The Literate Mode of Cicero's Legal Rhetoric

The Literate Mode of Cicero's Legal Rhetoric

The Literate Mode of Cicero's Legal Rhetoric

The Literate Mode of Cicero's Legal Rhetoric


The first book to examine closely how the relationship of Cicero's oral and written skills bears on his legal argumentation.

Enos argues that, more than any other Roman advocate, Cicero developed a "literate mind" which enabled him to construct arguments that were both compelling in court and popular in society. Through close examination of the audience and substance of Cicero's legal rhetoric, Enos shows that Cicero used his writing skills as an aid to composition of his oral arguments; after the trial, he again used writing to edit and re-compose texts that appear as "speeches" but function as literary statements directed to a public audience far removed from the courtroom.

These statements are couched "in a mode that would eventually become a standard of literary eloquence." Enos explores the differences between oral and literary composition to reveal relationships that bear not only on different modes of expression but also on the conceptual and cultural factors that shape meaning itself.


Quintilian has given us an excellent rule, in the very case: that we should be modest and circumspect, in passing a judgment on men so illustrious, lest, as it happens to the generality of censurers, we be found at last to condemn what we do not understand.

Conyers Middleton, The Life of M. Tullius Cicero

The scourge of Catiline. the archenemy of Mark Anthony. the champion of the Republic. These epithets characterize the Cicero who has delighted and even inspired readers for centuries. Cicero's numerous works have provided the gist that has moved readers and reconstructed the backbone of many Victorian politicians who, inspired by their boyhood reading of his achievements, spoke out in Parliament and court as (they believed) their Roman model would have. We have had centuries to scrutinize Cicero's works, to weigh and sift the evidence that will tell us more about this complex, fascinating individual. Yet, after all that examination is concluded, after all the historical accounts and meticulous biographies have been shelved for posterity, can we say that "our Cicero" is the most accurate portrait? the life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, and the tumultuous events which comprise it, have been well documented by historians and biographers since antiquity. No historian, ancient or contemporary, denies the important part Cicero played in the waning years of the Roman Republic, and many credit his eloquence as a force in his advancement and impact. the Roman historian Suetonius records that Augustus himself acknowledged the importance of Cicero in the shaping of events and encouraged his grandchildren to study the life and works of a man who seems to have opposed the chief features that came to represent the Augustan Principate.

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