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The Circulation and Delivery of Cicero’s Post Reditum ad Populum*

This article calls into question recent suggestions that Cicero circulated but failed to deliver the Post reditum ad populum. Cicero’s own habits, late-Republican practices of publication, and the political necessities of the moment make such claims unlikely. The various contradictions in the surviving oration are easily resolved if we posit an early circulation, that is, of a pre-delivery version of the speech. Suspected omissions in Cicero’s account of the delivery of the speech are shown to be illusory. The speech of thanks to the people was delivered, as Cicero himself tells us, on 7 September 57 b.c.e.

on 4 september 57 b.c.e., after roughly a year and a half in exile, Cicero returned to Rome in triumph, his arrival perfectly timed to coincide with the Ludi Romani. The streets were packed and the mood electric as he entered the city. Friends from every order came out to meet the restored statesman, and cheering throngs crowded temple steps near the Porta Capena, filling the Forum and trailing behind him as he made his way to the Capitol.1 [End Page 79] The following day he delivered a speech of thanks to the Senate, the so-called Post reditum in senatu, which he likely published soon after (Att. 4.1.5).2

Whether the companion-piece to this oration, the Post reditum ad populum, was ever delivered is less certain. It is possible that Cicero gave his speech of thanks to the people on any of a number of days following his arrival in Rome,3 but various factors have been taken to weigh against this. Cicero’s apparent silence on the matter in a letter to Atticus (Att. 4.1.4–6, describing his reentry into the city and the speeches he delivered on his first days back, in other words, a context where we would expect to hear something) is not itself decisive, but neither can it be readily ignored. More significantly, we know from the same letter that at a contio on September 7—likely Cicero’s first such engagement since his return—the orator seems to have spoken not of himself, but of entrusting Rome’s troubled grain supply to Pompey (4.1.6). No doubt mention was made of his recent recall and thanks were surely given, but various commentators have been quick to assure us that this was not our Post reditum ad populum, which spends little time on Pompey and at one point even asserts that the gods showed their approval for Cicero’s return with an abundance of cheap grain.4 Our speech, Andrew Lintott thus claims, “proves not to have been delivered” (2008: 13).

Lintott’s voice is merely the latest addition to a steady chorus. Manfred Fuhrmann has also suggested “that Cicero did not deliver [the speech] in person, but merely had it published as a kind of pamphlet” (1992: 95), and John Nicholson has proposed (among other options) that “it is possible that Cicero never delivered [the Post reditum ad populum] at all” (1992: 127). (Though offering little to the present discussion, we may note in passing that non-delivery was also a central premise of the now discredited arguments about the speech’s inauthenticity put forth by Markland, Wolf, and their like during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.5) In an opposing [End Page 80] strain, Robert Morstein-Marx believes it is “unthinkable that Cicero failed to thank the People in a contio” (2004: 25n92), and Robin Seager finds Lintott’s arguments for non-delivery unconvincing (2009: 226). Yet T. P. Wiseman is cautiously convinced that Cicero “probably didn’t deliver” the speech (2009: 153). Faced with a cacophony of competing assertions, further attention is clearly merited.

In the following I take up once more the problems attached to the circulation and delivery of Cicero’s Post reditum ad populum, suggesting a corrective to current scholarly narratives. After calling into question whether it is even likely, as has recently been suggested, that Cicero would publish an address to the people that he failed to deliver, I consider the probable timeline of composition for the Post reditum ad populum, examine the speech’s intended audience, and make a case for early circulation (that is, for circulation before delivery), a suggestion that makes good biographical sense while simultaneously resolving various historical contradictions. Finally, I tackle the vexed question of delivery, suggesting that the contio mentioned in the letter to Atticus (Att. 4.1.6) is for all intents and purposes our Post reditum ad populum, with a few necessary revisions. Whether or not these corrections were ever incorporated into a circulated text, Cicero certainly delivered a speech of thanks to the people on his return from exile. But we only have access to the version that survives in writing.

1. cicero and the evidence for undelivered contiones

Speeches to the people, or contiones, occupied a unique space in Republican political life,6 and, despite recent claims to the contrary, it is not immediately obvious that Cicero would circulate a contio that he did not deliver. Cicero’s letters and speeches, it is true, depict a thriving culture of publication in which contiones circulated broadly and were frequently read—perhaps as often as they were heard—but even in this highly textualized milieu, evidence for the circulation of undelivered contiones is exceedingly slim. Moreover, Cicero’s own publication practices do not necessarily reflect those of his immediate contemporaries. Addresses to Rome’s people, after all, account for only a small portion of Cicero’s extant corpus: only eight of his surviving 58 speeches are contiones. Fewer than 15 (possibly substantially fewer) of the almost 80 known [End Page 81] orations circulated by Cato the Elder were contiones (Ramsey 2007: 129), so perhaps there is something deliberately conservative about this pattern. It is hard to know for certain: other early orators published sparingly, if at all. Three of the most prominent speakers of Cicero’s youth—Marcus Antonius, Publius Sulpicius, and Gaius Cotta—committed none of their speeches to writing, and Cicero’s mentor, Lucius Licinius Crassus, wrote down “very few” (perpauca, Orat. 132), though a number of the speeches that he circulated seem to have been contiones. Whatever other conclusions we might draw, it is clear that the decision to circulate (or not circulate) texts was highly personal and contingent on a variety of individual circumstances.7

The contours of an orator’s career bulked large in these considerations, but were not the only factors at play. Whereas a politician like Clodius, for instance, made a habit of courting the Roman people at contiones even before his tribunate (and had ample cause to circulate many of his speeches to the people throughout his career),8 Cicero was active in the courts for almost two decades before delivering his first contio during his praetorship in 66. The majority of Cicero’s extant contiones come from his year as consul, from when four survive (Cat. 2, 3 and Leg. Ag. 2, 3), although we know that three or possibly four more were intended for circulation as part of the so-called consular corpus (described in Att. 2.1.3).9 The lost Contra contionem Q. Metelli, in which Cicero defended his execution of Catline’s co-conspirators against the claims of a newly-elected tribune, was delivered and circulated in early 62,10 but after this (excepting the Post reditum ad populum) we hear of no additional published contiones until the fourth and sixth Philippics in 43. The concentration of popular speeches from Cicero’s consular year reflects the increased opportunities that the orator enjoyed as an elected magistrate to convene public assemblies. And yet there are surely many more contiones [End Page 82] from this and other periods that have gone unrecorded, precisely because they were not written down.11

Cicero’s legislative achievements as consul offer a telling case in point. During his tenure as chief magistrate Cicero sponsored and secured the passage of a pair of laws targeting electoral bribery (lex Tullia de ambitu) and so-called free embassies (lex Tullia de liberis legationibus), a process that will have involved “a flurry of contiones” (Morstein-Marx 2004: 8) while the bills were promulgated and debated.12 Announcements of the contents of senatorial debates will have been made to the people, and numerous contiones will have been held merely to maintain enthusiasm and drum up support.13 Yet nothing of these survives (there is barely a record that any took place) because Cicero’s tendency—even in years from which we seem to have an abundance of published contiones—was to withhold rather than circulate speeches to the people. None of the above directly refutes the suggestion that Cicero circulated the Post reditum ad populum without delivery, but it hardly inspires confidence.14 From the course of a career in which Cicero—even granting his late start—must have addressed the populace likely hundreds of times, we know of only 11 (or 12) published contiones.

On the other hand, we know that Cicero and his contemporaries were perfectly willing at times to circulate undelivered orations. We hear of an undelivered speech that Piso circulated in 54 as a response to the In Pisonem (to which Quintus thought his brother should compose a rejoinder, though Cicero ultimately declined, Q. fr. 3.1.11), and Brutus famously published a defense of Milo in 52 without having played any part in the actual trial.15 Closer to home, we know that both the second actio of the In Verrem and the second [End Page 83] Philippic were never delivered, showing that Cicero was not in principle above circulating scriptae orationes when the situation demanded.16 But none of these speeches is a contio, nor does any provide a ready parallel for Cicero’s Post reditum ad populum. Piso’s pamphlet is inseparable from the highly personal feud that gave it birth: it owes its existence to a refusal to allow Cicero to have the last word or let his allegations stand uncontested.17 The tract of Brutus too—viewed as a mere “exercise” in antiquity (Quintilian calls it an exercitatio, Inst. 3.6.93)—is only intelligible within the specific context in which it was generated.18 And the same objections apply when we turn to Cicero’s undelivered orations. As “the largest single publication of Cicero’s career, if not the biggest such undertaking in the first century” (Settle 1962: 83), and the only surviving prosecution in Cicero’s entire corpus, the speech against Verres is literally without comparison. The effort expended in putting the collection into circulation will have been monumental, but the reasons for doing so are not hard to grasp in light of what was at stake—nothing short of Ciceronian eloquentia.19 The second Philippic sets itself apart in equally significant ways. Written as a response to criticisms made by Antony in the senate at a time when it was unsafe for Cicero to voice his true feelings in Rome, its circulation was not a foregone conclusion even after the work was completed (beyond a private copy sent to Atticus for safekeeping, Att. 15.13.1–2, 13a3), and once the decision to release the invective-filled pamphlet was officially made, the act of publication signified nearly as much as the speech itself, marking as it did a decisive break from Cicero’s earlier reticence.20 The stakes for publishing the Post reditum ad populum—a brief contio giving thanks to the Roman people in terms that largely repeat those found in the longer speech to the senate21—were not nearly so high. So what compelling reason did Cicero have to circulate his speech in this instance, if he did not indeed deliver it? [End Page 84]

The only surviving evidence for the circulation of undelivered contiones in late-Republican Rome seems to confirm the rarity of such an occurrence. A letter to Atticus from July 59 (Att. 2.20.4) reveals that Bibulus, who had locked himself in his home during his year as consul under the pretext of requiring protection, had various edicta and contiones posted in the forum. The speeches, which attacked the actions of the so-called Triumvirs, were copied and read with great enthusiasm by the Roman people, who appear to have been delighted as much by the novelty as the content (novo quodam genere in summam gloriam venit, “he has obtained the utmost glory by some strange new way”), something that Bibulus likely anticipated. The posting of undelivered contiones was part of an ostentatious show of resistance to his opponents and played a central role in the political drama that Bibulus was stage-managing about the subversion of the Roman state. Drawing attention to the lack of delivery was very much the point: since Bibulus could not safely set foot outside, there was really no other option than to address Rome’s people in writing.22 The example is thus highly atypical and further undercuts the case for Cicero’s supposed non-delivery of the Post reditum ad populum. As we shall see, Cicero had little to gain—and potentially much to lose—by circulating a speech to the people that he never delivered.

2. circulation of the post reditum ad populum

The substitution of text for speech by Bibulus is not entirely surprising, inasmuch as it mirrors a general development in late-Republican thinking about contiones recently discussed by Henrik Mouritsen (2013: 63–82, esp. 63–65). As Mouritsen notes, although the word contio originally signified a face-to-face meeting with the Roman people, over the course of the first century it came to be used in ways that were increasingly divorced from such occasions. From signifying a meeting of the people, contio began to signify a speech delivered at such a meeting. Eventually, the context of delivery became detached entirely, and contio could be used to refer to the written text of any speech addressed to the Roman populace. By posting contiones that he had never delivered, Bibulus was pushing semantic developments to an extreme, but perhaps not a wholly unrecognizable one.23 [End Page 85]

These semantic extensions coincided with an increase in the number of contiones committed to writing (Mouritsen 2013: 64–65) and resulted from cultural developments in the late Republic that have important implications for the circulation of Cicero’s speech. As Mouritsen 2013: 79 notes, the shift in emphasis from public meetings to written texts was owed, broadly speaking, to the growing necessity to disseminate information to an audience of not only senators and equites (frequently away from Rome at their villas or in the provinces), but also local Italian elites.24 A need to address this latter group in particular surely will have weighed heavily in Cicero’s decision to publish the Post reditum ad populum. After all, Italy’s propertied classes—an important constituency of the populus Romanus since at least the close of the Social Wars—had repeatedly proved their affection for the orator, issuing decrees of support and donning mourning garb while he was being hounded into exile and, later, clamoring vociferously for his recall.25 When gridlock in the senate stalled motions at Rome, it was Capua’s local council (under Pompey’s urging) that first passed resolutions demanding that Cicero be summoned home.26 Similar decrees followed soon after from business corporations, colonies, townships, and municipalities throughout all Italy.27 Even at Rome, when the time finally came to vote for Cicero’s restoration, the measure was passed not by the concilium plebis or comitia tributa, where the voting structure favored the urban masses, but rather the comitia centuriata, which (by Cicero’s admission at Dom. 90) was packed with men summoned from the municipia.28

Accepting that these are the “Roman people” to whom Cicero’s speech is, in some large degree, addressed opens new windows onto the probable manner and timing of its publication. We know from an often-quoted passage of the Pro Plancio that, contrary to normal practice, Cicero delivered his speech of thanks to the senate de scripto, that is, that he read the speech from a copy composed in advance.29 It is usually assumed that the Post reditum ad populum [End Page 86] was committed to writing around the same time.30 Exactly when this happened is unclear; little evidence survives to precisely date the composition. But given the orator’s obsession with his recall, and the stream of letters from family and friends apprising him of each and every new development, it is fair to suspect that both orations were essentially complete by the time he reached Brundisium on August 5.31 Dyrrachium seems as good a place as any for composition since all the pertinent details would have been at hand while Cicero was there, although some last-minute editing may have been left for the short trip across the Adriatic.32 Once in Italy, even on the road, the relative brevity of the speech would have lent itself to easy duplication.33 It thus seems natural to imagine that copies were made public almost immediately in Italy’s towns and distributed to select members of the delegations that came from all around to congratulate Cicero as he made his way slowly up the peninsula, that is to say, before he ever set foot in Rome.34 Circulated texts often served as small gifts that “formed one of the media of social interaction” (Alexander 2002: 19) in the Roman world. By giving out copies to Italian elites who met him on the road, Cicero could render thanks simultaneously in multiple ways.35

The circulation of copies will have continued in the capital as well, though not without some brief delay, as we shall see below. Given the timing of Cicero’s return, many key municipales were in the city celebrating the ludi Romani, but they now formed only part of the intended audience. After all, Cicero’s return was “the most newsworthy item in Rome during the autumn of 57” (Settle 1962: 179), and the subject had been generating interest—and a substantial paper trail—throughout the previous year and a half. A review of the evidence is illuminating here. Leaving aside the original bills that targeted the orator and the varied announcements and “daily public meetings” [End Page 87] (cotidianae contiones, Sest. 39; cf. 42: contiones haberi cotidie contra me) that attended their passing,36 the texts and speeches that kept the issue alive before the public included at least the following:

  1. a. a proposal put forward in the senate in early June 58 by the tribune Ninnius, unanimously supported but ultimately vetoed (and the reports to the people that followed);37

  2. b. the relevant sections of the so-called lex de exsilio Ciceronis, banning any motion or mention of Cicero’s recall, that Clodius posted outside the Curia for all to see in July 58 after the senate refused to conduct any business until the consuls took up the exiled statesman’s cause;38

  3. c. a bill circulated at the end of the year by eight of the outgoing tribunes that proclaimed their continued support for Cicero;39

  4. d. theseparaterogationes of C. Messius P. Sestius and Q. Fabricius that followed soon after in January 57, before Clodian violence shattered prospects for a vote of recall;40

  5. e. the deliberations initiated in the senate on 1 January by the new consul Lentulus (and the reports to the people that followed);41

  6. f. various edicts and resolutions by the scribae, publicani, and collegia concerned with Cicero’s restoration;42 [End Page 88]

  7. g. speeches and demonstrations at the Ludi Florales in May 57, after the announcement of a senatorial decree urging all citizens who cherished the Republic’s safety to gather in Rome to support Cicero’s recall, and statements of gratitude to all cities and magistrates who had assisted the orator in his exile;43

  8. h. a resolution made by Pompey in the senate in June 57 declaring that Cicero was Rome’s savior and urging that legislation be passed concerning his recall, supported by every senator except Clodius;44

  9. i. acontio held the following day by Lentulus, Pompey, and all magistrates and ex-magistrates of consular and praetorian rank recommending that Cicero be called back to Rome;45

  10. j. a senatorial decree passed on the same day declaring that anyone attempting to obstruct Cicero’s recall by any means would be singled out as an enemy of the state;46

  11. k. and, last of all, the announcements and speeches to the people (both for and against) that preceded the vote of recall on August 4.47

The sheer mass is instructive, and the list is certainly incomplete. Copies (or at least summaries) of nearly all of the above found their way to Cicero in exile, and there were no doubt other individuals too, both in and away from Rome, who were similarly informed.48 By circulating the Post reditum ad populum in Rome, Cicero answered directly the expectations sparked by the flood of earlier speeches, bills, resolutions, and decrees, and provided a closing chapter, so to speak, to the serialized narrative that had played out in previous months, in both speech and writing, before the Roman plebs.49

But circulation alone would have been too little in the face of such sustained discussion. Even if we grant that special thanks were owed to the municipal elites, whom Cicero repaid with early copies of his contio, the populace of Rome was also due a show of gratitude, no matter how pro forma—and publishing [End Page 89] an oration to the people without in fact delivering a corresponding speech, despite recent arguments to the contrary, would only call attention to the lapse.50 Failure to speak in such an instance was surely not a viable option.

3. delivery of the post reditum ad populum

So when did Cicero deliver the Post reditum ad populum, and how is the speech he gave related to the version that survives? According to Cassius Dio, “Cicero returned [to Rome] and thanked the senate and the people, with the consuls introducing him to both bodies” (39.9.1). The date of the senatorial oration is fixed by the letter to Atticus (Att. 4.1.5): Cicero entered Rome on September 4, attended by shouting crowds, and delivered his thanks to the senate “the following day” (postridie). Perhaps he addressed the people immediately after, as this was the common practice for all of Cicero’s other paired senatorial and contional speeches, and seems a natural inference to make based on Dio’s words.51 Unfortunately, the narrative of events that Cicero sent to Atticus makes no mention of further speeches until two days later (where, on the issue of the grain supply, we find the expected pattern of a speech in the senate followed by a contio before the people). How much weight should we give to Cicero’s silence?

It has been suggested that the Post reditum ad populum could have been delivered on September 4, the day that Cicero returned, but this seems unlikely.52 The same contention that had kept Cicero’s case in the public eye for almost two years no doubt also would have given rise to anxieties in the orator about the reception he might receive on returning home. The senate had declared its sympathies by (almost) unanimous decree, and the municipales too had flocked to his aid, but the sentiments of the urban plebs were less certain. Many, after all, had supported the legislation that sent Cicero into exile in the first place; some had even rioted to keep him from being called back. True, in the account provided to Atticus of the “spectacular throng” (miranda multitudo) that greeted his return to the capital with welcome applause (plausu maximo), Cicero lays claim to support from even the lowest segment of Roman society (infima plebs), but the apparent consensus is, as the same letter reveals, in fact a mirage, for immediately later Clodius was able [End Page 90] to rouse hostile crowds against him (Att. 4.1.5–6).53 In reality, there will have likely been a fair number of jeers interspersed amid the shouts and applause of the multitude that gathered to witness his reentry into Rome.

Pompey’s well-known humiliation at a contio upon his return from the East in 61 (where his speech, according to Cicero, was a total wash: non iucunda miseris, inanis improbis, beatis non grata, bonis non gravis, “not pleasing to the wretches, unprofitable to the wicked, distasteful to the wealthy, and lacking authority among respectable men,” Att. 1.14.1) begins to highlight the uncertainty that Cicero would have faced.54 In normal circumstances, it seems, the crowds attending a contio could be assumed to be well disposed toward the magistrate who summoned them.55 But like Pompey’s reentry into Roman politics, Cicero’s return from exile was far from normal and, given the anticipation noted above, any speech to the people was bound to draw a diverse and therefore unpredictable audience.56 This would be enough to make even the most seasoned orator nervous. Various ancient sources attest that the hostile shouts of a contional crowd could be terrifying: they shook the forum, made speakers lose control of thoughts, words and composure, and sometimes, according to Dio and Plutarch, even knocked birds from the sky with the force of their roar.57 Moreover, as Cicero well knew, audiences could turn violent, throwing stones or forcefully dragging speakers from the Rostra, as happened for instance in January 57, when, to stop Cicero’s recall, Clodius’s partisans rioted at a contio, attacked the tribune who had convened it and nearly killed Cicero’s brother Quintus, who only escaped alive by playing [End Page 91] dead.58 Such shouting or violence, if it were to break out while Cicero was speaking, could compromise the triumph of his return with embarrassment, oratorical failure, or worse.59 Clodius’s presence in Rome—and his well-known talent for stirring up crowds against his political enemies—virtually guaranteed a riotous reception.60 It seems unlikely that Cicero would gamble at so critical a moment.61

Once the potential disturbances of September 4 blossomed into actual disturbances on the following days—with Clodius blaming the shortage of grain on Cicero’s return and orchestrating demonstrations at the theater and outside the senate—“it is easy to see why ... Cicero himself may have hesitated to ask a magistrate for the opportunity to deliver” (Lintott 2008: 9) his speech then too. It is unclear when exactly Clodius’s violent protests began, but they were already in motion sometime on September 5: that night a mob of Clodian supporters encircled Cicero’s house and shouted abusive chants about the troubled grain supply.62 Organization of this demonstration will have occurred at least a few hours earlier in the day.63 Cicero had delivered his thanks to the senate, but to address a contio—even if it were possible to do so immediately after, not itself a foregone conclusion64—likely would not have been wise, given the mood on the street.65 In any event, forewarned by the flagitations that night, Cicero stayed home from the senate on the following [End Page 92] day to avoid encountering the armed bands of slaves and desperate criminals whom Clodius had assembled, so he claims (at Dom. 6), to butcher Rome’s upstanding men. His instincts proved correct: the senate meeting on the sixth was disrupted by violence, and Metellus Nepos, the presiding consul, was wounded in the riotous protests.

A semblance of order was restored by September 7, though most consulars stayed away from the senate out of fear (Att. 4.1.7). Clodius’s bands had been dispersed and the people were clamoring “by name” (nominatim) for Cicero to speak.66 The account in the letter to Atticus presents a jumbled picture of events, running everything that happened on the (fifth?) sixth and seventh together into a single, unrevealing sentence—two (or more) days of deliberations about the grain supply, the demonstrations orchestrated by Clodius, the demands of the multitudo and boni to place Pompey in charge. Indeed, if this account were all that we had, we would suppose that Cicero had been present in the senate for all (two or three) days of deliberation. Most likely the ambiguities are deliberate, arising from Cicero’s inability to put a positive spin on his fearful absence from the senate and his failure to address the people earlier.67 In any event, despite the narrative’s raising more questions than it answers, a few details seem beyond dispute: that two days after delivering his thanks to the senate Cicero spoke again (eo biduo ... feci et accurate sententiam dixi); that the senate adopted his proposal and passed a decree recommending that legislation be introduced to give Pompey authority in the matter (factum est senatus consultum in meam sententiam ut cum Pompeio ageretur ut eam rem susciperet, lexque ferretur); that this decree was subsequently read out to the people, who broke into enthusiastic applause at the mention of Cicero’s name when it was recited amid the list of signatories (quo senatus consulto recitato continuo, <cum multitudo> more hoc insulso et novo plausum meo nomine recitando dedisset); and, finally, that Cicero delivered a contio (habui contionem). This seems to have been not only the first, but also the best opportunity for delivering his thanks to the people—and I expect that Cicero did so immediately.68

Further support for this claim can be gleaned from an overlooked passage of the De domo sua. Despite maintaining that he felt unwell (an excuse, no doubt, made to save face for staying home the previous day), Cicero tells us that he went to the senate on September 7 because the consuls requested [End Page 93] his presence and—more important for the present discussion—because the people were calling on him by name to render them gratitude for their recent services (cum tanta multitudo civium tam recenti officio suo me ad referendam gratiam nominatim vocaret, “when so great a number of my fellow citizens summoned me by name to show my gratitude for their recent kindness,” Dom. 7).69 To be sure, referre gratiam is the standard way of saying “to requite” or “show gratitude in action,” so Cicero is not claiming that the people were calling on him to give them thanks in a speech, even though their eager applause on hearing his name later that day surely suggests a desire for this very thing.70 (Their enthusiasm, we might note, has been taken as another point in favor of seeing this as Cicero’s first contio after his return—“for why else,” asks Nicholson 1992: 159n50, “would the mere mention of his name have sparked such an outburst of affection from the crowd?”)71 But the crucial point here is the natural connection between showing gratitude to the people and proposing that Pompey be given charge of securing Rome’s grain. Near the end of the published Post reditum ad populum (24), Cicero promises that “in rendering the people due thanks” (in referenda ... gratia) he will always further their interests and look out for the well-being of the Republic. By forwarding the proposal about Pompey in the senate, he could claim to have been doing just that.72

The contio on September 7 began with the presiding magistrates reading out the senate’s decree immediately after its passage (senatus consulto recitato continuo, Att. 4.1.6). The decree itself, in addition to including a list of signatories, will have contained the specific details of what had been resolved.73 When Cicero was introduced to the people amid great applause, the proposal about Pompey would have already been known. The orator could thus take his time before getting around to the subject at hand—and I suspect he did so, beginning his address with an expression of thanks that resembled closely the speech that he had circulated in Italy on his way to Rome. Obviously, a few adjustments would have been needed. At the very least, the problematic references to an abundance of affordable grain (frugum ubertate, copia, vilitate, Red. pop. 18) will have been removed. The claim may have been true in early August when Cicero first arrived in Italy (Dom. 14), but the present crisis clearly dictated otherwise. Similarly, a section on Pompey’s commission will have been added, most likely at the end: Cicero’s claims at the conclusion of [End Page 94] the surviving speech (24–25) that he will never stop working for the benefit of the people would have allowed, with a few minor changes, for an easy segue: “And that is why I urged today concerning the scarcity of grain ....” As a result of these additions, Pompey’s role in the speech on September 7 would have been greater than in the version that survives, but Cicero was still very much front and center.74


The texts of speeches circulated by Roman orators rarely matched exactly the speeches that they delivered.75 Most published orations, committed to writing only after the fact, offer at best “a reasonably accurate record of what was said” (Steel 2006: 27). Cicero’s Post reditum ad populum, I suggest, differs primarily in having been written down first and disseminated in Italy before the occasion of delivery. Positing an early circulation for the speech among municipal elites makes sense, given the central role these men played in securing Cicero’s return. It also makes good sense of the evidence we have. Cicero’s claims about an abundance of cheap grain (Red. pop. 18) would not have been out of place in a speech from August 57. Indeed, on the same day that the centuriate assembly passed Cicero’s recall we know that there was “a sudden and unexpected drop in the inflated price of grain” (subito illo ipso die carissimam annonam necopinata vilitas consecuta est, Dom. 14). Reference to swelling grain supplies accompanying Cicero’s return are also found in the Post reditum in senatu, which was definitely committed to writing ahead of time (Red. sen. 34). Equally revealing are Cicero’s claims (at Red. pop. 3) that his recall included the restoration of all his property, which make sense only if we assume that the speech was composed before he arrived at Rome, where he “received the disagreeable news” (Nicholson 1992: 159n49) of complications. Both sets of assertions would have been easy enough to remove, if Cicero had put his speech into circulation only after he returned to Rome, but much more difficult to delete from a speech already in circulation.

The Pro Ligario provides an instructive case in point. After defending Q. Ligarius in 46, Cicero worked up a copy of his speech for circulation sometime soon after, but in the summer of 45 received word from Brutus that the published speech contained an error: by a lapse of memory Cicero had included among a list of supporters present at Ligarius’s trial a certain L. Corfidius, who [End Page 95] was in actuality dead at the time. Cicero relates the mistake to Atticus (Att. 13.44.3) and asks that Corfidius’s name be removed from future copies, but the name survives in our texts (Lig. 33); the speech had already circulated too widely for the changes to be effective (Alexander 2002: 19).76 Perhaps Cicero disseminated an updated version of the Post reditum ad populum after its delivery, but the earlier version is the text that happened to survive.

Just as likely, however, he never bothered. Cicero’s sententia in the senate on September 7 and whatever related remarks he made in the contio afterward served their purpose by repaying political debts to Pompey and the people, but there was no need to memorialize the occasion further. In fact, Cicero immediately had reason to distance himself from the proposal. When the senate reconvened on the eighth, now with greater numbers and the attendance of all the ex-consuls (Att 4.1.7), the previous day’s business was taken up anew and a dispute broke out over the extent of Pompey’s charge.77 The tribune Messius proposed a more generous bill, which Pompey feigned not to want, and the consulars grew furious. Cicero held his tongue, not wishing to offend any of the pontifices who had yet to rule on restoring his house. He likely failed to update his speech to the people for the same reasons he never published his sententia to the senate. Having made his remarks and repaid his debt, “Cicero sensibly tempered any show of enthusiasm for the proposal” (Settle 1962: 178–79) of Pompey’s commission.

In any event the important work had already been done. As the Bobbio Scholiast long ago recognized, Cicero’s driving interest in the Post reditum ad populum was “to attend to his own reputation” (gloriae suae consulens, Schol. Bob. 110.7 Stangl), which he effected admirably in his surviving oration. By a convenient rhetorical fiction contional audiences, no matter their actual composition, were treated by Roman orators as symbolically representative of the populus Romanus as a whole.78 Cicero’s rhetoric in the published Post reditum ad populum hinges in part on this very illusion (cf. Red. pop. 5). Detached from the uncertainties of delivery, Cicero had constructed in the isolated safety of the page something not easily possible in the packed forum that greeted his immediate return: by cashing in on established conventions he was able to coopt the symbolic support and authority of the entire Roman people. As representatives of the people, members of key constituencies—municipales, [End Page 96] scribae, publicani, local businessmen—received early copies expressing thanks; the circulated speech documented Cicero’s reintegration into Roman political life for present readers and posterity. Eager listeners were treated to their own version at the contio on September 7, where Cicero reestablished ties with the urban plebs. Of readers and listeners, how many knew—or would have cared—that what was written and what was said was not entirely the same? Surely the versions were close enough. At least Cicero seems to have thought so.

Brian Walters
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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* I would like to thank Tony Corbeill and Antony Augoustakis for their insightful comments on earlier drafts of this article, as well as the audience at Tulane University who graciously listened to an unpolished version of the argument presented here in fall 2015. Conversations with Michael Brumbaugh and Tom Frazel proved especially fruitful on the latter occasion. I owe a great debt to Shane Butler, who has taught me much about Cicero and the written word. The anonymous referees provided by TAPA also deserve gratitude for their helpful suggestions and clarifications. Finally, I would like to extend sincere thanks to TAPA’s editor, Craig Gibson, and his editorial assistant, Sara Hales, for their thoughtful help and attention. I cite the text of Red. pop. from the Teubner edition of Maslowski 1998. All translations are my own.

1. Accounts of Cicero’s entry into Rome after exile are found at Att. 4.1.4–5, Sest. 131, Pis. 51–52.

2. Citations from Cicero’s letters refer to the text and commentary of Shackleton Bailey 1965–70. A rough consensus holds that in most cases Cicero circulated speeches intended for publication as soon as possible after delivery; see, e.g., Berry 1996: 58; Frazel 2004: 133; Settle 1962: 46 (with comments on publication in general at 1–67 and on Red. pop. at 175–82).

3. Dio Cass. 39.9 implies that Cicero delivered the speeches to the senate and the people on the same day; cf. Marinone 2004: 110–11; Morstein-Marx 2004: 25n92. Nicholson 1992: 126–28 discusses a range of options for delivery. For my own account, see below.

4. Shackleton Bailey 1965: 168; Nicholson 1992: 127; Lintott 2008: 8–14. For the claim about the abundance of grain, see Red. pop. 18. Pompey is treated favorably (but briefly) at Red. pop. 16 and 18.

5. These positions, along with prevailing counter-arguments, are examined in detail by Nicholson 1992: 1–18.

6. The exact significance of the contio in Republican culture has recently been the subject of extended debate. Major contributions to this debate can be found in Hölkeskamp 1995, 2000; Pina Polo 1996; Millar 1998; Mouritsen 2001; Morstein-Marx 2004; and the papers collected in Steel and van der Blom, eds. 2013.

7. Much has been written on publication in the Roman world and Cicero’s motivations to circulate or not circulate copies of speeches; for present purposes, the most significant discussions include Crawford 1984: 1–30; Starr 1987; Riggsby 1999: 178–84; Butler 2002; Powell and Paterson, eds. 2004: 52–57; Steel 2005. Stroh 1975: 31–54 offers much of interest on the topic of Ciceronian publication, but his dismissal of political motives on the evidence of the Brutus, as many have noted, goes too far.

8. Tan 2013: 120–21; see also Tatum 1999: 90–108.

9. Among these are included other speeches on the agrarian law and the so-called De Othone/Cum a ludis contionem avocavit and Cum provinciam in contione deposuit (also mentioned at Pis. 5; Fam. 5.2.3). The discrepancy in the number is due to a disagreement over whether the speech on the children of the proscribed was a contio; see Fantham 2000: 110–11 and Manuwald 2012: 155n5. The speeches in question survive only in fragments, of which discussion can be found at Crawford 1994: 201–14.

10. Cic. Att. 1.13.5; Schol. Gron. 289.11 Stangl; discussion at Crawford 1994: 215–26.

11. Cf. Cicero’s claims at Brut. 305 to have heard contiones delivered almost daily by the magistrates of his youth. Manuwald 2012: 154 notes the likelihood that Cicero frequently addressed contiones that he failed to circulate. See Ramsey 2007: 129 for related claims about senatorial orations. Crawford 1984: 248–51 discusses a few examples of known speeches to the people that Cicero chose not to circulate. Also see my own discussion below.

12. For the laws, see Rotondi 1912: 379–80.

13. Some of the contention regarding the passage of the law de liberis legationibus can be gleaned from Cicero’s retrospective comments at Leg. 3.18. Gruen 1974: 220–24 provides an in-depth account of the political give-and-take that accompanied the passage of the law de ambitu.

14. Crawford 1984: 13 does little to assuage such misgivings, noting that Cicero became “more selective about publication” and withheld from publication a majority of speeches delivered in the period after his return from exile.

15. Asc. Mil. 41C; Quint. Inst. 3.6.93; 10.1.23 (= ORF4 18–20); Schol. Bob. 112.12 (= ORF4 21).

16. See, e.g., Butler 2002, who contextualizes the circulation of these orations within the wider textual world of late-Republican Rome.

18. Balbo 2013: 319–20 suggests that the pamphlet had a “purely political aim” and was “designed to support the necessity of fighting against every public enemy.”

19. Butler 2002: 71–84. Frazel 2004: 138–41 argues that laus rather than eloquentia was at stake; cf. Settle 1962: 99–108.

20. This assumes (following the lead of, e.g., Settle 1962: 279; Butler 2002: 114–15; and Shackleton Bailey 1986: 31) that Phil. 2 was published during Cicero’s life, most likely in late November or December 44. Some (e.g., Fuhrmann 1992: 181) maintain the pamphlet was not made public until after Cicero’s death, which, if true, would make the distance between Phil. 2 and Red. pop. even greater.

21. Mack 1937: 18–48, offers an in-depth comparison of the structure and contents of both speeches; see also Lintott 2008: 8–14 and Nicholson 1992: 99–128.

22. The sources for Bibulus’s activities are collected in Broughton, MRR 2.187.

23. We might even be tempted to note in light of this episode the difficulty of fully untangling circulation from delivery at times. After all, the public reading of Bibulus’s orations in the forum that Cicero mentions (Att. 2.20.4) to some degree replicates the meeting that circulation technically circumvented, inasmuch as the recitation of letters, edicts, senatus consulta, and all manner of official and unofficial decrees was common practice in Roman popular assemblies; see Mouritsen 2013: 69. The “copying down” (describunt) of the contiones mentioned by Cicero might have likewise struck a familiar chord. Settle 1962: 290–93 discusses the copying down and circulation of contional orations by other (sometimes unauthorized) hands, and discusses Red. pop. in this context on 292.

24. For evidence of the circulation of contiones among municipal audiences on other occasions, see, e.g., Phil. 1.8, with discussion at Millar 1998: 29.

25. Red. pop. 8; Sest. 32; Pis. 11.

26. Cic. Red. sen. 29; Fam. 1.9.9, 12, 14; Prov. cons. 43; Pis. 25, 80; Mil. 39; Dio Cass. 39.10.1.

27. Dom. 74; Pis. 41.

28. Tan 2008: 165 and Mouritsen 2001: 88 both note the political implications of this move.

29. Planc. 74: dicta de scripto est (“[the speech] was delivered from a written text”).

31. Samples of information received about developments in Rome and Cicero’s reactions to the news can be seen at Att. 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.7.3, 3.8.2, 3.10.1, 3.11.1, 3.12.1–2, 3.14.1, 3.13.1, 3.15.3–8, 3.17.1–2, 3.18, 3.19.1–2, 3.20.2–3, 3.22.1–3, 3.23, 3.24, 3.26, 3.27, 4.1.4–5; Fam. 5.4, 14.2.2–3, 14.1, 14.3.2–3; Q. fr. 1.3.5–9, 1.4.2–3.

32. Att. 16.6.4 and Top. 1–5 reveal Cicero editing and composing on boats.

33. Settle 1962: 180: “the editing and copying of an oration as short and uncomplicated as the Cum Populo [i.e., Red. pop.] was no great task.”

34. For accounts of Cicero’s leisurely journey from Brundisium to Rome, see Pis. 51; Att. 4.1.4; Sest. 131.

35. Cicero, we might imagine, will have been pressured to deliver at least a few short, expository speeches of thanks to his supporters at various points on the way to Rome; circulating copies of his “official speech” perhaps also helped to stay ahead of the curve, so to speak, by enabling him to check the spread of unauthorized versions. Settle 1962: 179–80 forwards a similar suggestion with regard to Cicero’s circulation of the speech in Rome.

36. On the laws banishing Cicero, see Moreau 1987: 465–92 and Kelly 2006: 225–38. Lintott 1999a: 43–49 provides a brief overview of assembly procedures and the various notifications and announcements that attended the promulgation of laws at Rome. Morstein-Marx 2004: 8 notes the “flurry of contiones ... to rally public enthusiasm” that would have been a standard part of the process.

37. Cic. Att. 3.24.2; Red. sen. 3; Sest. 67–68; Pis. 27–29; Plut. Cic. 23; Dio Cass. 38.30. This was followed by further agitations of support by L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, Scribonius Curio, and the equestrian order: Att. 3.8.3, 3.15.3, 6. Subsequent reports to the people at a contio of the contents of senatorial debates were a standard feature of political oratory at Rome (Cat. 2 and 3 and Phil. 4 and 6 are extant Ciceronian examples of such reports); cf. Morstein-Marx 2004: 9.

38. Att. 3.12.1, 3.15.6; Sest. 69. Cf. Red. sen. 8.

39. Att. 3.15.5, 3.19.1, 3.20.3, 3.23.1; Red. sen. 4, 29; Sest. 69.

40. Messius: Red. sen. 21; Sestius: Att. 3.20.3 (only a draft); Fabricius: Sest. 75, 78; Red. sen. 19–22. For the support of other tribunes for one or more of these bills, see, e.g., Sest. 72. On the violence that put an end to the vote, see Cic. Red. sen. 5–9, 22; Sest. 75–78, 85, 126; Plut. Cic. 33.4; Dio Cass. 39.7.2.

41. Details of the deliberations can be pieced together from: Prov. cons. 22; Red. sen. 5, 8–12; Red. pop. 11; Sest. 72–74; Pis. 34; Dom. 68, 84; Leg. 3.45.

42. Dom. 74; Pis. 71.

43. Cic. Red. sen. 24; Dom. 73, 85; Sest. 50, 116–23, 128; Planc. 78; Pis. 34; App. B Civ. 2.57.

44. Red. sen. 25–27, 31; Dom. 30; Sest. 129; Pis. 34–35; Mil. 39.

45. Red. pop. 16–17; Red. sen. 26; Sest. 107; Pis. 34–35, 80.

46. Red. sen. 27; Sest. 129; Pis. 35.

47. For speeches on these occasions, see, e.g., Lintott 1999a: 45–46.

48. Passages such as, e.g., Att. 2.20.4, 7.8.5, 14.2.1, 14.17a.7, 14.20.2, Phil. 1.8 and Har. 51 suggest that it was not uncommon in late-Republican Rome to read contiones that one had not heard first-hand; see Mouritsen 2013.

49. In fact, as discussed by Dyck 2004, Cicero would repeatedly return to and refine the details of his Post reditum narrative in subsequent months and years.

50. One can imagine the political mileage that Cicero’s enemies could get were they to obtain a copy of the never-delivered speech (easy enough to do) and make a show of reading it aloud at a contio of their own.

51. This is the assumption of Morstein-Marx 2004: 25n92; cf. the remarks of Nicholson 1992: 126 for this “seem[ing] to be what Dio (39.9) implies.”

52. For the suggestion, see Nicholson 1992: 127.

53. Cf. Red. pop. 21 for an enumeration of the four categories of people that Cicero recognized as being hostile to him.

54. For an insightful consideration of Pompey’s oratorical failures and successes, see van der Blom 2011: 553–73, with specific discussion at 562–63. Mouritsen 2013: 76–77 examines this and other instances of failed contiones, but to my mind misconstrues the diversity implied in Cicero’s quadripartite division of Pompey’s unhappy audience.

55. For the assumed favorability of contional crowds, see, e.g., Mouritsen 2001: 50; Morstein-Marx 2004: 131.

56. C. Steel, Roman Oratory 2006: 8 captures this uncertainty brilliantly: “Cicero could not be completely sure of his welcome: he could not have known for certain how effective his friends and supporters would have been in generating mass enthusiasm and crowds when he entered the city, nor how many might wish to stay and listen to him, and how many supporters of his enemy Clodius might be making their feelings known.” Cf. Lintott 2008: 9.

57. Morstein-Marx 2004: 199, with references to Dio Cass. 36.30.3 and Plut. Pomp. 26.6. References to loud and unruly contiones can be found at, e.g., Cic. Att. 2.19.2; Fam. 1.56.1, 1.5b.1; Q. Fr. 2.3.2; Rab. Perd. 18; Plut. Pomp. 25, 48.57.

58. Cic. Red. sen. 6, 22; Red. pop. 14; Sest. 75–77; Mil. 39; Plut. Cic. 33.3; Dio Cass. 39.7.2.

59. Violence would have been particularly embarrassing in light of Cicero’s claim at Red. sen. 33–34 to have departed from Rome voluntarily to prevent a civic bloodbath.

60. For Clodius’s organization of political crowds, Tatum 1999: 142–49 provides a thorough discussion with additional references. Tan 2013: 117–32 offers a fascinating take on Clodius’s management of his relationships with contional crowds.

61. At Pis. 52 Cicero likens his day of return to an attainment of personal immortality. For the psychological impact of the moment, see Dugan 2014: 19.

62. The flagitatio is described at Dom. 14. For the violence of these protests, see Dom. 12–14.

63. Tatum 1999: 185 and Lintott 1999b: 10 discuss this episode and its organization.

64. It seems entirely likely that business in the senate would have gotten in the way. It is clear that the grain supply was already an issue on the fifth, and Cicero claims (at Dom. 9) that, by the time he spoke on the seventh in favor of giving Pompey charge of the situation, “[the issue] had been discussed in the senate already for multiple days” (erat superioribus diebus agitata in senatu). Perhaps Cicero, and the magistrates who would otherwise introduce him, were too busy to hold a contio immediately after the delivery of Red. sen.

65. Coupled with the crowd’s enthusiasm at Att. 4.1.6 and Cicero’s explicit claim in the same passage to have addressed a contio (both discussed below), the agitation about grain and the pressing business in the senate makes it highly unlikely that Cicero addressed the people at this time, pace Marinone 2004: 110–11.

66. The word appears at Att. 4.1.6 and Dom. 7 and 15.

67. Lintott 2008: 6–8 examines another letter (Att. 1.16) in which a complicated account of politics proves to have been inflected by Cicero’s embarrassment.

68. For a similar point, see the remarks of Settle 1962: 177.

69. For Cicero’s claims of feeling unwell, see Dom. 15.

70. For referre gratiam, see OLD s.v. gratia 4e; cf. Nisbet 1939: 73.

71. Nicholson here summarizes the position of Settle 1962: 177.

72. Cicero makes this point a number of times and in various ways at Dom. 10–30.

73. See, e.g., the senatus consulta included in Fam. 8.8.5–8.

74. Pace Lintott 2008: 14, who claims that “Cicero was forced before the people to substitute for a speech with himself at the centre one that presumably had Pompey at the centre.”

75. Red. sen. (read de scripto, Planc. 74) is the notable exception, but even here we should imagine occasional deviations from the script.

76. See also Pasquali 1962: 398–403, who discusses in addition the related fate of Cicero’s Lucullus.

77. Shackleton Bailey 1965: 168 discusses the thin attendance and allegations about repressions of free speech. Cf. Dom. 10.