citius e mundo genus hominum quam Ciceronis nomen cedet
“sooner shall mankind disappear from the world than Cicero’s name”
(Vell. Pat. 2.66.5)
Cicero’s reputation, as the Tiberian historian Velleius Paterculus already predicts in his History of Rome, has changed little since antiquity: embodying Latin eloquence in its perfect form, Cicero has always been an important symbol of rhetoric and literature. Yet, one of the most salient features of his oratory is that it was performed in the public space, the forum Romanum, during an extremely turbulent period of Roman history.
In this talk, I will present the results from my PhD research, which explores (as part of the VIDI project Mediated Cicero) how imperial writers situate Cicero’s oratory in the context of late republican Rome, a society dominated by military heavyweights such as Caesar and Octavian. We will pay special attention to Cicero’s qualities as a statesman, and ask the question if (!) and how he uses his oratorical skills for the benefit of the people of Rome.
Based on theories about ancient exemplarity (e.g. Langlands 2018, Roller 2018), I will argue that Cicero is presented as a model of conduct for all ages, but not in ways we would entirely expect. The writers discussed in this paper, Seneca, Plutarch, and Cassius Dio, even though they all admire Cicero’s sense of justice and patriotism, also express a strong disappointment over his self-presentation in public. I will explain these contradictory perspectives by focusing on Roman ideas about the ethical nature of political leadership.
About the speaker
Leanne Jansen, MA, has recently finished her dissertation, “Cicero, Statesmanship, and Republicanism in Roman Historiography”, which she will defend in January 2022. She is affiliated with Leiden University and the University of Groningen, where she works as a lecturer in the departments of Ancient History and Classics, respectively. She specializes in the reception of Cicero, Greek literature under the Roman empire, and the academic work of the Florentine humanist Angelo Poliziano.