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Theatricality. Cicero’s Pro Caelio.

1. Paris Lat. 7794, 9th c. manuscript containing Ciceronian orations including Pro CaelioImage: Bibliothèque nationale de France.

2a. Catullus, poem 49. Translated by Peter Green.

Sweetest-spoken of Romulus’ descendants,
past or present, Marcus Tullius, and all who
may yet follow in the distant future —
warmest thanks to you herewith from Catullus,
who’s the worst of all poets, by as much the
worst of all living poets, as yourself are
best of all courtroom lawyers for your clients.

2b. Catullus, poem 58. Translated by Peter Green.

Caelius, Lesbia — our dear Lesbia, that one,
that Lesbia whom alone Catullus worshipped
more than himself, far more than all his kinsfolk —
now on backstreet corners and down alleys
jacks off Remus’s generous descendants.

3. Cicero, Pro Caelio (6). Translated by D. H. Berry.

But slander is one thing, prosecution another. Prosecution requires a basis for a charge, and then to determine the facts, to identify the person responsible, to prove the case by argument, and back it up with evidence. Slander, on the other hand, has no object except to insult. If its character is coarse, it is termed abuse, but if sophisticated, it is termed wit.

4. Cicero, Pro Caelio (30). Translated by D. H. Berry.

I shall not venture, therefore, to reply to your criticisms as I ought. For I could ask you to make an exception for the young, and beg your pardon. But, as I say, I shall not do this: I shall not take refuge in my client’s youth, and I give up the rights to which anyone would be entitled. All I ask is that, whatever general disapproval there may currently be concerning young men’s debts, dissipation, and licentious behaviour– and I know that on this subject there is considerable disapproval — my client should not be made to suffer for other people’s misdemeanours, or for the vices of youth and of the age in which we live

5. Cicero, Pro Caelio (37). Translated by D. H. Berry.

I come to you now, Caelius: it is your turn; and I am going to assume a father’s authority and strictness. But I am unsure which particular father I ought to choose—the harsh, overbearing one in Caecilius: ‘Now at last my mind is ablaze, now my heart is heaped with anger,’ or perhaps this one:
‘What am I to say? What am I to wish for? By doing such disgraceful deeds, you make all my wishes vain’ —intolerable! A father like that would say, ‘Why did you go to live so near to that prostitute? Why did you not flee the moment you became aware of her allurements? Why have you got to know a woman who is a stranger to us? Scatter and squander for all I care! If you run out of money, it’ll be you that suffers; I have enough to see me through the years I have left.’…But to a mild and lenient father—the sort who would say, ‘he has broken open a door: it can be repaired; he has torn someone’s clothes: they can be mended’—Caelius’ case is an extremely easy one to make. For what charge could there possible be that he would not find it easy to defend himself against? I am not at this point saying anything against that woman.

6a. Matthew Leigh, “The Pro Caelio and Comedy,” Classical Philology (2004), p304:

‘More specifically, it will be apparent to all that Clodia Metelli is in no technical sense a meretrix. Rather, she is the child of one of the most distinguished aristocratic families in Rome and the widow of Q. Metellus Celer, consul of 60 B.C.E. To confess to or even, as Wilfried Stroh would have it, invent this affair, is therefore a calculated risk on the part of the defense, and depends on the assumption that the revelation will do far more damage to the reputation of Clodia than it does to that of Caelius. In particular, to call Clodia a meretrix is to associate her with a group technically forbidden to give evidence in court; to suggest that Caelius has been the lover of a widow does not technically expose him to legal censure, but such a statement would be far more damaging to his reputation were that widow not also understood to live like a courtesan.’

6b. Matthew Leigh, “The Pro Caelio and Comedy,” Classical Philology (2004), p322:

‘Is it, in short, possible that not just the characters of drama but also the speakers operating in the forum were accustomed to rehearse and deliver formal rhetorical loci even at this early point in the development of Roman culture?’

6c. Matthew Leigh, “The Pro Caelio and Comedy,” Classical Philology (2004), p326:

‘There is, I recognize, a serious risk inherent in the interpretative strategy adopted hitherto in this study: to speak of Cicero’s attempt fundamentally to alter the jury’s perspective on a trial de vi by redimensioning it as a comedy may leave the impression of a greater formal separation between comedy and rhetoric than can truly be said to have held. For acting and oratory are indeed cognate activities in Greek and Roman culture, and this comes across in many different ways: the grand and passionate style is equated with tragedy; the uninflated and humorous style with comedy; comic authors study humor in oratory; noted orators write for the stage; the actors Roscius and Aesopus take as strong an interest in the great orators as the orators take in them.’

7. Cicero, Pro Caelio (79). Translated by D. H. Berry.

But when you have set the picture of this young man in front of you, place before your eyes also the picture of his old and unhappy father here; he totally depends on this his only son, he places all his hopes on him, and he is afraid for him alone. This old man is a suppliant before your compassion, a slave before your power, and a beggar not so much before your feet as before your instincts and your sensibilities. Recall the memories you have of your parents or the delight you take in your children and raise this man up, so that in assuaging another person’s grief you may indulge your own filial duty or else your own fatherly love.

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