Last updated
Cicero's Philippics, 15th-century manuscript, British Library Manuscript of Cicero - BL Kings MS 21 f. 2.jpg
Cicero's Philippics, 15th-century manuscript, British Library

The Philippics (Latin : Philippicae) are a series of 14 speeches composed by Cicero in 44 and 43 BC, condemning Mark Antony. Cicero likened these speeches to those of Demosthenes against Philip II of Macedon; [1] both Demosthenes’s and Cicero's speeches became known as Philippics. Cicero's Second Philippic is styled after Demosthenes' De Corona ('On the Crown').


The speeches were delivered in the aftermath of the assassination of Julius Caesar, during a power struggle between Caesar's supporters and his assassins. Although Cicero was not involved in the assassination, he agreed with it and felt that Antony should also have been eliminated. In the Philippics, Cicero attempted to rally the Senate against Antony, whom he denounced as a threat to the Roman Republic.

The Philippics convinced the Senate to declare Antony an enemy of the state and send an army against him. However, the commanders were killed in battle, so the Senate's army came under the control of Octavian. When Octavian, Antony and Marcus Lepidus formed the second triumvirate, Antony insisted that they proscribe Cicero in revenge for the Philippics. Cicero was hunted down and killed soon after.

Political climate

Cicero was taken by surprise when Gaius Julius Caesar, the dictator of the Roman Republic, was assassinated on the fifteenth day of March, 44 BC (known as the Ides of March) by a group of Roman senators who called themselves Liberatores. Cicero was not included in the conspiracy, even though the conspirators were sure of his sympathy. When Marcus Junius Brutus, one of the killers, lifted his bloodstained dagger after the assassination, he called out Cicero's name, beseeching him to "restore the Republic!". [2] A letter Cicero wrote in February 43 BC to Trebonius, one of the conspirators, began, "How I wish that you had invited me to that most glorious banquet on the Ides of March!" [3]

Caesar had used his dominant position to simply appoint his supporters to magistracies (which were normally elected positions) and promagistracies (which were usually assigned by the Senate). This was a clear violation of the Roman constitution and left Caesar's supporters, known as the Caesarian faction, vulnerable to their appointments being declared illegal by the Senate. Following the assassination, the Caesarians sought to legitimise their positions and to take revenge on the assassins.

With the Caesarians and supporters of the assassins deadlocked in the Senate, Cicero brokered a compromise. He arranged for the Senate to confirm Caesar's appointees in their posts, and in exchange issue an amnesty for the assassins. This brought an uneasy peace between the factions, though it would last less than a year.

Cicero became a popular leader during the subsequent months of instability. He was opposed by Mark Antony, one of the consuls for 44 BC and the leader of the Caesarian faction. In private, Cicero expressed his regret that the assassins had not eliminated Antony as well as Caesar. The two men had never been on friendly terms, and their relationship worsened when Antony began acting as the unofficial executor of Caesar's will. Cicero made it clear that he felt Antony was misrepresenting Caesar's wishes and intentions for his own gain.

Octavian, Caesar's adopted son and heir, arrived in Italy in April, and visited Cicero at his villa before heading to Rome. Sensing an opportunity, Cicero encouraged Octavian to oppose Antony. [4] In September, Cicero began attacking Antony in a series of speeches, which he called the Philippics, in honour of his inspiration, Demosthenes' speeches denouncing Philip II of Macedon. Cicero lavished praise on Octavian, calling him a "god-sent child", claiming that the young man desired only honour and would not make the same mistakes as Caesar had.

During the period of the Phillippics, Cicero's popularity as a public figure was unrivalled. He was appointed princeps senatus ('first man of the Senate') in 43 BC, becoming the first plebeian to hold the position. Cicero's attacks rallied the Senate to firmly oppose Antony, whom he called a "sheep". According to the historian Appian, for a few months Cicero "had the [most] power any popular leader could possibly have". [4]


The fourteen speeches were:


The first two speeches mark the outbreak of the enmity between Mark Antony and Cicero. It is possible that Cicero wanted to invoke the memory of his successful denunciation of the Catiline conspiracy; at any rate, he compares Mark Antony with his own worst political opponents, Catiline and Clodius, in a clever rhetorical manner.

In the 3rd and 4th speeches, of 20 December 44, he tried to establish a military alliance with Octavian; the primary objective was the annihilation of Mark Antony and the restoration of the res publica libera – the free republic; to reach this goal, he favoured military means unambiguously.

As the Senate decided to send a peace delegation, in the 5, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th speeches, he argued against the idea of an embassy and tried to mobilise the Senate and the Roman People to war.

In the 10th and 11th, he supports a military strengthening of the republicans Brutus and Cassius, but he was successful only in the case of the first one.

In the 12th, 13th and 14th, he wanted to wipe out any doubt against his own war policy. After the victory over Mark Antony, in the last speech he still warns against a too prompt eagerness for peace.


Cicero’s attacks on Antony were only partially successful and were overtaken by events on the battlefield. The Senate agreed with most (but not all) of Cicero's proposals, including declaring Antony an enemy of the state. Cicero convinced the two consuls for 43 BC, Aulus Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa, to lead the Senate's armies (with an allied force commanded by Octavian) against Antony. However, Pansa was mortally wounded at the Battle of Forum Gallorum, and Hirtius died at the Battle of Mutina a few days later. Both battles had been victories for the Senate army, but the deaths of its commanders left the force leaderless. The senior magistrate on the scene was Decimus Brutus (the propraetor of cisalpine Gaul), who the Senate attempted to appoint in command, but Octavian refused to work with him because he had been one of Julius Caesar's assassins. Most of the troops switched their loyalty to Octavian. With Cicero and the Senate attempting to bypass him and now in command of a large army, Octavian decided to reconcile with Antony. Antony and Octavian allied with each other and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus to form the second triumvirate, in opposition to Caesar's assassins. With the triumvirate controlling almost all of the military forces, Cicero and the Senate were left defenceless.

Immediately after legislating their alliance into official existence (for a five-year term with consular imperium ), the triumvirate began proscribing their enemies and potential rivals. Cicero was proscribed, as was his younger brother Quintus Tullius Cicero (formerly one of Caesar's legati), and all of their supporters.[ citation needed ] They included a tribune named Salvius, who had sided with Antony before switching his support to Cicero. Octavian reportedly argued for two days against Cicero being added to the proscription list, but the triumvirs eventually agreed to each sacrifice one close associate (Cicero being Octavian's). [7]

Most of the proscribed senators sought to flee to the East, particularly to Macedonia where two more of Caesar's assassins, Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, were attempting to recruit new armies. Cicero was one of the most doggedly hunted of the proscribed, but was viewed with sympathy by a large segment of the public so many refused to report that they had seen him. He was eventually caught leaving his villa in Formiae in a litter heading for the coast, from where he hoped to embark on a ship to Macedonia. [8] He submitted to a soldier, baring his neck to him, suffering death and beheading. Antony requested that the hands that wrote the Philippics also be removed. His head and hands were publicly displayed in the Roman Forum to discourage any who would oppose the new Triumvirate of Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus.

Related Research Articles

Augustus First Roman emperor, from 27 BC to AD 14

Caesar Augustus was the first Roman emperor, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession.

Mark Antony Roman politician and general

Marcus Antonius, commonly known in English as Mark Antony or Anthony, was a Roman politician and general who played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic from a constitutional republic into the autocratic Roman Empire.

Year 43 BC was either a common year starting on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday or a leap year starting on Sunday or Monday of the Julian calendar and a common year starting on Monday of the Proleptic Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Pansa and Hirtius. The denomination 43 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

44 BC Calendar year

Year 44 BC was either a common year starting on Sunday, Common year starting on Monday, leap year starting on Friday, or leap year starting on Saturday. and a common year starting on Sunday of the Proleptic Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Julius Caesar V and Marc Antony. The denomination 44 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

40s BC

This article concerns the period 49 BC – 40 BC.

Marcus Junius Brutus Roman politician and assassin of Julius Caesar (85 BC-42 BC)

Marcus Junius Brutus, often referred to simply as Brutus, was a Roman senator and the most famous of the assassins of Julius Caesar. After being adopted by an uncle, he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but subsequently returned to his birth name.

Second Triumvirate Ancient Roman political alliance

The Second Triumvirate was the political alliance between three of the Roman Republic's most powerful figures: Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus. Formally called the Triumvirate for Organizing the Republic, it was formed on 27 November 43 BC with the enactment of the Lex Titia, and existed for two five-year terms, covering the period until 33 BC. Unlike the earlier First Triumvirate, the Second Triumvirate was an official, legally established institution, whose overwhelming power in the Roman state was given full legal sanction and whose imperium maius outranked that of all other magistrates, including the consuls.

Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (triumvir) Roman politician and general

Marcus Aemilius Lepidus was a Roman general and statesman who formed the Second Triumvirate alongside Octavian and Mark Antony during the final years of the Roman Republic. Lepidus had previously been a close ally of Julius Caesar. He was also the last Pontifex Maximus before the Roman Empire.

Lucius Antonius (brother of Mark Antony) 1st-century BC Roman consul

Lucius Antonius was the younger brother and supporter of Mark Antony, a Roman politician. He was nicknamed Pietas as a young man.

Sextus Pompey Roman politician and general

Sextus Pompeius Magnus Pius, also known in English as Sextus Pompey, was a Roman military leader and politician who throughout his life upheld the cause of his father, Pompey the Great, against the dictator Julius Caesar and his supporters, during the last civil wars of the Roman Republic. He formed the last organized opposition to the Second Triumvirate, in defiance of which he succeeded in establishing an independent state in Sicily for several years.

Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus, often referred to simply as Decimus, was a Roman general and politician of the late republican period and one of the leading instigators of Julius Caesar's assassination. He had previously been an important supporter of Caesar in the Gallic Wars and in the civil war against Pompey. Decimus Brutus is not to be confused with his distant cousin and fellow conspirator Marcus Junius Brutus, though he often is.

A philippic is a fiery, damning speech, or tirade, delivered to condemn a particular political actor. The term is most famously associated with two noted orators of the ancient world: Cicero of ancient Rome and Demosthenes of ancient Athens. The term itself is derived from Demosthenes' speeches in 351 BC denouncing the imperialist ambitions of Philip of Macedon, which later came to be known as The Philippics.

Battle of Forum Gallorum

The Battle of Forum Gallorum was fought on 14 April 43 BC between the forces of Mark Antony, and legions loyal to the Roman Senate under the overall command of consul Gaius Pansa, aided by his fellow consul Aulus Hirtius. The untested Caesar Octavian guarded the Senate's camp. The battle occurred on the Via Aemilia near a village in northern Italy, perhaps near modern-day Castelfranco Emilia.

Battle of Mutina Battle in 43 BC between Senatorial and Triumvir forces

The Battle of Mutina took place on 21 April 43 BC between the forces loyal to the Senate under Consuls Gaius Vibius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius, supported by the legions of Caesar Octavian, and the Caesarian legions of Mark Antony which were besieging the troops of Decimus Brutus. The latter, one of Caesar's assassins, held the city of Mutina in Cisalpine Gaul.

<i>Empire</i> (2005 TV series)

Empire is an American historical television series for ABC. It is an historical drama set in 44 BC Rome, and covers the struggle of a young Octavius, the nephew and heir of Julius Caesar, to become the first emperor of Rome. Octavius is helped in his quest by a fictitious gladiator called Tyrannus.

The Liberators' civil war was started by the Second Triumvirate to avenge Julius Caesar's assassination.The war was fought by the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian against the forces of Caesar's assassins, led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, also called the Liberatores. The latter were defeated by the Triumvirs at the Battle of Philippi in October 42 BC, and committed suicide. Brutus would also commit suicide after the second part of the battle.

Political career of Cicero

The political career of Marcus Tullius Cicero began in 76 BC with his election to the office of quaestor, and ended in 43 BC, when he was assassinated upon the orders of Mark Antony. Cicero, a Roman statesman, lawyer, political theorist, philosopher, and Roman constitutionalist, reached the height of Roman power, the Consulship, and played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. A contemporary of Julius Caesar, Cicero is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.

Gaius Cassius Parmensis was a Roman politician and a Latin writer of the late Roman Republic, who belonged to the circle of conspirators against Gaius Julius Caesar.

<i>Dictator</i> (Harris novel)

Dictator is a historical novel by British author Robert Harris, published in 2015, which concludes his trilogy about the life of the Roman lawyer, politician and orator, Cicero. Dictator follows the first novel Imperium (2006) and the second novel Lustrum (2009). It is both a biography of Cicero and a tapestry of Rome in the time of Pompey, Crassus, Cato, Caesar, Clodius and ultimately Octavian.


  1. Cicero, Ad Atticus, 2.1.3
  2. Cicero, Second Philippic Against Antony
  3. Cicero, Ad Familiares 10.28
  4. 1 2 Appian, Civil Wars 4.19
  5. cf. Cicero, Ad Atticum 15.13.1
  6. Cicero, Marcus Tullius (2010). "Phillipic 5". In Bailey, D. R. Shackleton; Ramsey, John T.; Manuwald, Gesine (eds.). Philippics 1-6. Loeb Classical Library. 189. Translated by Bailey, D. R. Shackleton. Harvard University Press. p. 241. doi:10.4159/DLCL.marcus_tullius_cicero-philippic_5.2010.
  7. Plutarch, Cicero 46.35
  8. Haskell, H.J.: This was Cicero (1964) p.293