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Chapter 1 - The Orator as Attacker

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 August 2020

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Summary

Cicero puts on an exciting show of outrage, anger, and contempt in his attacks on certain opponents, but balances attacks with statements of restraint and self-control in order to maintain his own dignity and decorum, so that he is not seen as contemptible himself. This balance can be observed in the opening sections of his speeches In Vatinium and De Haruspicum Responsis, where he particularly criticizes the failures of his targets as orators. His persona as an attacker may distract from political weakness in his speech In Pisonem. In the Second Philippic, never delivered in public, he shows less restraint. The Philippics generally show less of the balance he maintained earlier in his career, probably due to political circumstances. While this persona will be familiar to most readers of Cicero, it is a good initial example of how Cicero portrays contemporary people and events through a distorting lens. It is also a good example of how Cicero uses (or weaponizes) norms to police others, often by claiming to embody those norms himself.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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