Saturday, June 11, 2022


Walls and Men

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 7.11.3 (Formiae (?), 21 January (?) 49; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey, with his commentary):
Abandon Rome? I suppose you would have done the same if the Gauls were coming? 'House walls' he might answer 'don't make the Republic.' But altars and hearthstones do. 'Themistocles did it.' Yes, because one city could not stand against the tide of the whole barbarian world. But Pericles did not half a century later, though he held nothing except the town walls. Our own forebears still held the citadel after the rest of Rome was in enemy hands. 'Such the brave tales we've heard of men of old.'

urbem tu relinquas? ergo idem, si Galli venirent. 'non est' inquit 'in parietibus res publica.' at in aris et focis. 'fecit Themistocles.' fluctum s enim totius barbariae ferre urbs una non poterat. at idem Pericles non fecit anno fere post quinquagesimo, cum praeter moenia nihil teneret; nostri olim urbe reliqua capta arcem tamen retinuerunt. nostri olim urbe reliqua capta arcem tamen retinuerunt. 'οὔτως που τῶν πρόσθεν ἐπευθόμεθα κλέα ἀνδρῶν'.

ergo ... venirent Perhaps a question, as some editors make it. The argument is a reductio ad absurdum: if Pompey is willing to abandon Rome to Caesar, he would do the same in case of a foreign, Gallic invasion. and that in the eyes of all patriots would be an unthinkable disgrace. Not 'you would have done the same (i.e. no more) if the Gauls were coming upon us'.

parietibus C. may have had in mind Thuc. VII.77.7 ἄνδρες γὰρ πόλις, καὶ οὐ τείχη οὐδὲ νῆες ἀνδρῶν κεναί. (cf. I.143.5; Herod. VIII.61.2). So Pompey to the Senate in Appian's speech (B.C. II.37) οὐ γὰρ τὰ χωρία καὶ τὰ οἰκήματα τὴν δύναμιν ἢ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν εἶναι τοῖς ἀνδράσιν.

aris et focis Cf. 136 (VII.13).1 illa templa et tecta.

Themistocles ... Pericles Cf. Plut. Pomp. 63 αἰτιᾶται καὶ Κικέρων ὅτι τὴν Θεμιστοκλέους ἐμιμήσατο στρατηγίαν μᾶλλον ἢ τὴν Περικλέους, τῶν πραγμάτων τούτοις ὁμοίων ὄντων, οὐκ ἐκείνοις; 199 (X.8).4 Pompeium ... cuius omne consilium Themistocleum est. K. von Fritz (Trans. Am. Phil. Ass. 73 (1942), p. 151; cf. p. 152) was not entitled to quote C. as saying 'that Pompey had quoted Themistocles as his model' in support of his contention that Pompey's decision to evacuate Italy in case of an open conflict with Caesar was taken half a year before its outbreak.

fluctum sqq. C.'s (if C. is to be identified with Pompey's critic) answer to Pompey's appeal to precedent. After his buoyant language in December (cf. 131 (VII.8). 4) Pompey was in no position to make the obvious rejoinder that in terms of comparative force available Caesar was as irresistible as Xerxes.

anno ... quinquagesimo Cf. K.-S. I, p. 404.

οὔτως κ.τ.λ. Il. IX.524 (οὔτω καὶ τῶν).
On "non est in parietibus res publica" cf. the famous words of Alcaeus (fragment 426, tr. David A. Campbell):
Cities are not stones or timbers or the craft of builders; but wherever there are men who know how to defend themselves, there are walls and cities.

οὐ λίθοι οὐδὲ ξύλα οὐδὲ τέχνη τεκτόνων αἱ πόλεις εἶεν, ἀλλ᾿ ὅπου ποτ᾿ ἂν ὦσιν ἄνδρες αὑτοὺς σῴζειν εἰδότες.

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