Monday, May 1, 2017

Ptolemy IX “Chickpea” and Cicero “Chickpea”

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Damien F. Mackey






“… I suggest that Cicero explicitly employs unhistorical (or at least not certifiably true) exempla, with a view to the internal consistency of the dialogues' fictional world”.


Dan Hanchey






Some Commonalities


Some obvious similarities between the text-book Ptolemy Soter (so-called IX) and Cicero are their supposed beginnings before 100 BC, and their sharing of a name, or nickname, meaning “Chickpea”. In the book, Language Typology and Historical Contingency: In honor of Johanna Nichols (eds. B. Bickel et al.), we read as follows about this name (p. 303):


The possible prehistory of *ḱiḱer- is more interesting. The attested forms are Latin (Glare 1996) cicer ‘chickpea’ (Cicer arietinum), cicera ‘chickling vetch’ (Lathyrus sativus), Armenian siseṙn ‘chickpea’, Macedonian (Hesychius) kíkerroi (Lathyrus ochrus), and Serbo-Croatian sȁstrica (Lathyrus cicera or Lathyrus sativus). …. There is also the possibility of Greek kriós, ‘chickpea’, which Pokorny (1994: 598) tentatively suggests might be from *kikriós with dissimilation, and Hittite kikris, a food item used in a mash, and measured in handfuls. ….

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Image result for ciceroImage result for ptolemy IX soter II lathyros

Cicero                                                             Ptolemy IX


Likewise, Ptolemy was, Cicero was, contemporaneous with a Cleopatra, who had no great love for the “Chickpea”, or vice versa.

In the case of Ptolemy, we read ( “Although [Cleopatra, so-called III] preferred his younger brother, Ptolemy Alexander, popular sentiment forced the dowager queen to dismiss him and to associate Ptolemy Soter on the throne with herself”.

In parallel fashion, Cleopatra [so-called VII] ruled as co-regent with Ptolemy [so-called XII]: “Before his death, Ptolemy XII chose his daughter Cleopatra VII as his coregent. In his will, he declared that she and her brother Ptolemy XIII should rule the kingdom together”. ( Interestingly, Cicero, according to what we read at this site, is supposed to have commented unfavourably on this latter situation:


Throughout his long-lasting reign the principal aim of Ptolemy [XII] was to secure his hold on the Egyptian throne so as to eventually pass it to his heirs. To achieve this goal he was prepared to sacrifice much: the loss of rich Ptolemaic lands, most of his wealth and even, according to Cicero, the very dignity on which the mystique of kingship rested when he appeared before the Roman people as a mere supplicant.

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As for Cicero and Cleopatra: “Without doubt Cicero was hoping for bad news about Cleopatra. He did not like Greeks and he did not like women, and most of all he hated the Greek woman Cleopatra ...”. (Michael Foss, The Search for Cleopatra, 1999).





…. The latent hostility between the son and his mother finally erupted in October 110, when Cleopatra expelled him from Egypt and recalled his brother from Cyprus. Soter II returned in early 109 but was evicted anew by his mother in March of the following year.

After a reconciliation in May 108 he fled a third time and established himself in Cyprus, from where in 107 he invaded northern Syria to assist one of the claimants to the Seleucid empire, while his mother, allying herself with the Jewish king in Palestine, actively aided another Seleucid pretender. ….

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Nor was Cicero a stranger to exile, as we learn at:


Cicero was elected quaestor in 75, praetor in 66 and consul in 63—the youngest man ever to attain that rank without coming from a political family. During his term as consul he thwarted the Catilinian conspiracy to overthrow the Republic. In the aftermath, though, he approved the key conspirators’ summary execution, a breach of Roman law that left him vulnerable to prosecution and sent him into exile.


Cicero: Alliances, Exiles ….


During his exile, Cicero refused overtures from Caesar that might have protected him, preferring political independence to a role in the First Triumvirate. Cicero was away from Rome when civil war between Caesar and Pompey broke out. He aligned himself with Pompey and then faced another exile when Caesar won the war, cautiously returning to Rome to receive the dictator’s pardon. ….

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Continuing with the Encyclopædia Britannica account of Ptolemy, we read of his lengthy sojourn in Cyprus:


After a reconciliation in May 108 [Ptolemy] fled a third time and established himself in Cyprus, from where in 107 he invaded northern Syria to assist one of the claimants to the Seleucid empire, while his mother, allying herself with the Jewish king in Palestine, actively aided another Seleucid pretender. During the protracted war his mother died (101) and Ptolemy X Alexander became the sole ruler of Egypt, while Soter II remained entrenched in Cyprus. ….

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As for Cicero, Ismail Veli has called him “Cicero The Most Famous Governor in Cypriot History!” (


If I was to choose the most famous Governor in Cypriot history I would choose the great Marcus Tullius Cicero ….

In 51 BC and much against his will he was  assigned to Cilicia which was associated to Cyprus. As usual the previous Governor’s considered their post as an opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the local people. Arriving in August 51 B.C he remained until the following year until 3rd August 50 B.C. Though not pleased on his post Cicero as usual set about his task with honesty, hard work and aimed at making the lives of the locals much more comfortable. In addition to the corruption, Cilicia was in an unsettled state due to the Parthian wars. His first order was that the locals need not present him with gifts they could ill afford. He also did away with spending on many forms of Roman entertainment. He only accepted invitations to modest dinner parties so as not to force the locals extra spending. He himself restrained from having extravagant dinner parties, only well served and delicious food at the lowest cost possible was on offer. He never ordered anyone to be beaten with rods or stripped of their clothing. His biggest achievement was in fighting the embezzlement of public funds which was at a chronic level. He invited the culprits to hand over the funds on the condition that they would  not be charged and allowed to retain their citizen rights. The effect was that much money was given back to the point that financial stability and prosperity grew. Any chiefs who refused were met with the wrath of the Roman army at Cicero’s disposal. By the time he left Cilicia the people honoured him with the title of ‘Imperator’.

Meanwhile in Cyprus he found the same if not worse problems as he confronted in Cilicia.

He assigned one of his most trusted men Q. Volusius as prefect to help with the task.  The previous Governors had exacted large sums of money from the locals in compensation for not stationing Legionaries on the Island in winter at their expense. Instead they blackmailed the local cities to pay a charge amounting to over 200 Attic talents (one talent was worth 6000 Denarii. The average pay for a citizen was about 1-2 denarii a day). In addition when the city of Salamis needed a loan, Marcus Brutus levied a charge of 48% interest which was crippling the local economy.  Raising loans by provincials  in Rome  was illegal under the Gabinian law (introduced in 67 B.C) Therefore Brutus together with Cato raised it on their behalf. The reason for their exorbitant interest was the excuse that times were volatile and with wars raging in Asia Minor and the Middle East they were at great risk of losing their money. In the end after heavy negotiation the locals were happy to settle for 106 Talents therefore reducing their heavy burden by almost half. Cicero made good the rest from some of the money he had won back from the embezzlers in Cilicia. A Scaptius complained bitterly to M. Brutus that Cicero was so unreasonable that he was not even allowed fifty troopers to have with him in Cyprus, to which Cicero replied that ”Fifty troopers could do no little harm among such gentle folk as the Cypriotes. Spartacus had begun his insurrection with a smaller troop”.

After leaving Cyprus, Cicero retained an interest in Cypriot affairs. In 47 B.C he wrote to C Sextilius Cicero 2Rufus who was quaestor for the Island in that year warmly commending to him all the Cypriotes, especially the Paphians; and suggesting that he would do well to set an example to his successor, instituting reforms in accordance with the law of P.Lentulus and following Cicero’s decisions and policies on the Island.

So ended Cicero’s period of short but effective Governorship of the Roman province of Cyprus. Not many rulers treated the Cypriots with the care and concern as did Cicero. Even if some did I don’t have any doubt that anyone more famous in history can claim to have presided over the people of the Island. ….

[End of quote]


Sack of Athens


An event that occurred at the hands of the Romans in the lifetime of Ptolemy IX, of Cicero. Thus, according to: Encyclopædia BritannicaPtolemy Soter refused to give aid to the Romans in the course of their war with Pontus, a Black Sea kingdom, and after the Roman sack of Athens in 88 the Egyptian rulers helped rebuild the city, for which commemorative statues of them were erected”.


Roman aristocrats returned to Athens soon after Sulla’s sack, in search of education and high culture. A shipwreck, found a century ago by sponge divers off the island of Antikythera at the southern point of Greece, revealed a cargo of extraordinary statues and other treasure en route for Italy. Excavations of the luxurious villas constructed in the last century BC show the probable destinations of such cargoes. Ancestral mansions in the city had been rebuilt on ever more lavish scales since the sixth century, but from the later second century Roman aristocrats had begun to expand their property portfolios. Cicero was far from the richest of senators, but even he owned eight villas.

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Dan Hanchey may be closer to the truth than he realises when he writes of Cicero’s employment of “unhistorical (or at least not certifiably true) exempla” (





This paper analyzes Cicero's citations of the not-always-historical past in his theoretical corpus. Examining both the Marian oak in the prologue of De Legibus and Cicero's overall use of historical references, I suggest that Cicero explicitly employs unhistorical (or at least not certifiably true) exempla, with a view to the internal consistency of the dialogues' fictional world. By encouraging the reader's acceptance of such fictional examples, Cicero establishes an intersubjective and empathetic relationship with his audience. Ultimately, Cicero seeks to uphold and use others to confirm his internal world as an alternative to the tense world of Roman politics. ….


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