Conceptualizing Space, Consular year

Imagining Ciceronian Rome.

1a. Ann Vasaly, Representations (1993), p40:

‘In August of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., began a now-famous oration with the following words: “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. . . . But one hundred years later, the Negro is still not free.” The evocation of Abraham Lincoln was obvious to all present: in the diction of the opening phrase, in the allusion to the statue in the Lincoln Memorial, and in the explicit reference to the Emancipation Proclamation. If, two thousand years hence, we had no text of the Gettysburg Address, or were unsure where King stood when he spoke, or did not realize that the monument housed a huge statue of Lincoln, the rhetorical impact of the words might well be obscure. The phrase “five score years ago” would appear to be an inexplicable archaism, and the idea of the “symbolic shadow” of a “great American” might never be connected with the fact that King spoke in the actual shadow cast by the massive representation of the Great Emancipator.

The distance we are removed in time and place has obscured many of the associations that must have been immediately available to Cicero’s audience.’

1b. The climax of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington demonstration on Aug. 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. Gelatin silver print,  Bob Adelman. Image: Smithsonian.

1c. The statue of Lincoln looks on Dr. King’s oration. Image: PBS.

2a. Relief of the Tomb of the Haterii (early 2nd c. CE), might depict the the Temple of Jupiter Stator (far right). Image: Musei Vaticani.

2b. Digital reconstruction of Roman Forum c. 100 BCE. View from south east. Image: digitales forum romanum.

2c. A more traditional map of the of the Roman Forum. Image:

3. Ann Vasaly, Representations (1993), p69:

‘We now take up a question more important to our purposes than any involving the physical aspects of the Rostra-Comitium—namely, What was the meaning of this place for Cicero’s audience? To answer this question we must discuss some of the separate strains that contributed to the perception of this complex space; but, in so doing, it should be kept in mind that a Roman of Cicero’s day would not have been accustomed to thinking in terms of discrete divisions between, for instance, the “political,” the “historical,” and the “religious.” As has often been pointed out, these concepts—which we are accustomed to rationalize into distinct aspects of experience—were overlapping and interwoven in the Roman consciousness.’

4. Ann Vasaly, Representations (1993), p85:

‘The orator, in fact, emphatically and explicitly refuses credit for saving the city, declaring that if he himself were to claim that he had foiled the conspiracy, he ought not to be endured. Pointing to the statue on the Capitol, he declares, ille, ille Iuppiter restitit; ille Capitolium, ille haec templa, ille cunctam urbem, ille vos omnis salvos esse voluit (22). In the passage the demonstrative ille is repeated twice at the beginning of the second sentence and six times in all. Over and over again Cicero demands that the audience direct their attention to the monument that has been rhetorically transformed into evidence of the protection of Jupiter for Rome and the relationship between the god and his people. The result of that relationship has been the manifestation of the conspiracy, which Cicero now asserts has occurred by divine, not human, will. It has been Jupiter, not Cicero, who has protected “the Capitol, these temples, and the whole city” (22).’

5. Ann Vasaly, Representations (1993), p34:

‘In one of the last speeches he delivered, the Pro rege Deiotaro, Cicero spoke of the oratorical inspiration he drew from such places of shared symbolic meaning. The oration was delivered in camera in 44 B.C. before Caesar, who had arrogated to himself as dictator all judicial power. In the speech Cicero complains of the difficulty of speaking within a private house, isolated from the people and scenes that had inspired him in the past (5). He then imagines the oration he would be capable of if he were allowed to speak in the Forum: “If only, Gaius Caesar, I were defending this case in the Forum, with you looking on and judging, what excitement I would draw from the assembled throng of the Roman people! . . . I would look on the Senate house; I would gaze upon the Forum; finally, I would call on heaven itself” (6).

The passage is strangely moving. In rhetorical terms it can be classed as a predictable ingredient in the successful prooemium: the plea for goodwill and sympathy based on the persona of the orator himself. And yet it reads not so much as an appeal as a reminiscence. Cicero reminds Caesar—the other great public speaker of the age—of the oratorical power he had wielded in the past and complains that the changes the dictator has wrought have denied him two important sources of rhetorical effectiveness: first, the interaction between the orator and a vast popular audience, and, second, the setting in which that interaction took place. The passage illustrates Cicero’s realization that great oratory, like great drama, demands both an audience and a stage.’

6. Ann Vasaly, Representations (1993), pp84-85:

‘The intent to erect the statue, then, is presented by Cicero as an appeal to the gods, and the erection of the statue in itself could neither guarantee nor prove that the city was divinely protected. But in the chronological coincidence of the carrying through of this intention and the revelation of the conspiracy the statue takes on a new significance. Cicero asks whether it was not obvious that all had occurred by the will of Jupiter Optimus Maximus when it happened that the conspirators and witnesses had been led through the Forum to the Temple of Concord, where they disclosed the details of the conspiracy, at precisely the same time that the new statue of Jupiter had been set up overlooking the Forum and the Curia (21). The fact that Jupiter had caused the conspiracy to be made known on the day his statue was placed on the Capitolium was evidence that it was he who had actually brought about the revelation of the plot. The sight of the statue, therefore, becomes visual evidence that “all that we see and especially this city is guided by the will and power of the immortal gods” (21).

This interpretation by Cicero of the meaning of the statue is accompanied by a reinterpretation of his own role in what had occurred. The consul once again summons up the image of the urban landscape—”even the temples and shrines of the gods”—threatened by destruction (22: non solum vestris domiciliis atque tectis, sed etiam deorum templis atque delubris ), an image introduced at the beginning of the speech (2: toti urbi, templis delubris, tectis ac moenibus ). In the exordium, however, Cicero had claimed that he himself had put out the fire threatening the city, had turned away the daggers from the necks of the citizens, and had been responsible for illuminating and revealing the details of the plot (3: inlustrata, patefacta, comperta sunt per me ). By the end of the speech, however, the focus has shifted. Jupiter rather than Cicero is said to have turned aside the fire threatening the city, and the conspirators’ plans have been “illuminated and revealed” (21: inlustrata et patefacta ) not simply through the vigilance of the consul but by means of divine intervention” (84-85).’

7. Ann Vasaly, Representations (1993), p28:

‘We should note, however, the degree to which Cicero has civilized and rationalized his topographical model. The characters in the De oratore do not, like Socrates and Phaedrus, wander in the countryside; they stroll around the manicured walks of Crassus’s estate. When they are inspired to recline on the grass under the shady tree, they immediately send their slaves for cushions to sit on. Most important, Scaevola is depicted as drawing inspiration from the intellectual associations of the place rather than from the natural setting itself: the plane tree that he sees reminds him of the plane tree described by Plato, and the thought of that Greek plane tree is moving not simply because the tree was beautiful but because the dialogue that occurred under it was “divine.”‘

7. Ann Vasaly, Representations (1993), p37:

‘Of greater interest in this work, however, is the process by which Cicero not only drew on the more accessible preexisting associations of monuments and topography but attempted to emphasize certain less obvious associations at the expense of others, as well as to create new meanings that would interact with preexisting associations to further his rhetorical aims.’

Consular year

The Consular Year. Cicero’s Catilinarians.

1. 5th c. CE papyrus codex from Egypt containing a Latin-Greek word list to Cicero’s Catilinarians 2.14-15, P. Ryl. 1.61. Image: John Rylands, Manchester.

2. 9th c. Add. 47678, one of the earliest manuscripts containing Cicero’s Catilinarians. Here’s a closeup of the infamous opening (In Cat. 1.1): quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? Image: British Library.

3a. Cicero, In Catilinam 1.16. Translated by Siobhán McElduff. Compare with Cesare Maccari’s Cicerone denuncia Catilina (1889).

What sort of life do you have these days? For I shall now so speak with you that I shall not appear to be provoked by hatred – as is my right – but by pity, not a scrap of which you deserve. A little while ago you entered the Senate. What man from this massive crowd and among you many friends and connections paid their respects? If no one has experienced this within living memory, do you wait for my insults when the momentous judgement of their silence crushes you? What shall we say of the fact that at your arrival those benches around you were emptied, that all men of consular rank (so often marked by you for murder) left your section bare and empty as soon as you sat down? Tell me, how do you think you should bear this?

3b. Cicero, In Catilinam 2.12. Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

Yesterday, citizens, a day on which I was nearly killed in my own home, I called a meeting of the Senate in the temple of Jupiter Stator and reported the whole business to the members of the Senate. When Catiline arrived, was there a senator who would use his name or greet him? Was there a single one who saw him as anything other than a ruined citizen or, should I say, as a completely vicious citizen? In fact, even the leading members of that body left the sections of benches he had approached bare and empty.

4. Cicero, In Catilinam 1.16. Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

How many times has your blade (sica) been ripped from your hands, how often has it fallen or slipped from them by some blunder! Yet you cannot live without it. I cannot imagine with what ritual it has been consecrated and dedicated that you think it necessary to plunge it into the body of a consul.

Zliten mosaic c. 200 CE: a Thraex gladiator (right) thrusts a sica into a Murmillo. Image: wikimedia commons.

5a. Cicero, In Catilinam 1.20. Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

Leave the city, Catiline, free the Republic from fear. Go – you are awaiting that word. What is it, Catiline? Are you paying any attention? Have you noticed these men’s silence at all? They permit this speech – they are silent. Why do you await their spoken command when you can clearly see their silent desire?

5b. Cicero, In Catilinam 2.13. Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

Then I, the famously violent consul, who exiles citizens with just a word, I asked Catiline whether or not he had been at the norcturnal meeting at Marcus Laeca’s. Since he, although he has plenty of nerve, was overcome by the consciousness of his guilt and was silent at first, I laid out the rest.

5c. Shane Butler, The Hand of Cicero (2002), p94. On Cicero Catilinarian 3.

‘Indeed, the careful reader detects a number of probable manipulations of the truth, such as Cicero’s repeated assertions that each conspirator, confronted with the incriminating evidence against him, subsequently “confessed.” Cicero never reports the details of these “confessions”; probably most or all were far more limited than Cicero led the crowd to suppose; otherwise he surely would have provided some of the self-incriminating words. Note, however, that Cicero misleads only by suggestion; here and generally, he takes almost maniacal legalistic care to avoid expressing a literal untruth.’

6. Cicero, In Catilinam 2.7; 2.10. Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

Is there an evil or crime which can be dreamed or thought up which he did not come up with? Can we find any gladiator, any outlaw, assassin, parricide, forger of wills, con-man, glutton, prodigal, adulterer, woman without a decent name, corrupter of the young or corrupted loser who does not confess that he was intimate friends with Catiline?…[2.10] But who could tolerate cowards plotting against the brave, idiots against the wise, the drunk against the sober and the comatose against the conscious? Men who recline at feasts, clutching whorish women, limp from wine, stuffed with food, crowned with garlands, smeared with perfumes and worn out from sex, belch out as conversation the murder of decent men and the burning of Rome.

7. Cicero, In Catilinam 1.29. Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

For if our greatest men and most prominent citizens did not so much stain as grace themselves with the blood of Saturninus, the Gracchi, Flaccus, and many before that, sure I should not fear that any hatred will overwhelm me after this murderer of his fellow-citizens is killed. But even if this should threaten me, I have always been of the mind that hatred born from a courageous act is in reality glory.

8. Cicero, In Catilinam 2.28. Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

What exactly is impeding you? Our traditions? But in this Republic even private citizens have frequently punished destructive ones with death. Or is it the laws which have been passed regarding the punishment of Roman citizens? But in this city laws have never preserved the rights of citizens who have abandoned the Republic. Maybe you fear posterity’s hatred? Naturally! Repay the remarkable favour you owe the Roman people for raising you – a man famous through his own efforts and not those of his ancestors – at such a young age through each successive political office, until you reached their apex, by neglecting the safety of fellow-citizens because you fear danger or being hated.

9. Shane Butler, The Hand of Cicero (2002), p95.

‘The letter, as later quoted by Cicero (and Sallust), does indeed urge Catiline to make use “even of the lowliest members of society,” but Volturcius’ version specifies that this means “troops of slaves,” and adds the advice that Catiline “approach the city as soon as possible with his army.” Now it is scarcely possible that Cicero would later choose to quote from the letter an excerpt that does not include these damning details. Part of the problem is that Volturcius is paraphrasing (and, to make matters worse, Cicero in turn is paraphrasing Volturcius, expanding his statement with explanatory glosses). Note, however, that Cicero does not say that this paraphrase is of the letter alone; rather, Volturcius reports the purport of the mandata (instructions) as well as the litterae (letter) he has been asked to deliver to Catiline. Mandata can be written (indeed, Cicero probably counts on this to confuse his listeners further), but in this case they surely designate oral instructions which Lentulus was circumspect enough not to trust to writing. Daring grammatical acrobatics follow. Cicero cites Volturcius citing Lentulus’ letter not, as one would expect, by a series of indirect statements but instead by two ut-clauses to be constructed with mandata et litteras (the sense being Lentulus mandavit ut…). This is followed by a third ut-clause that reports the plan to burn the city and slaughter countless citizens. But before this Cicero inserts the phrase id autem eo consilio which makes the final ut depend on consilio. Thus what appears to be a third instruction is only the “plan” that Lentulus has in mind– and probably this represents not even the speculation of the only apparently quoted Volturcius, but rather that of Cicero himself.’ 

10. John Dugan, “Cicero’s compulsion to repeat his consulate,” The Classical Journal (2014), p17:

‘Cicero proceeds to describe in more general terms the aesthetic dimensions of his narrative, asserting that he will enjoy reading about events that brought him pain in real life, while, for others who had no part in these misfortunes, the pity they feel from surveying another’s troubles is itself a source of pleasure. Cicero then expands upon the aesthetics of closure with which he began by generalizing about the greater satisfaction that a self-contained monograph treatment of a hero’s triumphs and setbacks has in comparison to an annalistic history: if it is “completed with a remarkable outcome (si vero exitu notabili concluduntur) the mind is filled with extremely delightful reading pleasure” (Fam. 5.12.5). He then proceeds to refer to such an account of his story as being “like a play” (quasi fabulam), and thus advertises the fact that his story has a plot, a coherent structure with a beginning, middle, and an extraordinary end. Here we see Cicero shaping his story to have a telos that will make it an aesthetically and psychological satisfying whole.’

Republishing the speeches three years later:

Cicero, Letter to Atticus (Att. 2.1.3) from 60 BCE:

I’ll send my little speeches, both those you ask for and some more besides, since it appears that you too find pleasure in these performances which the enthusiasm of my young admirers prompts me to put on paper. Remembering what a brilliant show your countryman Demosthenes made in his so-called Philippics and how he turned away from this argumentative, forensic type of oratory to appear in the more elevated role of statesman, I thought it would be a good thing for me too to have some speeches to my name which might be called ‘Consular.’ They are: (1) delivered in the Senate on the Kalends of January; (2) to the Assembly, on the agrarian law; (3) on Otho; (4) in defence of Rabirius; (5) on the children of persons proscribed; (6) delivered when I publicly resigned my province; (7) when I sent Catiline out of Rome; (8) to the Assembly the day following Catiline’s flight; (9) at a public meeting the day the Allobroges turned informers; (10) in the Senate on the Nones of December. There are two further short pieces, chips, one might say, from the agrarian law. I shall see that you get the whole corpus, and since you like my writings as well as my doings, the same compositions will show you both what I did and what I said. Otherwise you shouldn’t have asked—I was not forcing myself upon you.