Cicero of Arpinum: A Political and Literary Biography Being a Contribution to the History of Ancient Civilization and a Guide to the Study of Cicero's Writings

By E. G. Sihler | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

THE life of Cicero has passed before us. We have endeavored to gain a close vision of it, and we have been favored by material much richer and much more varied than is afforded by any other life of the ancient world. We veiled or palliated nothing. Also we declined to resort to the device of artificial modernization, so popular now. We avoided also injecting into our valuations the categories of our own world, for that trick too is a denial, it is the negation of genuine historiography.

Cicero from early boyhood established the habit to outdo and outshine his competitors and his contemporaries. He should not be conceived as a literateur who somehow dabbled in politics or stumbled into public life. His training for it was fully as thorough as that of any member of the office-holding aristocracy. He was not a poorer Roman or a less genuine Roman because his culture was deeper and broader than that of the typical Roman. There was then no Roman culture. His culture then was the only finer or deeper culture which at that time was available; it was Greek culture. His attitude towards it was manifold and manysided. He was bilingual in a way, but in his political consciousness he felt himself vastly superior to the Greeks, though Plato, Dicaearchus and other Greek thinkers furnished him clews, incentives and theories. It is futile to place Caesar's Latinity on the level of the man who, in a way, created Latin prose style. Theory, contemplation, taste, no less than many graces of Isocratean art, he brought into his native tongue for the first time. Ennius and Lucilius were set aside and became antiquated through the more perfect and finished verse of Horace and Vergil. But no one ever performed that feat in the specific domains of Cicero's authorship in Latin Prose. Unless some grammaticus or antiquarian preserved some slender fragments, what do we know of the oratory of Caesar, Caelius, Curio, Calvus, Brutus, Asinius or Messalla? Cicero was a cyclopedic nature, his ingenium had a certain universality. He was conscious of it. In a way he was the first of the Humanists. His interest in applied psychology, in ethics, in political science, in historiog

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