BMCR 2018.09.23

Was ist ein amicus? Überlegungen zu Konzept und praxis der amicitia bei Cicero, Marburg, 18. – 19. Mai 2017. Ciceroniana on line, I-2. 2017

, , , Was ist ein amicus? Überlegungen zu Konzept und praxis der amicitia bei Cicero, Marburg, 18. - 19. Mai 2017. Ciceroniana on line, I-2. 2017. : Ciceroniana On Line, 2017. 229-412. ISBN 2532-5353.

[Authors and titles are listed below.]

Locating Roman amicitia between the poles of utility and emotion remains a contested topic, in which the desire to believe what Cicero – the chief surviving source – tells us about his feelings is set against sociologically informed interpretations of friendship as a mode of elite behaviour. This collection of eight essays, a selection from last year’s conference “Was ist ein Amicus/Che cosa è un amico?” (Marburg, May 20171) plays out this debate across a range of Ciceronian texts and from a variety of perspectives, with some intriguing results.

Although Laelius is discussed in a number of essays, it is most extensively analysed in David Konstan’s piece, ‘Cicero’s Two Loves.’ In this piece, a complement to his 2015 essay on Laelius in a collection edited by Tutter and Wurmser on grief, he explores the philosophical implications of the definition of amicitia that Cicero adopts in Laelius in comparison with the feelings between a parent and child. The argument of Laelius, he argues, betrays an uneasiness about restricting love to being a response to virtue; it is sometimes, as in the case of parental love, instinctive. This is to be connected with the chronological context of Laelius, after the death of Tullia.

Laelius is also the starting point for Meinolf Vielberg’s chapter, ‘Alte Freunde im Gespräch: Anspruch und Wirklichkeit der amicitia bei Cicero.’ His focus is on the way in which Cicero shaped his presentation of the character of Laelius and the definition of friendship that the dialogue offers to suit his own experiences. Not only was Laelius – a consular, an orator, and an augur – a figure clearly parallel to Cicero (and one whom Cicero had invoked as a personal exemplar much earlier in his career), but his model of friendship suited remarkably well the closeness between Cicero and Atticus. And, something of an outlier in the collection as a whole, we have Sergey Vorontsov’s reading of Isidore of Seville reading Laelius.

The letters are a recurrent object of enquiry. Sandra Citroni Marchetti analyses Cicero’s reflections on friendship within the letters (‘Cicerone alla ricerca dell’amicizia: dalla domus alla res publica ’), showing how the res publica is often the third element in Cicero’s portrayal of friendship. (She is excellent, too, on Fam. 1.9.20, on the way in which Crassus’ presence in Cicero’s house shortly before his departure for his province in 55 stands for the relationship between the two men). The res publica as a touchstone for friendship is also a key element in Elena Köstner’s study of false friends and flatterers (‘Falsche Freunde: der Captator als dystopischer Gegenentwurf des idealen Amicus ’). Raphael Schwitter concentrates on letters of consolation (‘Der tröstende Freund: epistolares Rollenbild und kommunikative Verhaltensweise in Ciceros Epistulae ad Familiares ’), particularly those on the death of a child, to show how consolation was an inescapable task of a friend.

The letters are the basis, too, for Rollinger’s study of Roman friendship as a medium of exchange; among a number of incisive observations, he makes the point that it is precisely because letters are a substitute for a complex set of actions that would otherwise be performed face-to-face that their language can so often appear hyperbolic. Rollinger is particularly good on the letters of recommendation in book 13, though I wondered whether there was more work to be done about the scarcity value of amicitia : to argue on the basis of Ad Fam. 13 that ‘in the overwhelming majority of cases, requests such as that by Brutus were granted…’ may confuse absence of evidence with evidence of absence – or, indeed, the editing process, whatever it was – that underpins book 13 may have prioritised successful appeals over those that did not. Since the supply of elite goodies was not infinite (one’s cohors cannot be endlessly expanded) there must have been refusals; were these compatible with amicitia, or was there instead a careful management of amicitia to preclude such embarrassments? The wider social context of friendship is also the topic of Angela Gantner’s piece on tears, in which she argues that tears witness to the truth of friendship and thus differentiate it from the relationship of patronage. This observation allows her to develop an interesting reading of pro Plancio, in which Cicero’s tears in that speech are a beneficium for Plancius, which proves the reality of their relationship against the scepticism of the prosecution.

Overall, this is a worthwhile collection with some stand-out pieces, essential reading on its own topic of Cicero and friendship, which also has much to offer those interested in Roman Republican society and culture more widely. The journal is OA, and the editors are to be commended on their very timely publication of these papers.

Authors and titles

Atti del convegno – Actes du colloque “Was ist ein amicus?” 227
P. Rousselot, Official greetings 229
M. Reith, Bericht zu der internationalen Tagung 231
S. Citroni Marchetti, Cicerone alla ricerca dell’amicizia: dalla domus alla res publica 235
M. Vielberg, Alte Freunde im Gespräch: Anspruch und Wirklichkeit der amicitia bei Cicero 261
D. Konstan, Cicero’s Two Loves 291
A. Ganter, Patronus und amicus. Ciceros Tränen als Grundlage sozialer Integration 307
E. Köstner, Falsche Freunde: der captator als dystopischer Gegenentwurf des idealen Amicus 325
C. Rollinger, Beyond Laelius. The Orthopraxy of Friendship in the Late Republic 343
R. Schwitter, Der tröstende Freund – Epistolares Rollenbild und kommunikative Verhaltensweise in Ciceros Epistulae ad familiares 369
S. Vorontsov, Amicitia and caritas in the 7th Century: Isidore of Seville and His Sources 395


1. The Conference Program may be found here.