[Volume XV of Loeb Classical Library’s 28-volume series]
Peace, Slavery and War
The name of peace is sweet, and the thing itself wholesome, but between peace and servitude the difference is great. Peace is tranquil liberty, servitude the last of all evils, one to be repelled, not only by war but even by death.
Although all decent men desire peace, especially peace between fellow countrymen, I have desired more than most. My round of activity has always been worked out in the Forum, in the Senate, in warding off danger from friends; That’s how I have won the highest honor, moderate wealth, and any prestige I may enjoy. I certainly should not have been what I am without peace in the community. I, a constant encomiast and advocate of peace (I shall state that repeatedly), am against peace with Marcus Antonius… Why then am I against peace? Because it is dishonorable, because it is dangerous, because it is impossible.
I am not against peace, but I dread war camouflaged as peace. Therefore if we wish to enjoy peace, we must wage war; if we fail to wage war, peace we shall never enjoy. Now it is the duty of your council, Members of the Senate, to look ahead as far as you can. Therefore, we have been given this guardianship, placed at it were on the watchtower, in order that by our vigilance and foresight, we might make the Roman people void of fear.
Is peace with all men possible, or is there such a thing as an inexpiable war, in which a pact of peace is a prescription for slavery?
What a day was that for you, Antonius! Though you have suddenly stood forward as my enemy, yet I pity you for having been grudging to your own fame. Heavens! what a man and how great you would have been had you been able to keep your resolution of that day!
Are not then a thousand deaths better than not to be able to live in one’s own community without a guard of armed men? But that “protection”, believe me, is none; it is by the affection and good will of your fellow-citizens you should be hedged, not by arms. The Roman people will wrest those arms from you, and wrench them out of your grip -may it be while we are still safe!- but in whatever way you deal with us, while you pursue your present policy you cannot, believe me, live long.
Recall therefore, Marcus Antonius, that day on which you abolished the dictatorship; set before your eyes the joy of the Senate and of the Roman people; compare it with this monstrous marketing conducted by you and your friends; then will you understand how great the difference between gain and glory. But assuredly, even as some, through a kind of disease and numbness of perception, do not perceive the flavour of food, so the lustful, the avaricious, the criminal, have no estimation of genuine glory.
In [Caesar] there was genius, calculation, memory, letters, industry, thought, diligence; he had done in war things, however calamitous to the State, yet at least great; having for many years aimed at a throne, he had by great labour, great dangers, archived his object; by shows, buildings, largesses, banquets he had conciliated the ignorant crowd; his own followers he had bound to him by rewards, his adversaries by a show of clemency; in brief, he had already brought to a free community–partly by fear, partly by endurance–a habit of servitude. With him I can compare you in lust of domination, but in other things you are in no wise comparable.
I defended the State in youth, I will not desert it in old age; I despised the swordsmen of Catiline, I will not dread yours. Aye, and even my body will I gladly offer if the liberty of the State can be realised by my death, so that the anguish of the Roman people may some time bring to birth that with which it has so long travailed. … By me indeed, death is even to be wished for, now that the honours I have won and the deeds I have performed are past. These two things only I pray for; one, that in my death I may leave the Roman people free–than this no greater gift can be given me by the immortal Gods–the other, that each man’s fortune may be according to his deserts toward the State.
Restore to him, therefore, Conscript Fathers, the life you have taken away; for the life of the dead is set in the memory of the living. Ensure that the man whom ignorantly you sent to his death, shall win immortality at your hands.
And yet no brighter monument could Servius Sulpicius have left than the likeness of his own character, his virtues, steadfastness, affection and genius — than that son, whose grief can be alleviated by this honour as by no consolation besides.
- Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Cicero: Philippics. Trans. Walter C. A. Ker. London: William Heinemann, 1926.
- “Philippics” online book at Perseus