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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2015

Luca Grillo
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
E-mail address:


Toward the end of the Republic, Cicero was not alone in planning to collect his own letters for publication (Att. 16.5.5). Most likely, Caesar (Suet. Iul. 55.1; Gell. NA 17.9) and Varro, among others, intended to do the same, and Cicero had access to letters by the Elder Cato (Off. 1.36–7) and Cornelia (Brut. 211). But it was not only authors or recipients who assembled and circulated letters. In December 59, Cicero wrote to his brother Quintus, who was concluding his mandate as governor of Asia, and encouraged him to leave behind a positive image of himself (relinque, quaeso, quam iocundissimam memoriam tui, QFr. 1.2.8). In particular, Cicero did not hide his concern at some carelessness Quintus displayed in sending out certain letters (litterarum missarum indiligentiam reprehensam, 1.2.7): of those, Quintus should destroy the ones he was able to find (tolle omnis, si potes, iniquas, tolle inusitatas, tolle contrarias, 1.2.8), while nothing could be done about some collections which had already been circulated and criticized (esse uolumina selectarum epistularum quae reprehendi solerent, 1.2.8). In other words, both the authors (or their friends) and their ill-wishers selected, assembled and circulated letters. Who chose which letters mattered enormously, since collections had the power to enhance or damage a person's public image.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2015 

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1 On Caesar's letters, see P. White, ‘Tactics in Caesar's correspondence with Cicero’, in F. Cairns and E. Fantham (edd.), Caesar against Liberty? Perspectives on his Autocracy (Cambridge, 2003), 68–95 and Ebbeler, J., ‘Caesar's letters and the ideology of literary history’, Helios 30 (2003), 319 Google Scholar; On Varro's letters, see P. Cugusi, Evoluzione e forme dell'epistolografia latina nella tarda repubblica e nei primi due secoli dell'impero (Rome, 1983), 178–9.

2 See P. Cugusi, Epistolographi Latini minores, I: aetatem anteciceronianam amplectens, 1: Testimonia et fragmenta (Turin, 1970), 67–8, fr. 6, on Cicero and Cato the Elder; and 110, fr. 1, on Cicero and Cornelia.

3 See Sykutris, J., ‘Epistolographie’, RE Suppl. 5 (1931), 197 Google Scholar; M. Trapp, Greek and Latin Letters: An Anthology, with Translation (Cambridge, 2003), 12–13; G.O. Hutchinson, Cicero's Correspondence: A Literary Study (Oxford, 1998), 4 n. 4.

4 G.B. Conte, Latin Literature. A History (Baltimore, 1994), 203.

5 M. von Albrecht, A History of Roman Literature (Leiden, 1997), 516. C. Edwards, ‘Epistolography’, in S. Harrison (ed.), A Companion to Latin Literature (Malden, MA, 2006), 270–83, at 271 is rightly more cautious: ‘Cicero's letters have generally been seen as offering revealing insights both into the eventful period in which Cicero wrote and into the personality of their author’; and P.A. Rosenmeyer, Ancient Epistolary Fictions: The Letter in Greek Literature (Cambridge, 2001), 4–5 has called attention to letters as self-conscious textual constructions. As a result, the ‘ill-conceived quest to distinguish between “public” and “private” letters or between “literary” and “real” letters has been replaced by a more holistic approach’, as noted by J. Ebbeler, ‘Letters’, in A. Barchiesi and W. Scheidel (edd.), The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies (Oxford, 2008), 464–76, at 470.

6 R. Morello and A.D. Morrison (edd.), Ancient Letters: Classical and Late Antique Epistolography (Oxford, 2007), vi–vii.

7 According to G. Achard, La Communication à Rome (Paris, 1991), 139, Cicero wrote an average of ten letters per day to fulfil his duties as patron and as politician; if this were the case, as Jon Hall notes, ‘our extant corpus of around nine hundred letters would thus represent only one percent of Cicero's epistolary activity during his lifetime’ (Politeness and Politics in Cicero's Letters [Oxford, 2009], 16).

8 P. White, Cicero in Letters: Epistolary Relations of the Late Republic (Oxford, 2010), 56.

9 White (n. 8), 61.

10 The evidence is sparse. July 44 b.c. can be taken as a terminus post quem, since Cicero's intention to revise and publish about seventy of his letters (Att. 16.5.5) suggests that they were not in circulation before. For the ad Familiares, Seneca the Elder, writing in the thirties a.d., quotes from Fam. 15.19.1 (Suas. 1.5), proving that at least some of them were known around the time of Tiberius. As for the ad Atticum, Nepos, who died around 27 b.c., mentions undecim uolumina epistularum written to Atticus but possibly not yet published in uulgus (Nep. Att. 16.3). For an overview of modern scholarship on the publication of the ad Familiares, see Büchner, K., ‘M. Tullius Cicero 29 (Briefe)’, RE 7A 1 (1939), 1192–235Google Scholar, at 1216–23, who upholds the communis opinio that both the ad Familiares and the ad Atticum were not published until the time of Nero; contra, see Setaioli, A., ‘On the date of publication of Cicero's letters to Atticus’, SO 51 (1976), 105–20,CrossRefGoogle Scholar who concludes that ‘a fairly widespread knowledge of Cicero's letters to Atticus before Seneca's time is consistent enough at least to cast a doubt on the almost generally admitted theory of such a late publication date’ (115); cf. Cugusi (n. 1), 172–3 and White (n. 8), 31–4 and 174–5.

11 M. Beard, ‘Ciceronian correspondences: making a book out of letters’, in T.P. Wiseman (ed.), Classics in Progress: Essays on Ancient Greece and Rome (Oxford, 2002), 103–44, at 115.

12 Beard (n. 11), 121 and 123–4.

13 For the evidence about publication, see n. 10; on the manuscript tradition of the ad Familiares, see R.H. Rouse, ‘Cicero: Epistulae ad Familiares’, in L.D. Reynolds (ed.), Texts and Transmission. A Survey of the Latin Classics (Oxford, 1983), 138–42.

14 Gibson, R., ‘On the nature of ancient letter collections’, JRS 102 (2012), 5678 Google Scholar, at 57. Gibson also shows that the arrangement of Cicero's letters ad Atticum is somewhat exceptional (59–61), and that in the arrangement by addressee and by topic ‘internal chronology may be observed in the ordering of letters, but is just as often abandoned’, at 64; cf. R. Morello, ‘Writer and addressee in Cicero's letters’, in C. Steel (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Cicero (Cambridge, 2013), 196–214, at 196–7. As for the ad Familiares, White (n. 8), 53 notes that ‘what gives them their coherence is not simply that they have a single addressee, but that they are dominated by one or more sequences of topically related letters selected from a more diffuse exchange’; cf. Büchner (n. 10), 1218. Tellingly, it seems that Caesar's letters were also organized by addressee (Suet. Iul. 56.5-6; Gell. NA 17.9.1; Cugusi [n. 1], 177–8).

15 The numbering by D.R. Shackleton Bailey, Cicero Epistulae ad Familiares (Cambridge, 1977); Cicero Epistulae ad Atticum (Cambridge, 1965–7) and Cicero Epistulae ad Quintum Fratrem et M. Brutum (Cambridge, 1980) has been very influential in and beyond English-speaking countries; but the attempt to order the letters chronologically predates his work (cf. R.Y. Tyrrell and L.C. Purser, The Correspondence of M. Tullius Cicero [Dublin and London, 1904–33]; L.-A. Constans, Cicéron. Correspondance [Paris, 1934–5]), and extends to editions in other languages, e.g. J. Bayet and J. Beaujeu, Cicéron. Correspondance (Paris, 1967–2002). Welcome exceptions are a Latin and German edition and a Latin and Italian edition: H. Kasten, M. Tulli Ciceronis. Epistularum ad familiares libri XVI (Munich, 19802); A. Caverzere, Cicerone. Lettere ai Familiari (Milan, 2007).

16 For a general treatment of officium, see J. Hellegouarc'h, Le vocabulaire latin des relations et des partis politiques sous la république (Paris, 1963), 152–63 and L.R. Lind, ‘The idea of the republic and the foundations of Roman morality I’, in C. Deroux (ed.), Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History, vol. 5 (Brussels, 1989), 5–34, at 13–16; for pietas, see Hellegouarc'h (in this n.), 276–9 and Pöschl, V., ‘Politische Wertbegriffe in Rom’, A&A 26 (1980), 117 Google Scholar.

17 For Cicero setting his debt of gratitude towards Lentulus in the context of other senators’ inuidia, see W.C. Schneider, Vom Handeln der Römer (Hildesheim, 1998), 172–7.

18 Hall (n. 7), 29–77. On fides, see Hellegouarc'h (n. 16), 23–35.

19 According to Schneider (n. 17), 151, at least until Fam. 1.5a, Cicero's affirmation of his pietas and renewed commitment to fulfil his officia is the characteristic trait of the exchange; cf. A. Wilcox, The Gift of Correspondence in Classical Rome (Madison, 2012), 185 n. 13.

20 Hall (n. 7), 36; similarly, Shackleton Bailey writes that Cicero's letters to Lentulus ‘are in C.'s most orotund style, abounding in compliment and without any flavour of intimacy’ (n. 15 [1965]), 2.158 = ad Att. 3.22.2.

21 On this motif, see also Bernard, J.-E., ‘Du discours à l'épistolaire: les échos du Pro Plancio dans la lettre de Cicéron à Lentulus Spinther (Fam. 1,9)’, Rhetorica 25 (2007), 223–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 240–1.

22 On Cicero's insistence on the transformed political scene in Fam. 1.8 and 1.9, see Schneider (n. 17), 231–3 and 239–44.

23 The identification of his well-being with the well-being of the state is of course a motif much developed in the various post reditum speeches (e.g. Red. sen. 34; Red. pop. 14; Dom. 72; Sest. 109; Prov. cons. 45); see J. Nicholson, Cicero's Return from Exile (New York, 1992), 35–7 and A. Riggsby, ‘The post reditum speeches’, in J. May (ed.), The Brill Companion to Cicero. Oratory and Rhetoric (Leiden, 2002), 159–95, at 167–72.

24 In the eleven letters of Fam. 1, fides scores thirteen occurrences and perfidia three.

25 White (n. 8), 17 demonstrates that aristocrats relied on their own confidential entourage for factual information, so that peers could assume knowledge of the latest news.

26 Cf. Schneider (n. 17), 190–2.

27 Cicero wrote to Lentulus before 56 (QFr. 1.4.5; Att. 3.22.2) and after 54 (Att. 6.1.1 and 9.11.1, with White [n. 8], 52 n. 64); between 56 and 54 Cicero wrote other letters to Lentulus, which are not included in Fam. 1.

28 Schneider (n. 17), 194–8 rightly underlines the importance of this letter, which demonstrates the type and quality of the relationship linking Cicero and Lentulus.

29 On Cicero's ‘studied civility’ in this letter, see Hall (n. 7), 50–1.

30 On inuidia in Cicero, see V. Pöschl, ‘Invidia nelle orazioni di Cicerone’, in Atti del Congresso Internazionale di Studi Ciceroniani 2 (Rome, 1961), 119–25, whose observations on the speeches apply also to these letters.

31 On Cicero advising Lentulus from the point of view of his exile, see Schneider (n. 17), 215–18.

32 I further analyse Fam. 1.9 in relation to Cicero's self-defence in other post reditum speeches, and especially to Pro Plancio, in A double sermocinatio and a solved dilemma in Cicero's Pro Plancio ’, CQ 64 (2014), 214–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 223–5; see also Bernard (n. 21), 225–9; Nicholson (n. 23), 56–60; R. Kaster, Cicero on behalf of Publius Sestius (Oxford, 2006), 37–40; for a comparison between the goal and language of Fam. 1.9 and the De Oratore, see A. Lintott, Cicero as Evidence (Oxford, 2008), 225 and E. Fantham, The Roman World of Cicero's De Oratore (Oxford, 2004), 10–12.

33 TLRR 296; J. Crawford, M. Tullius Cicero: The Lost and Unpublished Orations (Göttingen, 1984), 188–97.

34 Cf. Wilcox (n. 19), 73–4.

35 I make no distinction between Latin sermocinatio and Greek prosōpopoeia, following Quintilian, who calls them both by the same name (ego iam recepto more utrumque eodem modo appellaui, Inst. 9.2.31-2; cf. H. Lausberg, A Handbook of Literary Rhetoric [Leiden, 1998], § 820–5). The Rhetorica ad Herennium, however, calls sermocinatio only an imaginary dialogue between present people (4.55 and 4.65-6); the personification of absent people (such as Cicero does with Appius Claudius in Cael. 33–4) or of mute entities (as in Planc. 13) falls under conformatio (4.66).

36 Cicero warns that sermocinatio is not suitable for every orator, being bold and requiring ‘stronger lungs’ (Or. 85); cf. Rhet. Her. 4.52.65 and Quintilian, who praised Cicero's use of sermocinationes (e.g. 9.2.31), arguing that these fictiones personarum … mire … cum uariant orationem, tum excitant (9.2.29); cf. Lausberg (n. 35), § 820–9. To my knowledge, this is the only sermocinatio in the whole corpus of Cicero's letters.

37 Bernard (n. 21), 225–9 finds many structural and thematic similarities between Fam. 1.9 and the Pro Plancio, but he does not mention the sermocinationes. The function of the sermocinatio in the Pro Plancio and the meaning of the intertextual link with Fam. 1.9 are discussed in Grillo (n. 32).

38 The exact date of the trial is unknown (cf. TLRR 293 and N. Marinone, Cronologia ciceroniana [Bologna, 20042], 132.B9), but in September 54 Cicero wrote to Quintus that he had completed the speech (QFr. 3.1.11).

39 In both cases Cicero seems to have in mind the sermocinatio in Plato's Crito, where the laws invite Socrates either to accept their verdict or to convince the people to change the laws, since breaking them is not an option. In fact, later in the letter Cicero mentions Plato with a reference to this passage from the Crito: id enim iubet idem ille Plato, quo ego uehementer auctore moueo, tantum contendere in re publica quantum probare tuis ciuibus possis, Fam. 1.9.18.

40 Cf. n. 32.

41 Lentulus was an ideal addressee for Cicero's apologia, because he was a respected and fairly conservative senator, and because he was on good terms with both Pompey (a law proposed by Lentulus had made Pompey responsible for the corn supply of Rome) and Caesar (who had supported Lentulus’ candidature for consulate); cf. Shackleton Bailey (n. 15 [1977]), 1.307 on Fam. 1.9.

42 Francesca Boldrer—in the edition of Cicero's letters by Caverzere (n. 15), 95—rightly notes that ‘il tono scherzoso e amichevole dell'epistola 10 ravviva l'atmosfera malinconica e pessimistica creatasi dopo fam. 1,9’.

43 Cicero's Letters to his Friends, trans. by D.R. Shackleton Bailey (Atlanta, 1978), 57 n. 115.

44 Tyrrell and Purser (n. 15), 2.232: ‘Ulysses did know his friends, but was not recognized by them for some time. Cicero appears to have made a much greater slip here than in De Div. ii. 63, or Tusc. iv. 49.’ In the former passage Cicero thinks of Il. 2.299 and mistakes Agamemnon for Odysseus, and in the latter he thinks of Il. 7.211 and mistakes Hector for the Trojans.

45 For cognosco meaning ‘investigate judicially’, see TLL 3.1506.44–65 and OLD s.v. 4.

46 A shorter and preliminary version of this paper was given at a conference in King's College, Cambridge. I thank the organizers, Francesca Martelli and Ingo Gildenhard, the participants and especially George Huston and Michael Trapp for help.

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