Cicero, Rhetoric, and Empire

Cicero, Rhetoric, and Empire

Cicero, Rhetoric, and Empire

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.

Excerpt

At the time I thought that people in Rome did nothing except talk about my quaestorship. I had dispatched a large quantity of corn at a time of great shortages; I'd been friendly to the businessmen, fair to the traders, generous to the tax-farmers, not predatory in relation to our allies, and had appeared to everyone extremely careful in fulfilling all obligations; various novel honours had been devised for me by the Sicilians. And so I'd left the province in the hope that the Roman people would, unasked, give me everything I desired. But, on coming to Puteoli, in order to continue my journey to land, which as it happened I did just when it was full of fashionable people, I almost collapsed, gentlemen of the jury, when someone asked me what day I'd left Rome and what the news there was. I told him I'd come from my province: he said, 'Of course, yes, Africa I believe.' And I, now getting angry, said disdainfully, 'No, Sicily', someone else, acting as though well informed, added, 'Didn't you know that our friend here was quaestor at Syracuse?' Well, what more can I say? I stopped being angry and pretended I was there to take the waters. But I rather think, gentlemen of the jury, that the episode did me much more good than if everyone had congratulated me. After I'd realized that the Roman people were a bit deaf, but had very sharp and keen eyesight, I stopped worrying about what men would hear concerning me and made sure that they would see me every day: I lived in the public eye, I frequented the Forum, I didn't allow either sleep or my doorkeeper to keep anyone from my presence … and so whatever reputation I might have has been won in Rome and acquired in the Forum, and public events too have justified my private plans, with the result that the vital interests of the state needed me as their agent in Rome, and the city needed me to save it by action in the city.

pro Plancio 64–6: sic tum enim existimabam, nihil homines aliud Romae
nisi de quaestura mea loqui. frumenti in summa caritate maximum
numerum miseram; negotiatoribus comis, mercatoribus iustus, mancipibus
liberalis, sociis abstinens, omnibus eram uisus in omni officio diligentis
simus; excogitati quidam erant a Siculis honores in me inauditi. itaque hac
spe decedebam ut mihi populum Romanum ultro omnia delaturum
putarem. at ego cum casu diebus eis itineris faciendi causa decedens e . . .

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