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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

Chapter 5 - Marcus’ Arguments against Divination


In Book 2 of On divination, Cicero’s own character attacks Quintus’ speech from Book 1, which argued that the gods give us information through our divinatory practices. Cicero, as a skeptic, aims to frustrate rash assent to Quintus’ view. He is an augur, a Roman state diviner. In the speech, he says that an augur may give the arguments he does, because augury, though often misunderstood, is not supposed to be a divinatory practice. The speech is in two parts. In the first, Cicero attacks Quintus’ argument that divination is a way to foretell chance events, on the grounds that Quintus speech is also founded on Stoic determinism. I argue that Cicero’s speech is unfair in its treatment of Quintus’ understanding of chance. In the second part, often using statistical and rhetorical arguments, Cicero concedes that Quintus’ stories of true divinatory predictions are accurate, but argues that this data cannot prove that divinatory practices reliably yield information from the gods. Scholars have often accused Cicero of arguing against straw men in this speech. I concede that this is sometimes so, but argue that this fact does not refute my overall case that On divination is a creative unity.

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