The Philippicae or Philippics are a series of 14 speeches Cicero gave condemning Mark Antony in 44 and 43 BC. Cicero likened these speeches to those of Demosthenes' Philippic (Ad Atticus, 2.1.3), which Demosthenes had delivered against Philip of Macedon. Cicero's Second Philippic is styled after Demosthenes' De Corona ('On the Crown').

Political climate

Cicero was taken by surprise when Gaius Julius Caesar, the effective 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!".[1] 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!"[2]

Cicero became a popular leader during the period of instability after the assassination. He had no respect for Mark Antony, who was scheming to take revenge upon Caesar's murderers. In fact, Cicero privately expressed his regret that the murderers of Caesar had not included Antony in their plot, and he bent his efforts to the discrediting of the latter.

In exchange for amnesty for the assassins, he arranged for the Senate to agree that it would not proclaim Caesar to be a tyrant, an action that allowed Caesar's supporters, known as the Caesarian faction, to remain a lawful force. Cicero and Antony then became the two leading politicians in Rome, Cicero as spokesman for the Senate and Antony as consul, leader of the Caesarian faction and unofficial executor of Caesar's will. The two men had never been on friendly terms, and their relationship worsened after Cicero made it clear that he felt Antony was taking unfair liberties in interpreting Caesar's wishes and intentions.

When Octavian, Caesar's adopted son and heir, arrived in Italy in April, Cicero formed a plan to play him against Antony.[3] In September Cicero began attacking Antony in a series of speeches he called the Philippics, in honour of his inspiration, Demosthenes. In praise of Octavian, he labelled him a "god-sent child" and said that the young man desired only honour and would not make the same mistake as did Caesar. Meanwhile, his attacks on Antony, whom he called a "sheep", rallied the Senate in firm opposition to Antony. During this time, Cicero's popularity as a public figure was unrivalled and, according to the historian Appian, he "had the [most] power any popular leader could possibly have".[3]

Cicero levied heavy fines on the supporters of Antony for petty offenses and recruited volunteers to make weapons for the supporters of the Republic. According to Appian, this policy was perceived by Antony's supporters to be so insulting that they prepared to march on Rome to arrest Cicero, but the latter fled the city and the plan was abandoned.


  • 1st Philippic (senatorial speech, 2 September 44): Cicero criticises the legislation of the consuls in office, Mark Antony and Publius Cornelius Dolabella, who, he said, had acted counter to the will of the late Caesar (acta Caesaris). He demands that the consuls return to looking after the welfare of the Roman people.
  • 2nd Philippic (pamphlet, conceived as a senatorial speech, 24 October 44,[4] possibly published only after the death of Cicero): Vehement attacks on Mark Antony, including the accusation that he surpasses in his political ambition even Lucius Sergius Catilina and Publius Clodius Pulcher. Catalogue of the "atrocities" of Mark Antony. It is the longest of Cicero's Philippics.
  • 3rd Philippic (senatorial speech, 20 December 44, in the morning): Cicero calls on the Senate to act against Mark Antony. He demands that the Senate show solidarity with Octavian and Decimus Junius Brutus.
  • 4th Philippic (speech in the public assembly, 20 December 44, in the afternoon): Cicero considers Mark Antony as a public enemy and argues that peace with Antony is inconceivable.
  • 5th Philippic (senatorial speech, in the temple of Jupiter, 1 January 43, in the presence of the new consuls Aulus Hirtius and Gaius Vibius Pansa Caetronianus): Cicero urges the Senate not to send an embassy to Mark Antony and warns against Antony's intentions. Cicero proposes that the Senate honour Decimus Junius Brutus, Octavian and his troops, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. Cicero's proposals are declined; the Senate sends the three ex-consuls Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, Lucius Marcius Philippus and Servius Sulpicius Rufus to Mark Antony.
  • 6th Philippic (speech in the public assembly, 4 January 43): Cicero considers the embassy carried out by the Senate as a delayed declaration of war on Mark Antony; he believes that it will come after the return of the ambassadors. He appeals for unanimity in the fight for freedom.
  • 7th Philippic (senatorial speech outside the agenda, in mid-January 43): Cicero presents himself as an attorney of peace, but considers war against Mark Antony as a demand of the moment. Once more, he demands that negotiations with Mark Antony be discontinued.
  • 8th Philippic (senatorial speech, 3 February 43): Because Antony has turned down the demands of the Senate, Cicero concludes that the political situation is a de facto war. He would rather use the word bellum (war) than tumultus (unrest) to describe the current situation. He criticises the ex-consul Quintus Fufius Calenus, who wants to negotiate peace with Mark Antony: peace under him would be the same as slavery. He proposes amnesty to all soldiers that will leave Antony before 15 March 43, but those who stay with him later should be considered public enemies. The Senate agrees.
  • 9th Philippic (senatorial speech, 4 February 43): Cicero demands that the Senate honour Servius Sulpicius Rufus, who died during the embassy to Mark Antony. The Senate agrees to this proposal.
  • 10th Philippic (senatorial speech, in mid-February 43): Cicero praises the military deeds of Marcus Junius Brutus in Macedonia and Illyricum. He demands that the Senate confirm Brutus as the governor of Macedonia, Illyricum, and Greece together with the troops. The Senate agrees.
  • 11th Philippic (senatorial speech, end of February 43): Cicero castigates Dolabella for having murdered Gaius Trebonius, the governor of Asia. He demands that the governorship of Syria be given to Gaius Cassius Longinus. The Senate turns down this proposal.
  • 12th Philippic (senatorial speech, beginning of March 43): Cicero rejects a second embassy to Mark Antony, even though he was at first ready to participate in it. The Senate agrees.
  • 13th Philippic (senatorial speech, 20 March 43): Cicero attacks Antony for conducting war in North Italy (Battle of Mutina). He comments upon a letter of Antony to "Gaius Caesar" (Octavian) and Aulus Hirtius. He rejects the invitation to peace by Lepidus, referring to Antony's "crimes". He demands that the Senate honour Sextus Pompeius.
  • 14th Philippic (senatorial speech, 21 April 43, immediately after the victory of the allied armies of Octavian and Hirtius and Pansa over Antony): Cicero proposes a thanksgiving festival and praises the victorious commanders and their troops. He demands that Mark Antony be declared a public enemy (hostis). The Senate agrees to the latter proposal.

The first two speeches mark the outbreak of the enmity between Mark Antony and Cicero. Possibly, Cicero wanted to revive his success of the attacks on the conspiracy of Catiline; 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 plan to drive out Antony failed, however. After the successive battles of Forum Gallorum and Mutina, Antony and Octavian reconciled and allied with Lepidus to form the Second Triumvirate. 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 and his younger brother Quintus Tullius Cicero, formerly one of Caesar's legati, and all of their contacts and supporters were numbered among the enemies of the state though, reportedly, Octavian argued for two days against Cicero being added to the list.[5]

Among the proscribed, Cicero was one of the most viciously and doggedly hunted. Other victims included the tribune Salvius, who, after siding with Antony, moved his support directly and fully to Cicero. Cicero was viewed with sympathy by a large segment of the public and many people refused to report that they had seen him. He was eventually caught leaving his villa in Formiae in a litter going to the seaside from where he hoped to embark on a ship to Macedonia.[6] 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.


  1. Cicero, Second Philippic Against Antony
  2. Cicero, Ad Familiares 10.28
  3. Appian, Civil Wars 4.19
  4. cf. Ciceros, Ad Atticum 15.13.1
  5. Plutarch, Cicero 46.35
  6. Haskell, H.J.: This was Cicero (1964) p.293


  • M. Tulli Ciceronis Orationes tom. II. Recognovit brevique adnotatione critica instruxit Albertus Curtis Clark (Scriptorvm Classicorvm Bibliotheca Oxoniensis), typogr. ND der Ausgabe Oxford 2. Auflage 1918 [o.J].
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero. Die politischen Reden, Band 3. Lateinisch-deutsch. Herausgegeben, übersetzt und erläutert von Manfred Fuhrmann, Darmstadt 1993.
  • Stroh, Wilfried: Ciceros Philippische Reden: Politischer Kampf und literarische Imitation. In: Meisterwerke der antiken Literatur: Von Homer bis Boethius, hrsg. von Martin Hose, München 2000, 76-102.
  • Hall, Jon: The Philippics, in: Brill's Companion to Cicero. Oratory and Rhetoric, hrsg. von James M. May, Leiden-Boston-Köln 2002, 273-304.
  • Manuwald, Gesine: Eine Niederlage rhetorisch zum Erfolg machen: Ciceros Sechste Philippische Rede als paradigmatische Lektüre, in: Forum Classicum 2 (2007) 90-97.
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