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IV THE POST REDITUM SPEECHES The Search for a New Persona and the Struggle for Dignitas So then I saved the Republic by my departure from Rome, gentlemen of the jury; by my own grief and sorrow I kept off from you and your children devastation, fire, and rapine; alone I twice saved the Republic, once with glory, the second time with misery to myself. (Pro Sestio 49) The threats and dangers that had haunted Cicero from the time of the execution of the Catilinarians finally came to a head in 58 B.C., following the election of his archenemy, Publius Clodius, to the tribunate. Three years earlier Cicero had antagonized Clodius by rendering incriminating evidence against him when he was on trial for appearing in women's clothing at the Bona Dea festival; Clodius now used the power of the tribunate to avenge himself. In February 58 Clodius promulgated a bill, de capite civis Romani, that outlawed from Rome anyone who had put to death a Roman citizen without a trial. Although worded in general terms, the measure was clearly aimed at Cicero and his handling of the Catilinarian conspirators. Pressed by this move and finding little relief from the triumvirs and outright hostility from the consuls, Gabinius and Piso, Cicero left for Greece in late March without awaiting prosecution. On the same day, Clodius' bill was passed and was followed a few days later by another, de exsilio Ciceronis (certainly unconstitutional), that specifically identified Cicero as an outlaw. Friends and supporters back in Rome, however, were not lacking and soon rallied to his cause. On 4 August 57 the Comitia Centuriata , boasting representatives from all Italy, sanctioned his recall, and the orator returned triumphantly to the city the following month. Just as Cicero's consular year marked the high point of his life and career, so did the year of his exile mark its nadir. Psychologi- cally crushed by the reality that the Nones of December were also the cause of his forced departure from Rome, Cicero, in the depths of despair, even contemplated suicide.! Letters to his friend Atticus dating from that year display an unseemly yet understandable mood of depression from which he gradually recovered only upon his recall.2 For the novus homo who had worked so long and so diligently to enhance his own ethos with dignity, authority, influence , and reputation, and to construct a persona of persuasive capabilities, the exile was a devastating setback.3 His personal dignitas , of course, had been seriously undermined and that consular persona of the hero who had saved the state without recourse to arms was gravely damaged, if not altogether destroyed. Cicero was forced once again to scramble with all of his energies and resources to reconstruct and secure for himself an ethos of auctoritas and a persona befitting his station in Republican society. The struggle to do so was, for the most part, fraught with frustration , anxiety, and humiliation. His glorious return from exile, described so vividly in a letter to Atticus,4 was the foundation upon which Cicero attempted to rebuild his persona. Still the consular senator, the premier orator of Rome, who had now been recalled in triumph, he took advantage of his current position, if not to whitewash the ignominy of his exile, at least to place his actions in a light as favorable as possible. As a result, the speeches from this period, particularly those that deal directly with his exile and return, as well as others whose political ramifications touch upon the events of 58, are often as much apologiae on behalf of Cicero as political deliberations or defenses of clients. Marked at times by turgidity and a kind of grating shrillness, the post reditum speeches are the chronicle of Cicero's quest to reestablish and regain what Madvig called "that ancient eminence of dignity and authority" which had previously marked his ethos.5 Armed with a somewhat diminished existimatio and faced with doubt and anxiety about his own status in the .state, Cicero consciously and very skillfully developed a network of recurring themes calculated to justify his own actions and portray his character in the most favorable terms. , The ethos of Cicero, savior of the Republic\ is still in prominence , but tinted now with a slightly different hue. Clients are still defended not merely on the strength of their own characters but also by their association with the great consular orator. The rhetoric of advocacy is still important, but artistic...


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