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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 (2005):

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 (2005):

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 (2000):

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 (2000):

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 (2000):

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 (2000):

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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Praise

Praise. The poetry of prose. Cicero‘s ‘Pro Archia.’

1. Burney 159 (f. 54v), 15th c. Italian manuscript containing Ciceronian orations including Pro Archia. Image: British Library.

2. Paris Lat. 7824 (137), 15th c. manuscript containing Ciceronian orations including Pro Archia. Marginalia. Image: Bibliothèque nationale de France.

3. D. H. Berry, ‘Literature and Persuasion in Cicero’s Pro Archia,’ Cicero the Advocate (2004), p312.

‘Pro Archia, then, is genuinely, all of it, an exercise in persuasion. The jury must be persuaded both that Archias is a Roman citizen and that he deserves to be one. From the persuasive point of view, it is the second of these questions that is the more difficult, and therefore the more interesting. Here Cicero was confronted by a marked xenophobic and anti-intellectual prejudice, one with which he and his brother had no sympathy, but which was prevalent among the jury. His method of dealing with this prejudice is to include a lengthy passage on literature which presents Archias and his poetry in terms which the jurors will find unobjectionable, and perhaps even praiseworthy. Consequently this passage, though it might formally be termed digressio, is, like other digressions in Cicero’s speeches, central to the case. It is not a passage that could not be included were it not for the presence of a sympathetic praetor. For centuries it has been seen as a charming encomium of literature, and it would be wrong to deny that it is that. But if Cicero had written a treatise on literature for an educated readership outside the courtroom, we can be certain it would have had little resemblance to the version which was offered to Archias’ jury.’

4. Cicero, Pro Archia (11). Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

But the census does not confirm citizenship; it only indicates that whoever happened to be recorded on it was behaving then as if he were a citizen — and during the times you charge that he did not even think about exercising the rights of a Roman citizen, he made several wills according to our laws, was named as an heir to various Roman citizens and Lucius Lucullus gave his name to the treasury along with others he recommended for rewards. 

5. Cicero, Pro Archia (14). Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

If the teachings of so many people and much reading had not convinced me from my adolescent years that there is nothing finer one can seek in this life than glory and honour, and that to achieve them I should disregard all agonies of the body and all danger of exile and death, I never would have taken so many great risks or exposed myself to the daily attacks of corrupt men on your behalf. Philosophers, the past and all books speak of and are full of paradigma – and all these would be shrouded in darkness if the light of literature did not shine one them! Greek and Latin authors have sculpted many representations of remarkably brave men, not just as a legacy to look at but one to imitate; I keep these always before me as I go about public business; I formed my heart and mind through reading about outstanding men

6. Cicero, Pro Archia (15). Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

Suppose someone asks, “What? Were our great men, the men whose character our records describe, educated in the disciplines you have extolled?” I know what my answer should be, even though one cannot be sure about this in the case of every individual. I admit that there have been many men who have possessed outstanding minds and characters but who have lacked formal education; with these it is almost as if the divine character of their inborn qualities impelled them to become self-controlled and great with no outside help. Let me also add that it is more common that inherent quality without learning produces a reputation for excellence that learning without inherent quality. But I also insist that when systematic training is added to a remarkable and brilliant personality, something splendid and exceptional usually emerges. 

7. Cicero, Pro Archia (18). Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

…I have often seen this man here, although he had not written down a single word, spontaneously reciting many very brilliant improvised verses on subjects we had just been talking about. And then, when he was called back for an encore, he recited again on the same subject but with different words and phrasing. I have seen what he had written with care and thought so applauded that he was praised as people normal praised ancient writers.

8. Cicero, Pro Archia (30). Translated by Siobhán McElduff.

Should we be so small-minded, we who spend our time working for the Republic among the dangers and troubles of public life that, even though up to our final moments we shall have drawn no calm nor leisurely breath, we think everything perishes at the moment we die? Have not many great men taken pains to leave statues and death-masks, images not of their minds but of their bodies? Should we not prefer to leave representations of our character and aims written and polished by the greatest talents? At the very moment I was performing my deeds, I thought I was planting them in the world’s undying memory. Whether this will have no effect on me after death or – as the very wise think – some part of me will then still sense it, the thought and hope of it still delights me at this moment.

9. Mathias Hanses, ‘Cicero Crosses the Color Line: Pro Archia and W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk’ (2018), p5.

‘Du Bois here stresses the relevance of classical learning throughout time and across racial barriers, though perhaps not irrespective of class. In as far as he focuses primarily on the ten per cent he considers educable in a classical manner, and implies that only they have the talent to save the rest of the race, his argument contains obviously elitist and paternalistic elements.’

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