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Keeping up Appearances: Shame and Oratory in Cicero's Thought
Unformatted Document Text:  whether an orator is good or bad, there has never been disagreement between experts and the common people. 42 Cicero continues by remarking that “this is the very mark of supreme oratory, that the supreme orator is recognized by the people.” 43 That is, despite expert knowledge, non- experts were capable of recognizing him. For this reason, Atticists, who look to expert judgment and classicizing external standards, simply lack the ability to engage in the stuff of politics – that is, persuasion - as fully and effectively as orators ought to be able to do if they are to measure up to the ideal. The ideal orator, then, is and must be flexible: “one must not speak in the same style at all times, nor before the people, nor against all opponents, nor in defense of all clients, nor in partnership with all advocates. He, therefore, will be eloquent who can adapt his speech to fit all conceivable circumstances.” 44 Cicero’s own practice demonstrates this; in his speech De Lege Agraria, for instance, Cicero addressed a popular audience (that is, the speech was performed at a contio). In this speech, and as opposed to other speeches such as the Pro Sestio, Cicero portrays himself as a popularis, a stance that enables him to play off of his popular audience’s fears. Cicero argued that Rullus’ proposed land bill would rob the Roman people of land and liberty, a prospect made more frightening by its source: its champion was a tribune, “a magistrate whom our ancestors intended to be the protector and guardian of liberty.” Despite the intent of Rome’s ancestors that the tribunes safeguard liberty, this law would instead “set up kings 42 Ibid. 185. 43 Ibid. 186. Cf. On the Ideal Orator III.197. 44 ———, Orator. 123 14

Authors: Kapust, Daniel.
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whether an orator is good or bad, there has never been disagreement between
experts and the common people.

Cicero continues by remarking that “this is the very mark of supreme oratory, that the
supreme orator is recognized by the people.”
That is, despite expert knowledge, non-
experts were capable of recognizing him. For this reason, Atticists, who look to expert
judgment and classicizing external standards, simply lack the ability to engage in the stuff
of politics – that is, persuasion - as fully and effectively as orators ought to be able to do
if they are to measure up to the ideal.
The ideal orator, then, is and must be flexible: “one must not speak in the same
style at all times, nor before the people, nor against all opponents, nor in defense of all
clients, nor in partnership with all advocates. He, therefore, will be eloquent who can
adapt his speech to fit all conceivable circumstances.”
Cicero’s own practice
demonstrates this; in his speech De Lege Agraria, for instance, Cicero addressed a
popular audience (that is, the speech was performed at a contio). In this speech, and as
opposed to other speeches such as the Pro Sestio, Cicero portrays himself as a popularis,
a stance that enables him to play off of his popular audience’s fears. Cicero argued that
Rullus’ proposed land bill would rob the Roman people of land and liberty, a prospect
made more frightening by its source: its champion was a tribune, “a magistrate whom our
ancestors intended to be the protector and guardian of liberty.” Despite the intent of
Rome’s ancestors that the tribunes safeguard liberty, this law would instead “set up kings
42
Ibid. 185.
43
Ibid. 186. Cf. On the Ideal Orator III.197.
44
———, Orator. 123
14


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