BMCR 2019.01.07

Cicero, Agrarian Speeches: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary

, Cicero, Agrarian Speeches: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2018. iv, 480. ISBN 9780198715405. $145.00.

Table of Contents

Known for work on Cicero and Latin poetry,1 Gesine Manuwald here offers a text, translation, and commentary for speeches Cicero delivered early in his consulship against a bill redistributing agricultural land. Though long neglected, this corpus has recently received scrutiny from several angles, but missing so far has been a modern, comprehensive commentary (the most recent: A. W. Zumpt [Berlin, 1861]).

The Introduction sets out the background for these speeches, including a brief survey of previous scholarship, the history of agrarian reform legislation at Rome, legislative procedure, Cicero’s position in 63, the formation and publication of the corpus, and the persuasive strategies exploited therein. The cited secondary literature shows how far we are from consensus on many of these issues, since apart from sparse testimonies, we must draw our conclusions from the speeches themselves.

Why did Rullus came forward with this set of proposals at this time? Though some passages might make it seem so, the point was evidently not just to challenge Cicero, a possibility rightly rejected by Manuwald. A ‘softer’ version of this might be considered, however, viz. that the proponents, with the (initial) backing of the other consul, C. Antonius Hybrida, may have sought to take advantage of the fact that Cicero was a novus homo and possibly therefore a weak defender of the status quo. The general behavior of Roman politicians is also relevant: Rullus may have seen a chance to entrench himself in power (with concomitant possibilities for self-enrichment) as a member of the Board of Ten charged with implementation that would last five years—well beyond his year as tribunus plebis. Finally, Manuwald notes that the legislation contained provisions favorable to Pompey (p. xxviii n. 88). Several considerations suggest that the connection with Pompey was important; these might have been pursued further.2

The Latin text (based on Marek 1983) is accompanied by a workmanlike en face English translation. Manuwald prunes back some of the excesses of Marek (whose text was severely and justly criticized by, e.g., Ferrary 1985). Thus, she removes Marek’s conjecture optandum at 1.20, which destroys parallel syntax within a tricolon, and plausibly defends the transmitted text. She also offers a plausible conjecture of her own ( iam for quam at 2.48).

Manuwald’s text, however, is sometimes too conservative. On 2.36 Manuwald notes that editors have wanted to insert a lacuna to create a second instance of partim. She claims, however, that partim can stand alone, citing Ver. 2.2.158 (‘ut eius in provincia statuae in locis publicis positae, partim etiam in aedibus sacris’) and Div. 2.23 (‘a nobilissimis civibus partim etiam a se omnibus rebus ornatis trucidatus’). But in both of these passages there is a larger group within which a smaller group is singled out with ‘partim etiam’, which is not the case in our passage; the lacuna is surely needed (cf. 2.68). At 2.47 Marek reads: ‘sed plane, quasi ea res vobis saluti futura sit, ita cogit atque imperat, ut decemviri vestra vectigalia vendant nominatim’, whereby he accepts Angelius’s cogit for transmitted cogitat. Manuwald objects (p. 295) that ‘the hendiadys cogit atque imperat is not attested in Cicero, and ita qualifying it would be strange’. Both claims are dubious: cf. Rep. 6 fr. 5 Powell: ‘libidines infinita quaedam cogunt atque imperant’; and ita evidently coordinates with the preceding quasi; surely cogitat is too weak here, and -at can easily be a dittography, since atque follows. Again, at 2.65, there are difficulties when Manuwald tries to save the transmitted deductos even though it really cannot be construed with agris publicis (her justification is unconvincing), whereas Clark’s change to deiectos removes the problem, the corruption easily motivated by the preceding deducatur.

On the other hand, Manuwald is too radical when she brackets numerata at 1.12, primarily on rhythmical grounds.3 In fact, the clausula in question is rhythmically unobjectionable, ‘(nume)rata quaeritur’ producing Cicero’s sixth-favorite final rhythm.4 The rhythm is not improved by removing numerata, since the result (‘(pe)cunia quaeritur’, two dactyls) is not a sought Ciceronian clausula. The sense is apropos, numerata implying ‘that the money should be readily available’, i.e., to the decemviri (Manuwald, p. 124). The word is omitted in various witnesses, but it is in Poggio’s copy (V), the only extant witness with a direct line to the archetype.5 The presence of numerata cannot be explained by dittography or any other mechanical cause; it should stand.

The text at 2.91 poses a tricky problem. Manuwald rightly rejects Marek’s conjecture and transposition. The transmitted text is as follows: ‘multum in posterum providerunt [ sc. maiores] quod nervis urbis omnibus eiectis urbem ipsam solutam ac debilitatam reliquerunt’. With the recentiores, Manuwald reads ex(s)ectis (‘cut out’) for eiectis. This is not impossible, but the better choice is perhaps Madvig’s electis (‘pulled out, extracted’). Palaeographical considerations make it likely that this is the original text, ex(s)ectis a conjecture. The same verb ( elego) is also the probable reading, albeit corrupted, at Div. 2.149 and Livy 7.39.6 (where see Oakley’s note).6

It should be said at once that the (primarily historical) commentary is very welcome and is particularly strong on administrative terminology and procedures. Its usefulness to Anglophone students may be restricted, however, in that Kühner-Stegmann 1966 is the exclusive resource used for grammar, Pinkster 2015 having evidently appeared too late. One would have welcomed more comments on matters of style, such as highlighting Cicero’s exploitation of colloquialisms for emphasis. A point such as the pun on vindicem and indicem at 2.4 escapes comment. One technical problem is that Manuwald cross-refers merely by speech and section number: since there can be several pages of commentary on a given section, readers would be helped by quotation of the beginning of the lemma as well.

Though Manuwald’s interpretations are generally reliable, a few can be challenged:

At 1.4, Manuwald evidently takes the genitive in the phrase ‘auctionem populi Romani’ as objective, comparing 1.2 (‘auctionem publicorum bonorum’), but if Cicero had meant that drastic idea (‘an auctioning off of the Roman people’), he surely would have highlighted it more. auctio can, in fact, also be used with possessive genitive (cf. OLD s.v.); the fact that the phrase recurs at 2.48, again without particular rhetorical emphasis, suggests that Cicero merely means to indicate a public auction.

On the other hand, Manuwald’s interpretation of vis at 2.75 (‘tu occupes locum quem idoneum ad vim tuam iudicaris’) seems too mild. She invokes OLD s.v. 11 ‘(of a person, office, etc.) Ability to control affairs, political weight, influence, or sim.’ She admits that physical force may also be implied (p. 348). But in this context Cicero speaks of a Rullan plan to bring the Roman people under his power and later specifies ‘locus atque urbs quae bellum facere . . . possit quaeritur’ (2.77). The relevant item is surely OLD 4: ‘Violence in politics, public life, or sim.’ Manuwald also thinks ‘forcefulness of demeanour’ pertinent here, but it is hard to see how it would be.

Apropos of 1.17 (p. 158), perhaps under the influence of an overdrawn dichotomy between the emphasis on the senators’ dignitas in Leg. agr. 1 and the personal dignitas of Pompey in Leg. agr. 2 (cf. Rawson 1971), Manuwald emphasizes that the references to dignitas and libertas here refer to the ‘personal liberty and standing of the senators’. But in this context the ‘us’ ( nobis) in question is surely the Romans in general; see Arena 2012, 240-41 (not cited here by Manuwald).

At 2.28, Cicero remarks: ‘iubet ferre de his legem curiatam, praetori imperat. quam id ipsum absurde, nihil ad me attinet’. The absurdity does not lie merely in the fact that ‘Tribunes of the People were not in a position to give orders to a praetor’ (p. 251), but also in that the praetors could not preside over a centuriate assembly (cf. Kunkel and Wittmann 1995, 246 n. 509, citing Var. L. 6.93).

Manuwald speaks (p. 262) of the ‘negative connotations of minister and satelles ’ at 2.32, but in the parallels adduced the negative connotations arise not from these words but from the genitives that limit them. So, too, at 2.32, ministri et satellites are objectionable not per se but because of the controlling agent.

The parallels cited from Cicero’s speeches and other sources are welcome. Some others might be added. Mention of Rullus’s longstanding plans (1.22) might have prompted reference to Cicero’s claim: ‘furorem incredibilem biennio ante conceptum erupisse in meo consulatu’ (cf. Sul. 67). Comparable to Cicero’s confidence that he can hold his own against the bill’s supporters in a contio (1.25; cf. 3.1, 16) is his similar assertion at Catil. 4.11. On 1.26, where Cicero accuses Rullus of being angry at him, his attribution of anger to Antony at Phil. 1.12 could have been cited. The sumploké with threefold repetition of Rullus’s name in the nominative case at 2.22 is paralleled by the similar mention of Antony at Phil. 2.55. Apropos of cupiditatis oculos at 2.25, Manuwald notes the unusual construction but cites no parallel for it; as a concrete substantive limited by a mental attitude one might adduce ‘faces invidiae’ at Mil. 98. With the ‘thought-experiment’ Manuwald notes at 2.85 one might compare another such experiment at Mil. 79. The pretended ‘accidental’ mention of a topic at 2.92 is reminiscent of Div. Caec. 50: ‘quoniam non consulto sed casu in eorum mentionem incidi . . .’

A reading of the speeches in light of this commentary may cause one to wonder how the deceptions Manuwald documents square with the general image of Cicero the politician. The question is not broached in this publication but will no doubt be broached in subsequent scholarship.

Disagreements in detail aside, it should be emphasized that Manuwald has provided a much-needed tool that students of these speeches will return to with profit again and again.7


1. Philippics : Manuwald 2007 and Manuwald and Ramsey 2009; biography: Manuwald 2015; Latin poetry: most recently Goldberg and Manuwald 2018.

2. Such connections have been argued for by Sumner, Seager, and Gruen, cited by Manuwald, p. 145, and Wiseman, cited p. 171; I will pursue them elsewhere.

3. Zielinski 1904, 200, whom Manuwald follows here, is surely misguided in reckoning -cunia num- to the clausula and not beginning it rather with -rata quaer-, as he could do on his assumption that a clausula begins with a cretic base (ibid. 8, 13).

4. Cf. the convenient summary by Wilkinson 1963, 156, based on De Groot. Manuwald finds the same clausula, (re)nuntiaverit, unexceptionable at 2.34 (p. 269).

5. See stemma by Rouse and Reeve in Reynolds 1983, 83 (where V = X), with argument p. 84.

6. ‘nervos exsecare’ at Dictys 3.7, appealed to by Manuwald (p. 385), while carrying little weight for Cicero, may help explain the reading of the recentiores.


1.Arena, V. 2012. Libertas and the practice of politics in the late Roman Republic. Cambridge.
Ferrary, J.-L. 1985. Review of Marek 1983. REL 63: 275-76.
Goldberg, S. M. and G. Manuwald, ed., trans. 2018. Fragmentary Republican Latin: Ennius, dramatic fragments, minor works. Cambridge, MA; London.
Kühner, R. and C. Stegmann. 1966. Ausführliche Grammatik der lateinischen Sprache, 2: Satzlehre, ed. A. Thierfelder. 2 vols. 4 th edn. Darmstadt.
Kunkel, W. and R. Wittmann. 1995. Staatsordnung und Staatspraxis der römischen Republik: Die Magistratur. Munich.
Manuwald, G., ed., trans., comm. 2007. Cicero, Philippics 3-9. 2 vols. Berlin; New York.
Manuwald, G. 2015. Cicero. London.
Manuwald, G. and J. T. Ramsey, eds. 2009. Cicero, Philippics, tr. D. R. Shackleton Bailey. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA; London.
Marek, V., ed. 1983. M. T. Cicero. Orationes de lege agraria, Pro C. Rabirio. Leipzig.
Pinkster, H. 2015. The Oxford Latin syntax, 1: The simple clause. Oxford.
Rawson, B. 1971. ‘De lege agraria 2.49’. CP 66: 26-29.
Reynolds, L.D., ed. 1983. Texts and transmission. Oxford.
Wilkinson, L.P. 1963. Golden Latin artistry. Cambridge.
Zielinski, T. 1904. Das Clauselgesetz in Ciceros Reden. Leipzig.