Cicero in Letters: Epistolary Relations of the Late Republic

By Peter White | Go to book overview

2
The Editing of the Collection

What sort of literary artifact do we confront when we read the letters of Cicero in a standard edition of his works? Certainly they have much in common with other Latin texts we read. A given letter, whether by Cicero or one of his correspondents, is a composition that a writer shaped and released and that subsequently fell prey to the distortions of transcribers, booksellers, and annotators and to lesions in the manuscripts which transmitted it. Readers of classical texts expect to take account of such vagaries. But Cicero’s letters differ from most other Latin texts and from all his other extant works in two respects. Cicero probably did not arrange for the mass of his correspondence to be published, and, when it was published anyway, whoever took responsibility acquired a significant role in shaping what we read.1


From Private to Published

The first of these points cannot be proved. In fact, it has not been found unthinkable that Cicero did arrange for his correspondence to be published. The latest letters that can be dated were written in midsummer of 43, when Cicero’s public role had completely unraveled.2 By that time, his erstwhile protégé Octavian had taken full charge of his own career and begun negotiations with rival army leaders that would lead to the proscription and death of Cicero in December. Virtually nothing is known about Cicero’s activities during the last four or five months of his life. But if he discerned what was coming, he might have dropped out of sight to put his affairs in order and to gather letters and papers he wished to have published after his death. Papers reserved for posthumous publication are a recurrent phenomenon of Roman literary life.3

-31-

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Cicero in Letters: Epistolary Relations of the Late Republic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • D · M · D · R · S · B v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xiii
  • I - Reading the Letters from the outside in 1
  • 1 - Constraints and Biases in Roman Letter Writing 3
  • 2 - The Editing of the Collection 31
  • 3 - Frames of the Letter 63
  • II - Epistolary Preoccupations 87
  • 4 - The Letters and Literature 89
  • 5 - Giving and Getting Advice by Letter 117
  • 6 - Letter Writing and Leadership 137
  • Afterword - The Collection in Hindsight 167
  • Appendix 1- quantifying the Letter Corpus 171
  • Appendix 2- Contemporary Works Mentioned in the Letters 177
  • Notes 181
  • Bibliography 223
  • Index of Persons 231
  • Index of Passages 233
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