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II THE PRE-CONSULAR SPEECHES The Search for a Persona and the Struggle for Auctoritas But I have not the same privileges as men of noble birth, who while sleeping still see the honors of the Roman people laid at their feet; in this state I must live under far different conditions and according to a very different law. (In Verrem 2.5.180) Cicero, a young, talented, and ambitious novus homo from Arpinum , struggled to gain importance in the Roman state under a set of laws and conditions certainly different from those under which the majority of his rivals operated. 1 With no ancestral deeds to commend his character or waxen images to decorate his halls, the virtus and industria of the fledgling orator were made to bear the responsibility for establishing a reputation in the eyes of the Roman people that would merit election to offices. This attainment of rank, bolstered by his oratorical skills, could in turn impart a substantial measure of auctoritas and gratia to his character. Cicero's first speeches display a persona quite unlike the boasting consular ethos of later orations. Here is an ethos struggling against the weight of influence and authority, a challenge that Cicero's later opponents must have faced. Confident enough in his talent and training, Cicero seems at times to have made it his primary concern and chief rhetorical aim to disarm his adversary's authoritative character and deflect the inherent invidia that the nobiles felt toward an ambitious parvenu commended only by his own deeds. The thin, rhetorical veneer with which Cicero sometimes attempts to mask his feelings is easily stripped away, or at least rubbed to a transparency that exposes to us a revealing and sometimes poignant picture of a man who never ceased to fret over his own ethos and the dignitas and auctoritas it possessed and projected.2 Nevertheless his tirocinium fori ("apprenticeship in the Forum," 14 Trials of Clulracter i.e., the lawcourts) and his familiarity with Roman tradition and the exigencies of the Roman social and judicial system provided the young Cicero with a knowledge of the potentialities of rhetorical ethos far beyond those found in his Hellenistic textbooks. The Roman penchant for character-based proof and judgment offered ample room for persuasion supplied from character, and the rhetoric of advocacy, even in his earliest speeches, betrays an uncanny sophistication in its method. The pre-consular speeches show a Cicero who, if not at the height of his powers, nonetheless displays an acute knowledge of the rules of rhetoric and enough common sense, originality, and genius to transcend them when necessary. These speeches are a chronicle of Cicero's struggle with the Roman conception of character and its place in a speech aimed at persuasion. They show us the efforts of an orator, lacking an ethos of auctoritas and gratia, to mold a persona as persuasive as possible. PRO P. QUINCTIO The first sentence of Cicero's earliest extant oration, the Pro Quinctio , establishes a major, if not the primary, theme of the speech. By its very prominence it underscores the importance that Cicero and the Romans laid upon the power of individual character and influence in a court case: "Two things which have most power in the state-namely great influence and eloquence-are both working against us today."3 The unsuspecting reader, perhaps surprised with this gambit in a relatively complicated case involving a dispute over property possession,4 will soon realize that Cicero 's line of defense revolves chiefly around effective character portrayal of protagonist and antagonist in the hope of reducing the issue of the case to a simple conflict between two antipathetic ways of life. The one modus vivendi, supported by overwhelming eloquence and influence and marked by avarice, audacity, and wickedness, has unjustly assailed the other, characterized by modesty , helplessness, and a rustic and simple frugality and supported only-but most importantly-by the truth (d., e.g., 79, 84, 92).5 Character sketches of the dramatis personae, which will continue to be developed throughout the speech, are drawn briefly in the opening sections of the exordium (1-10): Naevius, the powerful and unscrupulous adversary; his patron, the eloquent and established orator Hortensius; Quinctius, the poor, abandoned, almost desperate defendant; and Cicero, his patron, whose talent and experience pale in the sight of his adversary (2). The conventions of the rhetoric of advocacy are, of course, in operation. Cicero as patronus fears not only the influence of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469616322
Related ISBN
9780807817599
MARC Record
OCLC
868976113
Pages
224
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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