(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Thoughts of the greatness of Rome, and especially of its government, are likely to bring to mind the name of Cicero. Whereas a figure such as Julius Caesar may symbolize the military greatness of imperial Rome, the figure of Cicero is a symbol of Roman justice and law, of the Roman senate and its traditions, and of landmark strides in philosophy and literature. Cicero is important in literature primarily for his orations and his many writings about oratory and rhetoric. Through his writings Cicero set a pattern in public speaking that is still alive in Western culture. Moreover, on the bases of what he wrote and said and of the viewpoints he held and defended to the point of dying for them, Cicero became historically one of the great advocates of culture and conservatism.

Cicero took ten years to prepare himself as a lawyer before he appeared on behalf of a client in public. He believed that a thorough education is necessary for success in any activity. Some exponents of oratory have averred that manner is everything; Cicero disagreed, believing that matter is as inescapably a factor in oratorical success as manner. In the Orator (46 b.c.e.; English translation, 1776), one of his most mature pieces of writing on the art of oratory, Cicero wrote that his own success, like that of any orator, was more to be credited to his study of the philosophers than to his study of earlier rhetoricians, and that no one can express wide views, or speak fluently on many and various subjects, without philosophy. Although Cicero tried to make a science of rhetoric and saw profit in his own attempts at its systematization, he also realized that no simple set of formulas could ever make a great orator. As he put it, an eloquent person should be able to speak “of small things in a lowly manner, of moderate things in a temperate manner, and of great things with dignity.”

In Cicero’s time, one prevalent style in oratory was the Asian style. In the Asian type, Cicero himself discerned two subtypes, one epigrammatic and euphuistic, dependent on artful structure rather than on importance of content, and the other characterized by a swift and passionate flow of speech in which choice of words for precise and elegant effect was a dominant factor. Cicero found both styles wanting in some degree and built his own style on an eclectic combination of the two.

Fifty-eight speeches by Cicero are still extant, although not all are complete. The number of his speeches is unknown, but more than forty are known to have been lost. Not all the speeches Cicero wrote were delivered; sometimes he wrote them for occasions that did not occur. His second Philippic (44-43 b.c.e.; English translation, 1868) is an example of such a speech. Marc Antony (Marcus Antonius) had been so enraged by Cicero’s first speech against him after the death of Julius Caesar that Cicero’s friends persuaded the orator to leave the city of Rome...

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(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Dorey, Thomas Alan, ed. Cicero. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965. Collection of essays is valuable for its breadth and degree of detail concerning Cicero’s speeches. Topics addressed include Roman politics; Cicero’s political career, speeches, poetry, philosophy, and character; and evaluation of Cicero’s style and form in oration and the oratorical devices he used.

Fantham, Elaine. The Roman World of Cicero’s “De oratore.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Presents analysis of Cicero’s dialogue On Oratory (55 b.c.e.; English translation, 1742), in which he discusses his ideas about the ideal orator-statesman. Provides information about Cicero’s return from exile, his response to Plato’s ideas about rhetoric, and his contributions to the development of rhetoric and public education in Rome.

Martyn, John, ed. Cicero and Virgil: Studies in Honour of Harold Hunt. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1972. Contains six informative, detailed essays on the style, techniques, influence, and philosophy of Cicero’s writings and speeches. An important resource for those pursuing in-depth study of Cicero’s work.

Petersson, Torsten. Cicero: A Biography. 1920. Reprint. New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1963. Remains one of the best general biographies of Cicero available, offering a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the orator’s life, career, orations, and treatises. Includes a thorough and insightful discussion of Cicero’s philosophy and speeches.

Richards, George Chatterton. Cicero: A Study. 1935. Reprint. Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger, 2008. Brief work provides an accessible introduction to Cicero’s orations. Includes two chapters devoted to his speeches and rhetorical treatises. Discusses the character and technique of the speeches in a concise survey.

Steel, C. E. W. Cicero, Rhetoric, and Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Examination of Cicero’s political oratory focuses on his ideas about empire. Places Cicero’s attitudes within the context of the debate about Roman imperialism that occurred in the late Roman Republic.

_______. Reading Cicero: Genre and Performance in Late Republican Rome. London: Duckworth, 2005. Analyzes the relationship between Cicero’s writing and his position as a major political figure, arguing that his works are best read within the context of Roman politics.