Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.08.39

Giusto Picone (ed.), Clementia Caesaris. Modelli etici, parenesi e retorica dell'esilio.   Palermo:  Palumbo, 2008.  Pp. 382, Codice B8470.  ISBN 978-88-6017-065-1.  €30.00.  

Reviewed by Renata Raccanelli, Università degli Studi di Verona (
Word count: 2629 words

Clementia Caesaris presents an innovative combination of scholarship and teaching. It consists of 15 essays, which came to fruition after a Masters seminar on Latin literature held at the University of Palermo under the guidance of Giusto Picone and his assistants Antonio De Caro, Pietro Li Causi and Rita Marchese, with contributions by Lucia Beltrami (University of Siena) and Licinia Ricottilli (University of Verona). These authors' contributions are collected in the first part of the book, while the second section contains the students' work, divided into three study groups each with its respective tutor: De Caro for the Parenesis, Marchese for the Ethical patterns, Li Causi for the Rhetoric of exile.

This is not a traditional collection of contributions by expert scholars, followed by young scholars' studies and their practice. Rather, the volume proposes an original dialogue among three generations of scholars, who have participated in this seminar with their specific skills and roles, giving birth to dynamics of exchange and enhancement of reciprocal value. The reader can further note with pleasure that discussions prior to the publication of the volume have left no excuse for abstract or generalised concepts, for all research members have been required to defend and explain their own ideas, leading to a tension and energy rarely encountered in such scholarly works: the editor notes in the forward how "the quality of the relationship" between scholars constitutes an essential element of research and teaching.

The themes of the essays all rely on certain common concepts, such as clementia beneficium, mercy, parainesis, ethical patterns, exile etc, and draw on methods that combine the traditional literary and historical approach with concepts from different study fields such as anthropology, linguistics, pramatics and stylistics, rhetoric and philology.

Part I.

Lucia Beltrami ("Il De clementia di Seneca: un contributo per l'analisi antropologica del valore della clementia") works on one of the methodological instruments shared by the scholars, placing the notion of clementia in the anthropological category of "gift". She demonstrates how the dynamics of clementia in the Senecan treatise under the same title is thought of by the author as a mechanism of beneficium: gift of punishment, remission of punishment, renunciation of retaliation threatened (?) against a subject by the offended ruler. Particularly worth mentioning is the exemplum of Augustus and Cinna (Clem. 1.9): the princeps having discovered an attempt on his own life decides to deal with the situation in a way contrary to the traditional logic of "negative reciprocity". He does not reciprocate in kind but allows his enemy to survive, whereby the enemy becomes bound to a return which turns out to be positive, in terms of the princeps' own security. And because the one who concedes or gives is a princeps, this gesture has effects on the entire community, which responds to the clementia with a return of support, which in the end strengthens the securitas of the princeps.

Licinia Ricottilli ("La costruzione della relazione fra poeta e spettatori nei prologhi terenziani") makes an important methodological contribution to the workshop. She demonstrates how the "pragmatics of human communication" when integrated with traditional approaches to classical texts can help solve historical-literary questions. In the prologues to his comedies, Terentius systematically insists on the representation of the relationship between himself and the spectators: this strategy is used by the poet in order to lead and "bind" the relation with the audience, protecting his social status with rewarding definitions (iudex, patronus, pater ...) in exchange for benevolence and cooperation. The author proposes to the spectators a relational pattern analogous to that presented as winning in his own comic plots, that is to say amicitia, which, according to the Roman practice has to be interpreted as a bond consisting of benevolentia and mutual exchange. In this framework, Terentius asks his public aequanimitas and support, promising in his turn the gift of new comedies. On this basis, the scholar reconsiders the so-called first prologue of the Hecyra, which, in fact, follows neither the literary traditions typical of the other Terentian prologues, nor any of the strategies the author uses to relate to the public. The text, reconsidered from both a historical-literary and pragmatic perspective, appears to be a letter addressed to aediles.

Giusto Picone ("Il paradigma Marcello. Tra esilio e clementia Caesaris") analyses the communicative strategies Cicero employed in order to shape Caesar's politics, making a fundamental contribution to the reflection over pragmatics and the mythical-literary patterns on which the notion of exile relies. In the pro Marcello the orator uses an old pragmatic strategy in order to lead Caesar and Marcellus (and, with Marcellus, the defeated ex-Pompeians) to reconciliation. Cicero avoids dealing with the real configuration of the relationship between the two men and constructs in the process a virtual reality which would turn out to be acceptable both for the dictator and for the dignity of the senator, who was granted mercy although still in voluntary exile. Caesar, whom Cicero makes play the role of iudex, is praised for his clementia, that is to say he is bound by the praise to correspond to the expectations people have of him. Marcellus is given the part of reus, and his choice in favour of Pompeius is presented as error, rather than as scelus; in this way, the entire party of the vanquished can be justified without dimishing the victor's reasons. Cicero, presenting himself as mediator between the two parties, redefines Marcellus as another Cicero, in order to free him from Catonian connotations. In the process of redefinition of the parties, Cicero drives Marcellus to conform with his own attitude towards Caesar. This attitude, a few years later in the de officiis, will be made explicit through the opposition between two mythical patterns: the pattern of Ulixes, who, like Cicero, comes back from exile and subjects himself to a degrading servitium in order to carry out his political project, and that of Ajax, who, like Cato, avoids degradation, even at the cost of committing a noble but futile suicide. Seneca (Helv. 9. 4) will later reinterpret Marcellus from a different point of view, seeing him as a Stoic sage, for whom exile is paradoxically impossible. Thyestes then, in the Senecan tragedy under the same title, will represent a terrible warning to those who can not fully maintain their choice of going into exile as a voluntary way of not being connected with power.

Antonio De Caro ("Cum sceleratis an cum bonis civibus? Ironia e riflessione politica nell'orazione pro Ligario") uses resources derived from rhetoric and pragmatics to examine the pro Ligario. He demonstrates, for instance, that the two violations of the rhetorical norms we find in the oration --irony at the beginning (instead of simple, clear prose without rhetorical figures) and deprecatio at the end (instead of the traditional indignatio and conquestio)--are actually clever strategies Cicero uses in order to overcome certain difficulties and to achieve a political end. Even the way in which he redefines the role played by Caesar, presenting him not as judge, but as father, is an effective pragmatic strategy which aims at driving the dictator's decision to an act of gratia or pardon, not to an act of judgement. The mercy granted by Caesar is presented as a gift, which shows the dictator as the father not only of Ligarius, but also of all the redeemed ex-Pompeians: paternal mercy is, Cicero suggests, how Caesar can gain support and strength.

Pietro Li Causi ("Strategie per un ritorno. Il "gioco" della persuasione e la rappresentazione dell'esilio nelle Epistulae ad Marcellum di Cicerone") studies the epistolary exchange between Cicero and Marcellus by applying Goffman's sociology of interaction. In the strategy used by Cicero to drive Marcellus to come back to Rome, courtesy becomes instrumental, for it tends to produce an image of the exul, a situated self that acts as a "meccanismo performativo di pressione morale sul destinatario, il quale viene spinto di conseguenza ad agire rispetto al ruolo che per lui è stato costruito nel corso dell'interazione" (p. 107). Letter after letter, the pressure to make Marcellus return from exile becomes more urgent, until in ad Fam. 4, 9 where Cicero explains that Marcellus can no longer escape witnessing the misfortunes of the Roman State, and that he should no longer refuse to come back to Rome only because of the role of sapiens and fortis he plays. We know that Cicero's persuasion will not fall on deaf ears and will make Marcellus eventually head for Rome.

Rita Marchese ("Disuguaglianza, potere, giochi di ruolo. Processi di formalizzazione del beneficium fra pro Marcello e de beneficiis") focuses on the pro Marcello, in which Cicero works out a new balance of the relationship between Caesar and the defeated senators, and the de beneficiis, in which Seneca reorganizes the hierarchical relations typical of the age of the principate, starting from the relation between the emperor and his subjects. Marchese shows that in the authors' reflections the relationships between the victor and the defeated (or ruler/subject) are restructured as ethical relationships between the benefactor and beneficiary. This ethical restructuring is inspired by patterns already deep-rooted in Roman tradition (like the symbolism of the patronage and of amicitia between res publica and the defeated enemy); but the new framework of the role-playing--to use a category derived by Goffman--makes it necessary to reestablish the rules, in order to protect the dignity (and thereby assure the fidelity) of the internal enemy as defeated by the dictator. Furthermore, this allows the subject to be endowed with dignity vis-à-vis the princeps. In particular, the traditional rule of rogare, i.e. the humiliating request for gratia made by the defeated loses its relevance, and is now deleted according to the code of the beneficium.

Part II.

Parenesi. La persuasione attraverso l'elogio.

Cinzia Casamento ("Il de clementia e la retorica della persuasione") highlights that, although Seneca seems to write a panegyric, he actually acts as a preceptor: with a pupil like Nero, of course, he needs to avoid giving orders, so he plays the role of preceptor describing the perfect identity of the princeps, which he supposes his pupil to have already acquired. If Nero wants to continue enjoying a good name, he will have to obey to the image Seneca makes of him in his speculum principis. The repeated opposition between the tyrant and the virtuous princeps is the means through which Seneca fixes in the emperor's memory the vices that must be avoided and the virtues that must be pursued: in this framework Nero, the anti-tyrant, will be able to be placed in a mythical sphere, as the restitutor of the aurea aetas.

Filippo Bosco ("Il tema dell'error: esigenze di riscatto e difesa dell'identità in Cicerone e Ovidio") compares the strategies of persuasion in the pro Marcello and in Ovid's Tristia. In the pro Marcello the orator's defence can be analysed on the basis of the doctrine of status theory (Hermagoras of Temnos), which allows focus on the juridical aspect of the case, establishing whether the fact occurred or not, if the fact can be considered a crime, if its gravity can be mitigated. Cicero demonstrates the Pompeians' innocence precisely in terms of unawareness, general confusion, inevitability of their destiny. Ovid's carmina also play a part in defending the exiled poet: in the third book of Tristia, the theme of poet's unawareness and good faith in committing the error frequently recurs. Also in this case, the doctrine of the status becomes important in order to free Ovid from his accusations.

Modelli etici. Lo schema benefattore/beneficati nella relazione vincitore/vinti.

Alice Accardi ("La prassi dello scambio tra pro Marcello e de officiis") analyses the ethical modelling of beneficentia in the pro Marcello and in the de Officiis. The praxis of the beneficium described in the pro Marcello has numerous connections with that worked out in the de officiis, but diverges from it in some respects. In the former work, the recipient of the reflection is Caesar, the victor presented as the only benefactor on whom the State's welfare relies, whereas in the latter the recipients are the members of a future ruling class, who should account for a respublica whose welfare will depend on all the citizens, including benefactors as well as recipients of the beneficium.

Mariachiara Pardo ("La costruzione della figura di Cesare nelle opere di Cicerone: il benefattore tiranno") shows how the formation of Caesar's image changes from his orations (the benefactor) to the subsequent Prima Filippica and de Officiis (the tyrant). The image of the princeps clemens seems to be de-constructed precisely by weakening Caesar's role as donor. What removes the benefactor's mask is death: Caesar was killed just because he used to cause his citizens metus as a tyrant, not benevolentia as a benefactor. What was thought to be a summum beneficium, is then redefined as beneficium iniustum.

Francesca Di Garbo ("La relazione pater/filius come paradigma di autorità. Alcune considerazioni su un sistema di rappresentazione e sulle sue implicazioni funzionali") focuses on the symbolic construction of the image of the benefactor in relation to the Roman paradigm of paternity. In the pro Marcello Cicero represents Caesar as servator civium, and so as pater, even at the cost of contrasting with the Caesarian propaganda according to which the relationship between the dictator and his citizens was an amicitia between pares. The paradigm of paternity is incompatible with the tyrannical interpretation of Caesar's image, as the firm objection in Sen. ben. 2.20 shows.

Francesco Sampino ("Beneficium, società e potere: una lettura del de beneficiis di Seneca") points out that it is necessary to understand the social praxis on which Seneca's study is based, and shows that it does not look into amicitia stricto sensu (for instance, in the Laelius by Cicero), but is centred on relationships between unequal persons, mainly the relationship between client and patron. Starting from this social-historical basis, Seneca restructures the rules of the beneficium without bringing into question the existing order, but intends to offer a mechanism of ethicized inequality capable of engaging also the consent of the subordinate persons, now seen and described as active members of the system.

La retorica dell'esilio. Credenze, rappresentazioni e retoriche dell'esilio.

Simona Rampulla ("Orizzonti incrociati. Il conflitto apparente fra rappresentazione stoica dell'esilio e mos maiorum in Cicerone e Seneca") begins her study with Roman traditional representations of the exul as living dead, in order to contrast it with the Stoic idea according to which the sage can not lose his identity in exile because he carries it in himself, without needing external support. The author, with particular attention to Cicero's de officiis and to Seneca's consolationes, describes the processes of acculturation that allows the Stoic concept of exile to be placed in the seemingly incompatible Roman tradition.

Riccardo La Farina ("L'esilio eroico, ovvero la devotio di Cicerone"), starting from a reading of the post reditum and the pro Sestio, accepts the hypothesis that Cicero actually makes an effort to represent his exile as an act of devotio in order to rescue the State from civil war. By turning to a critical reading of Van Gennep's studies on the rites of passage, the author elucidates the strategy with which Cicero identifies the exile with devotio; in the process, however, Cicero modifies its sequences so that the servator patriae is assimilated again in his community, after the ritual death of the exile.

Francesca Faraci ("Il non luogo dell'esilio. Una lettura antropologica dello spazio ovidiano") reads Ovid's Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto under the anthropologist Marc Augé's categories of the non-place. Seen from Ovid's perspective as he represents his life in the place of the exile, we can notice the three fundamental features of the non-place: loss of identity, lack of relationships / loneliness and, in the end, absence of history, or in Ovid's terms, the absence of Roman traditions.

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