BMCR 2007.02.12

Cicero. Pro Archia Poeta Oratio. Introduction, Text, Vocabulary, and Commentary. Second edition

, , Cicero : Pro Archia poeta oratio. Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Pro Archia.. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 2006. xxvii, 129 pages ; 23 cm + teacher's guide (v, 117 pages ; 28 cm) / by Linda A. Fabrizio. ISBN 0865166420 $18.00 (pb).

Table of Contents

This second edition by Steven M. Cerutti (hereafter C.) of Cicero’s speech in defense of the poet Archias delivers an introduction, text, commentary, vocabulary, and two appendices covering (respectively) proper or place names and rhetorical or political terminology. Teachers who recognized the numerous virtues of the first edition (1998) will equally welcome the second. C. has introduced some modifications to the commentary to meet the perceived needs of high-school students reading the Pro Archia as part of the Advanced Placement Latin Literature curriculum. Others can more ably comment on the edition’s success in that regard. I focus here on its usefulness to an introductory/intermediate-level university class, drawing partly upon my experience with C.’s first edition to teach a third-semester Latin Prose course at Yale University in the Fall of 2003 to a group of 20 undergraduate and graduate students.

First some nuts and bolts. C. largely bases his text on Clark’s OCT (1911) and mentions textual problems only when absolutely necessary. Readability remains the aim of the text offered to the student. Thus in the last (hopelessly corrupt) sentence of section 5, C. informs us of a textual crux but maintains focus upon the meaning of the sentence as printed.

The glossaries cover those terms most essential to understanding the intellectual, political, and social milieu in which Cicero operates. They are also well matched to the introduction’s brief yet informative discussion, which itself divides into three parts: Cicero’s political and forensic activities (mostly covering events through 62 BCE); Archias and the legal background of the case; and an outline and summary of the speech following the traditional five-part schema: exordium, narratio, refutatio, confirmatio, peroratio.

In addition to the vocabulary at the back C. has chosen to provide a running vocabulary on the left-hand page, thus sparing pointless flipping through either this edition or a dictionary. C. accompanies that choice with a keen understanding of vocabulary acquisition: “The second time a word occurs, it is marked with an asterisk; the third time two asterisks; the fourth time, three asterisks, and thereafter it is dropped from the list…it is likely that the student…will, on the fifth encounter with the word, be able to recognize it and, in context, recall its meaning” (p. xi). One quibble: it seems odd that C. defines “civitas” only as “citizenship” in the vocabularies, although Cicero also employs “civitas” in the more familiar meaning “city” (C. gives this sense, however, in the note cum translation at the end of section 6). Also, teachers hoping to touch upon the basics of prose rhythm will miss the absence of vowel quantities in the vocabulary.

The edition is nearly error free.1 Two points deserve more substantive comment. When Cicero states “Primum Antiochae—nam ibi natus est loco nobili—celebri quondam urbe …” (section 4), he slips in the detail “loco nobili” not in praise of Antioch, but rather in order to designate Archias’ social standing: “he was born there into a good/noble family” (cf. OLD “locus” 17 and TLL VII, 1588, 38 ff. [Kuhlmann, 1976]). The notes to section 27 could offer more help with “Fulvius non dubitavit Martis manubias Musis consecrare”. Students will miss a definition of “dubitare” plus infinitive as “to hesitate (to do χ to have second thoughts (about doing X)”. A brief discussion of content would also be useful at this crucial moment in the speech. Cicero boldly connects military success and regard for poets. He reinforces that proposition through the alliteration of Mars, “manubiae”, and the Muses: the language demonstrates the idea. This would be an ideal moment to demonstrate (and to explain) the artistry of Cicero’s language. The notes are clear throughout and fruitfully employ the glossary explanations of key rhetorical features, such as chiasmus, hyperbaton, and hendiadys. Examples of hendiadys abound, and C. carefully explains and smoothly translates these tricky bits of Ciceronian fullness, as in section 3, where “tanto conventu hominum ac frequentia” is both translated literally and then rendered as “with so numerous a throng of men.” Students are taught to distinguish the literal meaning from Cicero’s meaning.

C. also knows when less is more. He wisely refuses to encumber a student’s progression through the text (and therefore progress in Latin) with minutiae better left to more advanced readers, such as the distinction between a potentially less assertive “certe scio” and the less reluctant “certo scio” with which Cicero unreservedly concludes the speech. Such silences are thoughtful exclusions rather than negligent omissions and should be considered among the edition’s cardinal virtues.

The commentary likewise alerts students to some hallmarks of Cicero’s Latin (e.g. “quae cum ita sint”, although there seems to be nothing on “esse videa(n)tur”). C. also promotes invaluable reading strategies along the way. Great stress is laid, for example, on “ita”, “sic”, or “tam” preceding a result clause, or on the use of demonstrative pronouns to anticipate relative clauses, as in section 4: “ab eis artibus quibus aetas puerilis ad humanitatem informari solet.” Pointing out such features crucially nudges students beyond the beginner’s tendency to atomize Latin into discrete, unconnected units and instead gets them to read longer sentences as coherent structures. In this regard the commentary puts its finger on one of the most difficult tasks in learning (and teaching) Latin at this stage: no longer reading solely in order to “translate for the test” but also in order to develop a more refined Sprachgefühl.

The occasional note that relates sentence structure or vocabulary choice to larger themes both fulfills pedagogical needs and also reminds us of the tricky balancing act between simply teaching and inspiring real interest in sophisticated texts with a readership at this level: fit your line solely with technical syntactical and rhetorical terms or with explanations of subjunctive X in subordinate clause Y and students are less likely to take the bait. Go fishing with the idea that Cicero (and classical authors tout court) keenly considered and combined form and content in a manner that was meaningful and not simply mechanical, and at least some students will bite.2 C. astutely notes how Cicero, while describing Archias’ attempts to obtain citizenship (section 7), imitates the language of the law he has just cited in order to suggest Archias’ compliance with it.

In this regard C.’s correct but unconnected observation on Cicero’s avoidance of strict parallelism at the end of section 27 (sentence 2 on the note to “togati iudices”) strikes me as awkwardly formalistic (one wonders if Gotoff’s analysis lurks in the background).3 Yet the immediately preceding comment (sentence 1) on Cicero’s attempt to insert Archias into an esteemed line of Roman exempla both hits the mark and gives students food for thought. C. helps us to see the force of the parallel that Cicero does create: equating patriotic Romanness with the acceptance and fostering of poets (the kind of oratorical strategy that could, for the sake of engaging classroom discussion, be compared to some American politicians’ rhetorical equation of “support for the war in Iraq” with “support for America”).

The introductory material places the Pro Archia among Cicero’s most aesthetically powerful orations and stresses the speech’s championing of humanistic principles. Undoubtedly such virtues partly account for its enduring value and apparent comeback in college curricula in competition with the Catiline orations or the defense of Caelius. Yet beyond its simultaneous appeal both as and for belles-lettres the recent attention paid to this work as part of Ciceronian “self-fashioning” can lend sophistication and new direction to classroom discussions about the place of the Pro Archia in Cicero’s public career and in Roman culture more generally.4 C. economically yet sufficiently highlights the work’s social and historical contexts. He thereby helps us to read and to teach it in light of Cicero’s careful staging of his public face(s) and against the background of the Late Republic’s whirlwind years. Bringing these considerations to class can also help teachers win over the next generation of students, given the practical pressures that equate getting students into the classroom with getting resources into the department. That generation will be fortunate to begin reading the Pro Archia with this edition.


1. A few problems of note (some of which have crept into the second edition): read “when in” for “when. In” (p. xviii); there are two very similar notes on “inde usque” (p. 5); the cross-reference to “199-200” (on “quae cum ita sint”) should probably read “200-203” (p. 85).

2. At the risk of waxing biographical, as a Biology major at UC Berkeley I switched camps to Classics/CompLit largely because of Brian Krostenko’s intermediate Latin course on Vergil: by drawing students’ attention to the Aeneid’s interconnection of language and theme, he gave life to the focus on Latin grammar and Vergilian hexameter.

3. Gotoff, H. C. Cicero’s Elegant Style: An Analysis of the Pro Archia, Urbana, Illinois (1979). See also C. Murgia’s detailed review of Gotoff’s book: Murgia, C. “Review Article: Analyzing Cicero’s Style”, CP 76 (1981): 301-313.

4. Especially relevant are Narducci, E. Cicerone e l’eloquenza romana, Rome and Bari (1997), and Dugan, J. Making a New Man, Oxford (2005).