This is a review of F.H. Colson's commentary on Cicero's oration "Pro Milone", originally published in 1893 but reprinted by the Bristol Classical Press. Cicero delivered the "Pro Milone" in defense of his political ally Titus Annius Milo when he was put on trial for the murder of Cicero's political enemy Publius Clodius Pulcher in 52 BC. For the Romans of Cicero's generation this was the Trial of the Century. Milo had been in the running for the consulship that year and was a key figure in the senatorial aristocracy, while Clodius was in the running for the praetorship and relied on the common people for his political power. In January of 52 BC, Clodius and Milo happened to both be traveling on the Via Appia outside of Rome, and when the entourages of both men encountered one another a brawl ensued. At some point in the fighting Clodius ended up dead, precipitating a major political upheaval at Rome. In the midst of the crisis (which, among other things, saw the burning of the Senate house by the supporters of Clodius), the Senate designated Pompey the Great sole consul for 52 BC and gave him wide powers to restore order to the city. Milo was put on trial and ultimately convicted of Clodius's murder. Asconius, an ancient commentator on Cicero's speeches (and whose entire commentary on the "Pro Milone" is included in this edition, although no notes are provided for it), reports that Milo did in fact murder Clodius in cold blood, having ordered his slaves to drag the wounded Clodius out of tavern in which he had taken refuge and kill him. If Asconius's account is to be believed, then Cicero's published defense speech is a masterpiece of misrepresentation, and as such represents a remarkable case study of the extreme lengths to which Cicero will go to help his friends and harm his enemies.
This edition includes a 32 page introduction, 45 pages of Latin text (with no apparatus criticus), just under 80 pages of commentary, an index, and a 9 page appendix containing the entirety of Asconius's commentary on the "Pro Milone". There is no glossary provided. The introduction is a wonderfully concise account of the background information necessary to understand the speech. It summarizes all the major historical events and describes all the major personages implicated in the trial of Milo. It also explains the significance of the trial for Roman politics in 52 BC and thereafter, and it provides a very trenchant analysis of the structure of the speech and the case Cicero makes for Milo's acquittal. Cicero essentially argues that Milo killed Clodius in self-defense and that Clodius's death was an unqualified boon for the Roman Republic, and the commentator, drawing on the evidence provided by Asconius and other sources for the period, shows (both in the introduction and in the notes) how Cicero has almost certainly distorted the facts to make a compelling but disingenuous case for Milo's acquittal. The chief value of this commentary is thus that it provides a needed a corrective to Cicero's one-sided presentation of Clodius's murder.
However, as the other reviewer has noted, this commentary does not provide too much in the way of help with grammar or vocabulary. The commentator's main concerns in the notes are to clarify historical allusions, evaluate Cicero's claims and argumentation, draw verbal and thematic parallels between Cicero's other works and "Pro Milone", discuss matters of textual criticism, and highlight places where Cicero's Latin usage deviates from his own or from general norms (with frequent citations from Cicero's other speeches and treatises). The commentator assumes that the reader has already mastered the basics of Latin grammar, and one would perhaps want 4 or 5 years of Latin before embarking upon the Pro Milone using this commentary. That being said, I did find that the commentator would sometimes translate the trickiest bits of Latin into English and was generally helpful in pointing out and translating technical terms of law/politics/philosophy when Cicero uses them, so this commentary is not entirely bare of grammatical and lexical help. As for the punctuation, I did notice (along with the other reviewer) that the commentator has inserted far more commas into the text than one might expect, but I found this punctuation much more helpful than confusing. What the commentator has done is used commas to break up Cicero's long periods into their constituent sense units, making the structure of Cicero's prose much easier for the reader to discern and analyze than it would be otherwise.
Finally, it might be worthwhile to mention that the commentator writes with an entertainingly curmudgeonly verve. For example, the commentator writes the following on page xiv of Cicero's attitude towards Pompey in the speech: "Under a thin veil of conventional compliment can be traced a bitter attack upon the Triumvir, which he cannot have failed to appreciate, unless indeed he was even more stupid than modern historians have represented him". Rarely in 19th century commentaries does the personality of the commentator maintain such a strong and distinctive presence as it does in this edition, and in spite of how relatively dated this book is now as a work of scholarship, because of this and its other merits Colson's "Pro Milone" remains the best place to start as a gateway to reading and appreciating this monumentally important Ciceronian oration.