Cicero, Rhetoric, and Empire

Synopsis

Cicero manipulated issues relevant to Rome's possession of an empire (provincial extortion, access to citizenship, and the distribution of military commands) in an important group of speeches: the Verrines, de imperio Cn. Pompei, pro Archia, pro Flacco, de provinciis consularibus, and proBalbo. C. E. W. Steel examines the speeches' rhetorical techniques and aims in detail. Cicero's presentation of empire concentrates on the power wielded by individuals at the expense of wider questions of administrative structures. Thus the problems which arise in the running of an empire can bepresented as the result of personal failings rather than endemic to the structures of government - as questions of morality rather than of administration. Steel argues that this concept is fundamentally flawed. The weakness cannot be explained simply as Cicero's lack of insight, but as an inevitableconsequence of the uses to which he puts oratory in his political career: comparison with his contemporaries shows other leading figures producing much more radical approaches to the problems of empire.