BMCR 2003.01.17

Brill’s Companion to Cicero: Oratory and Rhetoric

, Brill's companion to Cicero : oratory and rhetoric. Leiden: Brill, 2002. 1 online resource (xiii, 632 pages). ISBN 1423712498 $174.00.

The “companion” seems to have come into its own as a scholarly genre in recent years. For decades classicists had to content themselves with the Companions to Greek and Latin Studies by Leonard Whibley and Sir John Edwin Sandys respectively, later joined by F.E. Hall’s Companion to Classical Texts and Sir Paul Harvey’s Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, with the publisher specified in the title, as is now standard. The new “companions” specify an author or genre, and so far the most “companionable” authors seem to be the poets, with “companions” to Greek tragedy, Virgil, and Ovid already in print, and the philosophers (early Greek philosophy, Plato, Aristotle). It is welcome that Brill is bucking that trend with this new volume and another recent one on Herodotus.

The “companion” to an author as produced in the past is dedicated to his entire oeuvre; the subtitle of this volume, “Oratory and Rhetoric,” therefore comes as a surprise, not least since Cicero himself tended to lump his writings on rhetorical theory together with those on philosophy (Div. 2.1-4) and to regard his work as an orator as tied to his philosophical training (Orat. 12: . . . fateor me oratorem . . . non ex rhetorum officinis sed ex Academiae spatiis extitisse). Admittedly, given the massive extent of Cicero’s corpus, some division of material may have been needed on pragmatic grounds of series format. An alternative would have been to divide the material between two volumes, one combining rhetorical theory with philosophy, the other the speeches with the letters, which shed so much light on them (this volume contains, however, no hint that another is contemplated to deal with the rest of the corpus).

Ciceronian studies are, of course, international in character, and it seems reasonable to expect such a “companion” to reflect that fact. In this volume, after a brief editor’s Preface, follow seventeen chapters by thirteen different authors, all but three of them Americans: Hall (Otago, but trained in the U.S.), Wisse (Newcastle, but trained in the Netherlands), and Narducci (Florence). Though any editor is, of course, constrained by the availability of willing collaborators, this volume would have been enriched if contributors representing the distinct styles of scholarship practiced in France, Germany, Poland, and/or the U.K. could have been engaged.

The contents are as follows: three introductory chapters on 1) Cicero’s life, 2) the state of rhetorical education in his youth and 3) “Ciceronian oratory in context” are followed by chapters on the speeches of the five major periods (whereby, however, Pro Archia and Pro Sulla, falling into the crack between the consular speeches and the ones delivered post reditum, inevitably get short shrift); there is also a chapter on Ciceronian invective and one on the lost and fragmentary speeches. Thus there is a crossing of several categories (chronology, tone, and state of preservation) with some overlapping. A chapter entitled “The Intellectual Background of Cicero’s Rhetorical Works” is then followed by four chapters on the various rhetorical treatises (except De inventione, handled in chapter 2). The penultimate chapter is on the influence of the orations and rhetorica, the final one surveys “selected recent work on Cicero’s rhetorica and speeches.” Chapters on Cicero’s use of rhythm and on the language and style of his speeches1 and rhetorica would have been welcome. The volume concludes with a Bibliography by C.P. Craig arranged by author’s name and then cross-referenced to Ciceronian works, a General Index and an Index locorum. The whole has been handsomely produced in terms of typography, layout and binding.

May explains his policies in the Preface. As editor he has “avoided imposing a stringent set of requirements on the authors or any sort of artificial uniformity . . ., nor have I attempted to reconcile disagreements” etc. (p.x). The volume would have benefited, however, if the contributors had been given the opportunity to read and refer to each others’ papers: this occurs but is the exception rather than the rule (e.g., cross-references between Corbeill on invective and Hall on the Philippics would have been helpful).

May also remarks (p.ix) that the target audience is “both students and experts in the field.” Addressing both audiences is, of course, tricky and is variously handled by the authors, May’s own contributions tending more toward the former audience, the others toward the latter. Chapter 1 (by May: “Cicero: His Life and Career”) is generally encomiastic in tendency while recognizing some of the subject’s foibles. It is also mostly straight narrative with little in the way of source-citation or adjudication of problems such as Cicero’s motives for departing for Greece in 79 (Plutarch’s and Cicero’s differing explanations are juxtaposed on p.5). In saying (p.8) “during this time, too, Cicero lost his father and had, himself, become a father with the birth of his son, Marcus,” May seems to forget that Cicero was already the father of Tullia when Marcus jr. was born.2 May twice asserts (pp.6 and 7) that Cicero was curule aedile of the year 69: although by the late Republic patrician birth was no longer a requirement for that post, the fact that the games he gave were dedicated to Ceres, Liber, Libera and to Flora argues that he was, in fact, plebeian aedile.3 At p. 10, n. 16, May cites W.J. Tatum for Clodius’ career but then goes on to argue with regard to his impending exile that “Cicero surely saw the handwriting on the wall . . .” (p. 10) without engaging Tatum’s view that this outcome was unforeseen even by Clodius.4 The general view is that De divinatione was mostly written before the Ides of March, albeit at four points references to the assassination were subsequently worked into the text (May, pp. 15-16 puts the treatise after the Ides).5 For student readers this account may be satisfactory, but it would have been more in line with the work of the other contributors if May had assigned this chapter to a historian, who could have addressed problems, come to terms with recent literature, etc. In his other chapter (3: “Ciceronian Oratory in Context”), expanding on an earlier article (see p.51, n.4), May helpfully calls attention to the differences that often puzzle students between forensic speaking in Cicero’s time and today. In contrasting Cicero, however, with other orators who needed to call upon the help of legal experts for their cases (p.52), May seems to forget that Cicero himself did so on at least one occasion (cf. Caec. 77-80).

Chapter 2 (A. Corbeill: “Rhetorical Education in Cicero’s Youth”) traces Cicero’s early training as it is attested in the sources and, based on a comparison of De inventione with the Rhetorica ad Herennium, seeks to determine the degree to which rhetorical instruction was already “Romanized” in Cicero’s youth. There are some problems with the historical part. It seems doubtful that “his uncle Gaius Aculeo is a good candidate for being among the first teachers to introduce him to legal studies” (p.26); Cicero never says this, only that Aculeo trained his own son in the civil law (Brut. 264); and Crassus’ words in De oratore (1.191) rank Aculeo’s knowledge of the law after that of Scaevola, from whom Cicero is known to have learned (Leg. 1.13); Cicero and Aculeo’s sons are said to have learned together (presumably at an elementary level and in Arpinum) from teachers approved by Crassus (De orat. 2.2). Nor is it the case that “the Greek education of Cicero’s Crassus and the activities of the historical Crassus [i.e., in regard to the banning of Latin rhetors in 92 B.C.] seem at odds with one another” (p.25). Nothing in De oratore implies that Cicero’s Crassus studied with or recommended study with Latin rhetors. There is still no consensus about the relation of De inventione and the Rhetorica ad Herennium. Scholars will want to give close consideration to Corbeill’s argument, on the basis of their respective latest datable references, that De inventione precedes and that the two represent different stages in “the Romanization of Greek models”; perhaps, however, some scope should be left for the authors’ personal preferences.

In treating “Cicero’s Early Speeches” (Chapter 4) A. Vasaly handles some materials, notably Pro Roscio Amerino and Verrine 2.4, that she has previously dealt with in detail6 but also adds new points. Particularly interesting here is the analysis of the ways Pro Quinctio adumbrates the technique of Rosc. Am., as well as Cicero’s use of the speeches prior to Pro lege Manilia as a vehicle for political commentary. She includes a rather lengthy discussion of Asianism and Atticism (pp.82-87) to make the point that the change in Cicero’s style after the years spent in Greece (79-77) was one of actio, not elocutio.

Apropos of “Cicero’s Consular Speeches” (Chapter 5) R.W. Cape starts from Cicero’s letter Att. 2.1; here he responds to a request by presenting his friend with a corpus of ten speeches delivered in his consulate. This cohort was selected according to specific principles from more extensive materials and was meant to be read together as a unit. Cape goes on to discuss principles of inclusion and exclusion (the exclusion of Pro Murena being especially problematic) and then sketches out (without much reference to the secondary literature, though there is an extensive bibliography appended) some of the (considerable) implications for the way the speeches are read; particularly De lege agraria and Pro Rabirio perduellionis reo come into their own when contextualized this way. Cape promises a more extensive treatment of the Catilinarians elsewhere (p.143, n.74).

The gem of this collection is A.M. Riggsby’s treatment of the post reditum speeches (Chapter 6). This term has been taken in various senses: Nicholson applies it only to post reditum in senatu and post reditum ad populum, whereas Maslowski includes those speeches plus Dom. and Har. in his Teubner vol. entitled Orationes post reditum.7 Riggsby takes the term in a broader sense to include the speeches between Cicero’s return from exile and the onset of the civil war, a disparate corpus of fourteen extant items in various oratorical categories.8 It is not easy to find common denominators in this heterogeneous mass, but Riggsby succeeds admirably, shedding new light on such questions as Cicero’s construction of history, especially his own exile, of the so-called triumviri,9 and of religion.

As the author of a book on political humor in the later Republic,10 Corbeill is well placed to analyze “Ciceronian invective” (chapter 7). He discusses the various types of invective and Cicero’s major deployments of them. Moreover, he usefully sets such invective into the context of Cicero’s theory of the community-building function of praise and blame as set forth at Rep. 5.6 and ad Brut. 1.15.10.

One of the surprises of this book is that in chapter 8 the smallest corpus, the Caesarian speeches, numbering only three – for most readers perhaps not Cicero’s happiest products -, receives the most extensive treatment. H.C. Gotoff, author of a stylistic commentary on these speeches,11 offers a defense of their quality, though he cannot muster a more enthusiastic adjective than “competent” (p.268), and a minute analysis, tracing the tone and the crafting of Cicero’s persona here from paragraph to paragraph. In discussions of the dialogues in which he is a speaker one is used to seeing Cicero referred to in inverted commas; Gotoff adopts this practice here on the grounds that “the ‘himself’ Cicero injects is just another persona” (p. 250). Of these speeches, Deiot., with its obscure procedure, is the most difficult; here Gotoff’s supposition that it is a cognitio extra ordinem to test loyalties preliminary to Caesar’s planned Parthian expedition (p.265) is helpful as are his comparisons with similar arguments deployed in Lig. In spite of Gotoff’s efforts (p.267), however, it is hard to take the “thick thread” with which the speech is said to have been constructed (Fam. 9.12) as other than self-deprecating.

For the Philippics (chapter 9) J. Hall helpfully starts with a narrative contextualizing each speech in terms of political circumstances and venue of delivery. Then follows a section on the “rhetoric of crisis,” including the “disjunctive mode” which presents stark alternatives, enargeia, and exaggeration; Hall concedes that such devices are found in earlier Roman rhetoric but argues that “the main difference lies in the vigor and intensity with which he pursues the rhetoric of crisis throughout the Philippics as a whole” (p.287). He goes on to explore the range of techniques of the different speeches, from the caricature of the Second to the dicacitas of the analysis of Antony’s letter in the Thirteenth; the achievement is thrown into relief by comparisons with the invectives against Catiline and Piso. But even the Philippics are not all invective; so Hall also includes a section on “the rhetorical purpose of praise and honorary decrees.” A concluding section takes note of the leaner style of these speeches as well as of the Caesarian speeches; the shorter sentences and colon-lengths might have been considered in connection with a purely technical problem faced by aging orators, namely diminishing lung capacity, broached by Cicero at Leg. 1.11; see also Crawford, pp.310-11, n.13.

J.W. Crawford is well prepared to write a chapter (10) on “the lost and fragmentary orations,” given her extensive work on this topic, to which she often refers for details.12 She makes a good case for paying close attention to this relatively neglected material, which fills out in important ways our knowledge of Cicero and his oratorical technique. One of her concerns is to work out Cicero’s probable reasons for publishing or not publishing a given speech. Certainly one factor was Cicero’s wish to provide models for advocates in training, as W. Stroh has emphasized;13 but considerations of a political and careerist type may also be involved, as Crawford plausibly argues. Her decade-by-decade survey of Cicero’s publication of his speeches (helpfully summarized in the table on p. 327) shows his increasing caution down to the end of the 50s followed by a surge of publication in the 40s. A few small points: p. 311, l. 27: Crawford evidently meant to write Verrines II.1-5, rather than Verrines II-IV as the published but not delivered speeches; p. 312, l. 28: the logic of the sentence seems to demand “so one can rule out the possibility . . .”; p. 315, ll. 31-33: it is not clear whether the De proscriptorum liberis or De Othone were among the speeches requested by Atticus or “extra” members of the consular corpus (Cape quotes and discusses Att. 2.1.3 at pp.116-17); p. 319, ll. 7-9: Cicero’s justification of the execution of the captured Catilinarians was, in fact, invalid, but not for the reason Crawford gives; the consul was subject to the senate’s orders, not vice-versa; but Cicero omitted the step of allowing the condemned men provocatio to the maximus comitiatus (Leg. 3.11 and 44 with my commentary [forthcoming]); p. 325, ll. 22-24: she might have pointed out that Pro Caelio includes a prosopopoiia, not only of an ancestor, but of Clodius himself (section 36).

In the chapter on “the intellectual background of the rhetorical works” (11), J. Wisse emphasizes the complexity of intellectual life in Cicero’s day. He begins with the general place of Greek learning in Rome of the first century B.C., the teaching of grammar and rhetoric (with some comments on the role of Alexandrian philology), then, after Solmsen, the two basic models on which rhetorical handbooks were organized, the “parts of the speech” or “the activities of the orator”; in the latter case the “parts of the speech” were subsumed either under arrangement or invention. There follow sections on “the quarrel between rhetoricians and philosophers” and “Atticism” and appended “final remarks.” Wisse shows himself sensitive both to the nuances of the Latin texts he deals with and of the different historical contexts and so navigates a generally careful course through tricky and controversial waters. He takes note of H.D. Jocelyn’s skepticism that Greek philosophy penetrated very deeply into Roman society14 and calls it “useful as an antidote against some lofty visions of the effect of Greek philosophy on Roman society” (pp.335-36, n.7) but still seems to me a bit too quick to claim, on a very limited evidentiary basis, that “acceptance of Greek culture was dominant” in the late Republic (p.336). On p.346 he might have noted Cicero’s own private rhetorical instruction for (very select) members of the nobility as a sign of changing attitudes (Fam. 7.33.1; 9.16.7 and 18.3). Under the influences of grammar on Atticism (p.367) Wisse might have adduced the treatise “On words suspected of not having been spoken by the ancients” by Aristophanes of Byzantium (frr. 1-36 Slater).

In the next chapter (12) Wisse discusses that unique contribution to the ancient rhetorical literature, De oratore. He delineates how Cicero’s approach differs from that current in his day: being, unlike most rhetores, himself a practicing orator, Cicero is well placed to criticize their rules, in particular the doctrine of the “parts of the speech” and the persuasive techniques appropriate to each. Scrapping this approach, he goes back instead to the Aristotelian analysis of the “activities of the orator,” which allows “maximum flexibility when dealing with the concrete case” (p.386). Likewise Peripatetic and different from current practices is Cicero’s approach to style in Book 3 based upon the four “virtutes dicendi” and his attention to prose rhythm. Wisse concludes by showing that Cicero seeks to mediate the traditional quarrel between philosophers and rhetoricians by claiming that the orator should be trained in philosophy and criticizing the rhetoricians for failing to provide a training in general propositions (theses). As one expects from the co-author of vol. 4 of the Leeman-Pinkster commentary and of a recent translation of De oratore,15 Wisse is in general a reliable guide here, dispelling a number of misunderstandings as he goes.

E. Narducci contributes chapters 13-14 on the Brutus and Orator (translated from the Italian by J.M. May). Dating from 46 during Caesar’s dictatorship, with its reduced role for public speaking, these two anti-Atticist tracts show reduced claims for the orator since De oratore. As a history of Roman oratory, Brutus is more objective. The simple schema of “plain” vs. “impassioned” style is represented by Cicero as a personal preference of early orators, though we are now learning to view it as conditioned by the pressure of social roles.16 Orator was composed in haste and also dedicated to M. Brutus, who was apparently not pleased with it, in spite of its author’s satisfaction (cf. pp.427-28). It succeeds De oratore as a systematic account of the making of an orator. Still more emphatically than in the Brutus, Cicero sets Demosthenes in opposition to the Atticists’ stylistic models, Lysias and Thucydides: Demosthenes, like Cicero, was a master of all three styles (Low, Middle, High), which Cicero identifies with the three functions of the orator (docere, delectare, flectere), possibly his own original contribution to rhetorical theory.17 The treatise concludes with the most detailed advice we have from antiquity on the use of prose rhythm in oratory, once again in opposition to the Atticists, who evidently eschewed this. Narducci concludes with some general reflections on the orator’s relation to spoken and written discourse.

Not necessarily expected, but welcome nonetheless, is the chapter on the minor rhetorical treatises Partitiones oratoriae and Topica (15). Here R.N. Gaines insists (p.447) that the two works represent respectively “rhetorical philosophy” and “philosophical rhetoric,” a distinction that seems to me more confusing than helpful; but in any case it is right to emphasize the philosophical connection. Gaines presents detailed summaries of the contents of the two works followed by analysis. The handling of Partitiones oratoriae is the more original. Gaines rightly points out that the fictive situation, namely a dialogue between Cicero and Marcus jr., need not reflect the circumstances of the date of composition, as previous scholars have assumed, for the dialogue of father and son is a convention that had been used by the Elder Cato and by the jurist M. Junius Brutus (pp.448-49). Gaines’ analysis leads him to conclude that “the presentation of multiple rhetorical theories in Partitiones oratoriae coheres with – perhaps even suggests – the idea that Cicero designed the work to represent rhetorical inquiry in the Academic school” (p.464), an idea for which section 139 provides support. He wants to open up possible dates for Part. to any time between 64 and “at least 44” (p.466). This range can, however, be narrowed: surely Part. is not prior to De oratore, which refers (1.5) to an adolescent work, generally agreed to be De inventione, as his previous contribution to this genre. Moreover, De officiis is extant as an example of what a work dedicated to Marcus jr. after he had achieved years of discretion looks like: here the young man is called upon to use his own judgment;18 in Part., on the other hand, Marcus jr. has the child’s role of asking that the Greek precepts he has learned be rendered in Latin, etc. (section 1); it would hardly be an appropriate dedication for Marcus jr. at or near adulthood (he put on the toga virilis in 49: Att. 9.19.1). In regard to the Topica the vexed question is the relation to Aristotle’s Topics; Gaines thinks he has a philological solution: analyzing the phrase “institui Topica Aristotelea conscribere” from the dedicatory letter (Fam. 7.19.1), Gaines notes “conscribere without the preposition de never means anything like ‘summarize’ or ‘explicate’ . . .” He concludes that the meaning must be “I began to write my Aristotelian Topica” or “I began to write a Topica in the manner of Aristotle” (p. 469). The insertions in both of these renderings (“my” and “in the manner of”) seem not to bother him. In fact, the meaning becomes clear if one turns to Top. 5, where we read: “itaque haec, cum mecum libros non haberem, memoria repetita in ipsa navigatione conscripsi,” and indeed Shackleton Bailey correctly renders Fam. 7.19.1 “I set to work on writing up Aristotle’s Topics.” Never mind that Cicero was confused and has given us something quite different; that is what he thought he was doing. On the other hand, Gaines’ comparison of Part. and Top. is helpful and shows that the latter, no less than the former, is deeply embedded in the teachings of the Academy (though he judiciously declines to pinpoint a single, specific source for the whole).

The last two chapters (17-18) offer a survey of Cicero’s oratorical and rhetorical legacy (G.A. Kennedy) and a review of relevant scholarship of the past quarter century (C.P. Craig). In twenty felicitious pages Kennedy follows the fate of Cicero and the relevant portion of his corpus from his death through the nineteenth century. Particularly interesting here is the later fate of the rhetorica, with De inventione dominating to the mid-12th century, the Ad Herennium then taking over until Poggio’s rediscovery of Quintilian and G. Landriani’s of the Brutus and the full recension of De oratore.19 “Ciceronianism” in style and Cicero’s place in educational curricula also form important way stations. Craig’s survey provides a series of useful summaries, apt judgments, and shrewd hints about where further work is needed; one suspects that his pages will be much thumbed by graduate students trawling for dissertation topics.

The cover blurb emphasizes that these contributors have “all . . . spent large portions of their careers concentrating upon the oratorical and rhetorical oeuvre of Cicero.” Indeed, one has the impression of a team of veteran professionals going through their paces. Seldom is new ground broken (notably by Riggsby and Cape and, to a lesser extent, Vasaly and Gaines); but no doubt that is the safest way of organizing such a “companion.” In spite of some unevenness and some missed opportunities, especially in the way the project was initially defined, Ciceronians and indeed all readers of Cicero’s oratorical and rhetorical works will be happy to have this volume; may it be the starting point of much future research into the best documented figure of pagan Rome.


1. Only the discussions of Pro rege Deiotaro and of the Philippics include a section on style.

2. Marcus jr. was born in 65, as we know from Att. 1.2.1; Tullia’s date of birth: 5 August 79 or possibly 78: P. Goebe, RE 7A2 (1943), 1329.27-29; N. Marinone, Cronologia ciceroniana (Rome, 1997), 59 (the marriage to Terentia will thus have preceded the trip to Greece; contrast May, p.6, who places the marriage to Terentia “upon his return to Rome in 77 B.C.”).

3. Cf. T.R.S. Broughton, Magistrates of the Roman Republic, 2 (New York, 1952), 132 and 136 n.5.

4. Cf. W. Jeffrey Tatum, The Patrician Tribune: Publius Clodius Pulcher (Chapel Hill, 1999), 155-56.

5. Cf. Matthias Gelzer, Cicero: ein biographischer Versuch (Wiesbaden, 1969), 335 and n.147.

6. Ann Vasaly, Representations: Images of the World in Ciceronian Oratory (Berkeley, 1993), 104-28 and 157-72.

7. John Nicholson, Cicero’s Return from Exile: the Orations post reditum (New York, 1992); M.T. Cicero, Orationes post reditum, ed. T. Maslowski (Leipzig, 1981) (these are not mentioned by Riggsby).

8. He posits, but does not argue for, this classification; I have adduced some supporting evidence at HSPh 98 (1998), 240 n.87.

9. Here he might have found some use in U. Riemer, Das Caesarbild Ciceros (Hamburg, 2001).

10. A. Corbeill, Controlling Laughter: Political Humor in the Late Roman Republic (Princeton, 1996).

11. H.C. Gotoff, Cicero’s Caesarian Speeches: a Stylistic Commentary (Chapel Hill, 1993).

12. J.W. Crawford, M. Tullius Cicero: The Lost and Unpublished Orations (Göttingen, 1984); ead., M. Tullius Cicero: The Fragmentary Speeches, 2d edn. (Atlanta, 1994).

13. Wilfried Stroh, Taxis und Taktik. Die advokatische Dispositionskunst in Ciceros Gerichtsreden (Stuttgart, 1975), 52.

14. H.D. Jocelyn, “The Ruling Class of the Roman Republic and Greek Philosophers,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 59 (1977), 323-66.

15. A.D. Leeman, H. Pinkster et al., M. Tullius Cicero. De oratore libri III. Kommentar (Heidelberg, 1981- [vol. 4: 1996]); J.M. May and J. Wisse, tr. with introduction and notes, Cicero. On the Ideal Oratore (De oratore), New York-Oxford, 2001.

16. Narducci, 406-7, after J.-M. David, cited 406, n.9.

17. Narducci, 434, after A.E. Douglas, cited n. 11.

18. Off. 3.33: sic ego a te postulo, mi Cicero, ut mihi concedas, si potes, nihil praeter id quod honestum sit propter se esse expetendum.

19. Apropos of textual transmission one might add to p.491, n.29, reference to L.D. Reynolds, ed., Texts and Transmission (Oxford, 1983).