Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.09.03

Emanuele Narducci (ed.), Cicerone tra antichi e moderni. Atti del IV Symposium Ciceronianum Arpinas.   Firenze:  Felice Le Monnier, 2004.  Pp. xi, 104.  ISBN 88-00-81504-9.  €11.50.  

Contributors: G. Aricò, E. Narducci, G. Mazzoli, P. Esposito


Reviewed by Silvana A. Gaeta, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina (silvanagaeta@yahoo.com.ar)
Word count: 1402 words

This volume of four articles was born as a result of the fourth meeting of the Symposium Ciceronianum held at Arpino on May 9th 2003. These proceedings have become the culminating evidence of the ideas shared throughout the conference and the most important proof of its high quality.

In previous meetings, different aspects of Ciceronian literature had been selected and meticulously analyzed. This time -- and anticipating the next meeting entirely devoted to the fortune of Cicero in modern European culture -- we find two essays centered on Cicero itself (Aricò and Mazzoli) and the other two focused on his influence on Italian literature (Narducci and Esposito).

The first article "Cicerone e il teatro. Appunti per una revisitazione della problematica" (pp. 8-37) by Giuseppe Aricò (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano) is a very interesting study of Ciceronian quotation, primarily in the Tusculanae, its usage related to the ethical-political dimension and the upper class' need to recover its old prestige under the new social conditions. In his several citations, Cicero re-writes the original message in a new context responding to his own interests. By this the author does not mean that he deforms the message but that he grants it a different interpretation.

Due to its nature, this work of Cicero is rich in dramatic quotations which are articulated within the argumentative pattern. Their function inside the text can be both exemplary or dissuasive: sometimes they are introduced in order to be imitated, other times they showed ways of thinking or acting that should be avoided. To make his point, Aricò chooses a group of examples ranging from Naevius to Ennius, Terentius and Pacuvius. They can be useful to illustrate different aspects -- from a philosophical argument to a personal issue, such as his banishment and the particular construction he builds around it. The echoes of these voices Cicero selected to quote enlighten us not only about his own work but also about his relationship with the theatre and his experience as a Roman reader.

Emanuele Narducci's (Università di Firenze) "Appunti sulla fortuna del De officiis nelle lettere italiane (de Baldassar Castiglione a Carlo Emilio Gadda)" (pp. 38-55) leads us to modern times and the Ciceronian influence on some of the greatest Italian authors. The work opens with a brief commentary on the plot of the De officiis and the main concept developed in it, decorum, a central value of Roman life which has a practical application in the regulation of everyday behavior. Its social objective is to obtain approval from other members of the highest class. That is the reason why the observance of this conduct becomes one of the principal obligations of the vir bonus.

After this introduction, Narducci points out his first approach towards modernity: Cicero's advice about observing other people's actions seems to be related to the behavior practiced in the courts of modern Europe. We should take into consideration, now, the addressee of the De officiis. According to the author, the book was written for a large and diverse social class that included the equestrian order and some Italic elements. Therefore, Ciceronian decorum is presented not as a mere formality but as an amalgam for a renewed class that has been shaken by social mobility.

The influence of this composition becomes decisive in Italian Humanism. From now on, the author focuses his article on two aspects: the destiny of the rules about gallantry and etiquette that the De officiis prescribes for the Roman vir bonus and their presence in the social regulations of the modern age. In order to show this influence, he presents a synthetic study dealing with a group of Italian authors. Beginning with Baldassar Castiglione who, in his Cortegiano, explains the importance of the construction of an image of oneself to impose on others and the difficulties that this labor involves (it is possible to see clearly the influence of the idea of decorum).

Narducci briefly mentions that the Ciceronian work was a major influence on the de civitate morum puerilium by Erasmus of Rotterdam but, since this philosopher is outside the Italian picture, we move directly to Carlo Emilio Gadda. The analysis of his San Giorgio in casa Brocchi (1930) notes some aspects of a satire against Cicero. Gadda uses the stylization of the behavior described in the De officiis as a symbol of the authoritative and conventional education of his own time and as a reaction against its intellectual ambiance.

In the third article "Reflessioni sulla semantica ciceroniana della gloria" (pp. 56-81), Giancarlo Mazzoli (Università di Pavia) thoroughly describes the diverse terms that Cicero employs for glory.

The first part of the article is a status quaestionis, a bibliographical summary that goes from works of Knoche and Sullivan in the first decades of the twentieth century to the more recent contributions by Thomas (1994), Narducci (1989, 1997) and Habinek (2000). Mazzoli not only describes their basic ideas but also discusses some of their approaches and implied statements. In order to lay the grounds for his subsequent development, he presents the synonymy of glory in the pre-Ciceronian use that can be found in poetic documents, prose and epigraphy. Then he leads us to quotation of the definitions of glory in Cicero and its twofold perspective: its positive and its negative side related to the image of exteriority, vanity and immortality, and the semantic polarization of the word in the opposition vera / falsa gloria. Finally, he cites the diverse consequences of glory, such as the survival in the future and an everlasting memory.

The second part of the article consists in a comparison between gloria and laus, which should not be taken as synonyms because their contexts of appearance are not the same and the second is only a portion, though essential, of the first. Again, Mazzoli summarizes the contribution of the critics on this aspect and then analyses the semantics of laus and gloria, through quotations of the archaic period (Naevius, Ennius) and Cicero himself. Mazzoli considers that gloria is a condition that can be possessed or obtained for one's own merits, independently from the recognition of others. Hence, he concludes that laus implies a centripetal movement: from the periphery, represented by the community, converges the recognition towards an "object" placed in the center, the glory exhibited by an individual. On the other, gloria stands for the reverse centrifugal movement, the radiation of a value, able to draw the recognition mentioned above.

The third and final section of the article is a textual repertory of quotations about gloria, laudo and laus in pre-Ciceronian testimonies and in the works of Cicero.

The fourth article, "La morte di Cicerone da Livio a Fruttero & Lucentini" (pp. 82-104), by Paolo Esposito (Università di Salerno) places us again in the boundaries between Antiquity and Modernity. In this case, the subject is the tradition of Cicero's death in Livy, Plutarch, Caldwell and the pair of writers Fruttero and Lucentini.

Livy opens the floor for the constitution of a celebrative vulgate about the last moments of Cicero's life where he is assimilated to the Socratic model of exemplary acceptance of a deadly end. On the other hand, Plutarch allows us to see that the Ciceronian tradition about his final moments is broader than we might think by presenting a detailed description of this episode. Esposito makes a meticulous study of each section of Plutarch's account and compares it to Livy's passage.

Before beginning his reflection about the Italian influence, Esposito mentions the re-elaboration of the Anglo-American writer Janet Taylor Cadwell, where it is possible to see a more complex reconstruction envisaged as a drama whose leading character, after facing many difficulties, manages to attain a dimension of glorious dignity. Finally, he focuses his attention on the couple Fruttero-Lucentini, who have a long tradition of classical intertextuality in their works. Concerning the death of Cicero, they wrote a drama that introduces a character deeply related to the attitude of Socrates.

The collection of essays edited by Narducci presents an attractive range of subjects that interlaces the study of the texts themselves and the influence of Cicero in the modern world, particularly, Italian letters. Some disparities might be found regarding the amount of quotations on Latin and modern texts and a certain misuse of them in order to dig into even deeper conclusions. But these minor inconsistencies are not important enough to blur the quality and scope of this prominent work.

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