Cicero's De Provinciis Consularibus Oratio

Cicero's De Provinciis Consularibus Oratio

Cicero's De Provinciis Consularibus Oratio

Cicero's De Provinciis Consularibus Oratio

Synopsis

Perhaps no other single Roman speech exemplifies the connection between oratory, politics and imperialism better than Cicero's De Provinciis Consularibus, pronounced to the senate in 56 BC. Cicero puts his talents at the service of the powerful "triumviri" (Caesar, Crassus and Pompey), whose aims he advances by appealing to the senators' imperialistic and chauvinistic ideology. This oration, then, yields precious insights into several areas of late republican life: international relations between Rome and the provinces (Gaul, Macedonia and Judaea); the senators' view on governors, publicani (tax-farmers) and foreigners; the dirty mechanics of high politics in the 50s, driven by lust for domination and money; and Cicero's own role in that political choreography. This speech also exemplifies the exceptional range of Cicero's oratory: the invective against Piso and Gabinius calls for biting irony, the praise of Caesar displays high rhetoric, the rejection of other senators' recommendations is a tour de force of logical and sophisticated argument, and Cicero's justification for his own conduct is embedded in the self-fashioning narrative which is typical of his postreditum speeches. This new commentary includes an updated introduction, which provides the readers with a historical, rhetorical and stylistic background to appreciate the complexities of Cicero's oration, as well as indexes and maps.

Excerpt

Cicero delivered his speech on the allocation of the consular provinces (De Provinciis Consularibus) at the age of fifty, in the summer of 56 BCE. The year is remembered as the time when the so-called first triumvirate was renewed. In the spring, Caesar left Gaul to meet with Pompey and Crassus, and the deal was struck: Pompey and Crassus would support Caesars confirmation as proconsul in Gaul, and his veterans would in turn support their election as the consuls for 55. But all the ambition, money and power of the three dynasts were not enough. To realize their plans, they needed the aid of the most prominent orator of the time, Cicero. Between May and July, Cicero responded to pressure from Pompey and delivered a speech to the senate De Provinciis Consularibus (henceforth Prov.). His eloquence persuaded the senators, with the result that Gaul was again assigned to Caesar, a fact that dramatically changed the course of Roman and European history. Transalpine Gaul was “pacified” (to use Cicero’s term), and Caesar managed to realize his ambitions, thanks to the powerful weapon that Cicero had put in his hands. In less than six years, and much to Cicero’s distress, Caesar would break with the senate, and the civil war he then fought against Pompey marked the end of the Roman Republic and the eventual beginning of the Principate.

Aside from its historical importance, Prov. is a prime example of Roman political oratory. Cicero used his talents to attack Piso and Gabinius and to praise Caesar; to justify Roman imperialism and provincial administration; to hide the intricacies of his relationship with Caesar and the senate; and to convince his fellow senators to take a decision that Caesar, Pompey and Crassus had in fact already taken. Prov. thus provides a powerful window into the high politics of the 50s, the relations between Rome and the provinces, the senators’ view on governors, publicans and foreigners, the complicated personality of Cicero, and the role of oratory in ancient Rome.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.