Cicero and Exile: Building a House of Letters


The identity of a Roman elite man was tied to his house. Thus when Cicero went into exile, and his Palatine property was destroyed, his identity was in danger of crumbling. The sense of loss of self is apparent in the early exilic letters: Cicero is disconsolate, particularly because of the specific loss of the house and all that it represented. Over time, however, Cicero becomes less distraught: he adopts a more distanced attitude to the area where his house once stood. This paper argues that Cicero is able to exact a change in attitude in part by constructing a surrogate place for housing his identity, and that one alternate place is in fact the letters themselves.