I, yet no man is more cautious. Facts are eloquent. It is now twenty years that every villain makes me his single aim. And so they have paid the penalty, I will not say to myself, but to the State ; my safety the State has up to now ensured to secure its own. Thus much shall I say with some timidity, for I know that to a man anything may happen - yet once when I was beset by a picked force of the most powerful men, I fell purposely that I might be able to rise again with the utmost honour. **

[25] Can I then be thought sufficiently cautious, sufficiently foreseeing, if I entrust myself to this road, so infested as it is and so perilous? Those engaged in public affairs should leave behind them in death a glorious name, not a handle for reproof of their faults and for blame of their folly. What good man does not mourn the death of Trebonius? who does not grieve for the passing of such a citizen and man? But there are some who say - a harsh saying indeed, yet they say it - that we should grieve the less because he was not on his guard against a foul criminal, ** for wise men say that he who professes to be the guard of many should first of all be the guard of his own life. When you are fenced round by the laws and the awe of the law-courts, one need not be afraid of anything, or look for a guard against every kind of ambush; for who in broad daylight, or on a military road, or when a man was well attended or of high position, would dare to make an attack? [26] But these considerations have no weight at this crisis or in my case. For the man who offers me violence will not only dread no penalty; he will actually hope for honour from gangs of brigands and for rewards.

[11.] L   These things I provide against in the city; I can easily look around me to see from where I am issuing, and where I am proceeding, what is on the right hand, and what upon the left. Shall I be able to do the same in the by-paths of the Apennines, where, even if there are no ambushes - as there may be very easily - yet my mind will be anxious, and so unable to attend to the duties of the embassy? But suppose I have escaped ambushes, have surmounted the Apennines; of course I must meet and speak with Antonius. What place will be selected? If one outside the camp, let the others look to themselves; I think my death will be immediate. I know the man's frenzy, I know his unbridled violence. As the bitterness of his character and the savagery of his nature does not usually soften even when tempered with wine, when this man is inflamed with wrath and madness, and his brother Lucius, that most savage beast, stands with him, he will assuredly never keep his sacrilegious ** and traitorous hands from me.

[27] I remember conferences with the keenest enemies and with the most bitterly antagonistic citizens. Cnaeus is Pompeius, the son of Sextus, when I was a raw recruit in his army, held as consul a conference in my presence with Publius Vettius Scato, the Marsian leader, ** between the two camps. To this conference I remember Sextus Pompeius, the consul's brother, a learned and wise man, coming from Rome. Scato greeted him, and said: "What am I to call you?" He replied, "In feeling a guest, by necessity an enemy." There was in that conference a spirit of fairness; no apprehension, no suspicion underlay the proceedings ; even hostility was moderate; for the allies were not seeking to deprive us of our citizenship, but to be admitted to it themselves. Sulla and Scipio, the one with the flower of the nobility, the other with his allies in the war, ** settled between themselves between Cales and Teanum the laws and conditions on the authority of the Senate, the suffrages of the people, and the right of citizenship. That conference did not altogether maintain good faith ; yet it was not marked by violence and danger.

[12.] L   Can we then amid the brigandage of Antonius be equally safe? We cannot, or, if the others can, I do not believe I can. [28] But if we do not meet outside the camp, what camp shall be selected for the conference? He will never come into ours, much less shall we go into his. It remains that demands should both be received and dispatched by letter; so we shall be in our own camps. My opinion indeed of all his demands is the same, and when I have declared it in your hearing, imagine I have gone and returned: I shall have discharged my embassy. I shall by my vote refer to the Senate all Antonius' demands whatever they may be. For no other procedure is legal, nor have we been commissioned by this our order in the same way as, when wars are ended, ten ambassadors ** usually are by the custom of our ancestors, nor have we received from the Senate any mandates at all.

And as I shall so act in the conference, with, as I think, no dissent, is it not to be feared that the inexperienced crowd of soldiers may consider that peace is being deferred through me? [29] Assume that the new legions do not disapprove of my policy ; for that the Martian and the Fourth legion, which have no object but honour and glory, will approve, I know for certain, What then? As to the veterans - not even they themselves wish to be feared - but are we not apprehensive how they may receive my strictness? for they have heard many false things of me; unscrupulous men have carried to them many stories. Their interests, I, as you are the best witnesses, have always supported by my vote, my authority, and my speeches ; but they believe those who are unscrupulous and turbulent, they believe their own party. Now they are no doubt brave men, but by their recollection of their exploits on behalf of the liberty of the Roman people and the safety of the State, they are too high-spirited and apt to refer all our policies to the test of their own violence. [30] I am not afraid of their thoughts, I dread their impulses.

And if, too, I escape these considerable dangers, do you think my return will be fully safe? For when I, after my wont, have defended your authority, and maintained my own good faith and steadfastness towards the State, then not only those that hate me, but those too that envy me, are to be dreaded.

Let my life then be guarded for the State, and let it be preserved, so far as honour or nature shall allow, for my country; let death either follow the inevitable decree of Fate, or if it must be met before, ** let it be met with glory. This being so, although the State - to say the least - does not require this embassy, yet, if I can go safely, I will set out. In all things, conscript fathers, I will gauge the whole policy of this matter, not by my own danger, but by the advantage of the State; and as to that, since there is ample time, I think that much should be taken into consideration again and again; and that particular course adopted which I shall judge to be most of all in the interest of the State.


1.   L. Piso and Q. Fufius Calenus.

2.   i.e. "hear what he had to say," though harsher measures might be wiser.

3.   C. seems to mean, "Why send an embassy where we can see from the depression in A.'s family that they have given up hope?"

4.   A. had illegally attempted (cf. Phil. ii. 39) to found a colony at Capua. His colonists were ejected by the Capuans, and he himself roughly handled.

5.   Lit. "purified". All Roman armies were, before they took the field, purified by a religious ceremony by way of obtaining the blessing of the gods. The armies alluded to are those of Hirtius and Caesar Octavianus.

6.   After the Social War in 89 B.C. the Lex Pompeia conferred a qualified franchise (jus Latii) on the communities beyond the Padus, and probably the full franchise on the Cispadani.

7.   Cf. Phil. viii. 8 and 9.

8.   The sagum, or military cloak, worn, even by civilians, as a sign of war; cf. Phil. v. 12; viii. 11.

9.   Followers of A. of whom little is known. C. in Phil. ii. 41 calls Must. 'gladiatorum princeps'.

10.   For the meaning of "tumult" cf. Phil. viii. 1.

11.   C. here proceeds to give the opinion of A.'s partisans as to the proposed envoys, as being favourable or not to A.

12.   i.e. those whom A.'s partisans did not object to.

13.   The allusion is unknown.

14.   L. Ant.: cf. note on Phil. v. 20.

15.   In the septemvirate: cf. Phil. xi. 6. 13.

16.   Perhaps Censorinus (Phil. xi. 5) and P. Ventidius Bassus (Phil. xiii. 2).

17.   Tullus Hostilius and Insteius ; cf. Phi.. xiii. 12. 26.

18.   Cf. Phil. xi. 1. 15.

19.   The relief of D. Brutus.

20.   L. slew Cn. Pompeius the younger when flying from the battlefield of Munda: Flor. iv. 2. 88.

21.   As to Vent. cf. note on Phil. xiii. 48.

22.   This is bitter sarcasm.- P. Clodius was in life the enemy of C. and brought about his banishment.

23.   A Roman camp was either temporary or permanent ('castra stativa') Towns in this country with names ending in "chester" were formerly 'stativa'. C. means that in his house he is permanently on guard.

24.   An allusion probably to his exile from Rome in 58 B.C., when he found that the chief men of the State, such as Pompeius and Caesar, would not protect him against the Tribune P. Clodius. He returned amid acclamations in eighteen months.

25.   Dolabella: cf. Phil. xi. 2.

26.   Because C. was an augur, a member of a 'sacerdotium religiosum et sacrum' : Plin. Epp. iv. 8.

27.   One of the leaders of the revolted Italians in the Social War of 90-88 B.C.

28.   The second civil war between Sulla and the popular or Marian party in 83 B.C.

29.   i.e. to act as plenipotentiaries.

30.   i.e. not in the ordinary course of Fate, but (as C. says in Phil. i. 4), "praeter naturam praeterque fatum."

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