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Keeping up Appearances: Shame and Oratory in Cicero's Thought
Unformatted Document Text:  in the republic;” in point this out, Cicero was standing for the liberty of the people. 45 The irony of Cicero’s argument is clear: a man who normally claimed to be an optimatus now claimed to be the true popularis, yet his popularitas was manifest in his opposition to a land reform bill, the very sort of legislation he suggests populares favor in On Duties. 46 Thus he tells Rullus, who had proposed the land law, “You made a great mistake… in hoping that, by opposing a consul who was popular in reality not in pretence, you could be considered popular in overthrowing the republic.” 47 According to Cicero, the people want peace, harmony, and leisure, and he employs the fearful prospect of lost liberty to sway them to his view of Rullus’ law. That Cicero was (to put it charitably) dissembling in his self-presentation suggests the vice of manipulation, but the propriety of such a mode of argument was a function of the context in which Cicero spoke; in certain circumstances, one might need to make false popularis appeals in order to defeat dangerous populares. Similarly, in On the Ideal 45 Cicero, De Lege Agraria, in Cicero: Pro Publio Quinctio, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino, Pro Quinto Roscio Comoedo, De Lege Agraria, trans. John Henry Freese (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 2.6. On this oration, see Robert Morstein-Marx, Mass Oratory and Political Power in the Late Roman Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 195. 46 On Cicero’s use of the terms optimatus and popularis, see Robin Seager, "Cicero and the Word Popularis," The Classical Quarterly 22, no. 2 (1972). On populares and land reform, see Cicero, On Duties, ed. M.T. Griffin and E.M. Atkins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). II.73. 47 Cicero, De Lege Agraria, 1.23. 15

Authors: Kapust, Daniel.
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in the republic;” in point this out, Cicero was standing for the liberty of the people.
The
irony of Cicero’s argument is clear: a man who normally claimed to be an optimatus now
claimed to be the true popularis, yet his popularitas was manifest in his opposition to a
land reform bill, the very sort of legislation he suggests populares favor in On Duties.
Thus he tells Rullus, who had proposed the land law, “You made a great mistake… in
hoping that, by opposing a consul who was popular in reality not in pretence, you could
be considered popular in overthrowing the republic.”
According to Cicero, the people
want peace, harmony, and leisure, and he employs the fearful prospect of lost liberty to
sway them to his view of Rullus’ law.
That Cicero was (to put it charitably) dissembling in his self-presentation suggests
the vice of manipulation, but the propriety of such a mode of argument was a function of
the context in which Cicero spoke; in certain circumstances, one might need to make
false popularis appeals in order to defeat dangerous populares. Similarly, in On the Ideal
45
Cicero, De Lege Agraria, in Cicero: Pro Publio Quinctio, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino,
Pro Quinto Roscio Comoedo, De Lege Agraria, trans. John Henry Freese (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 2000), 2.6. On this oration, see Robert Morstein-Marx, Mass
Oratory and Political Power in the Late Roman Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2004), 195.
46
On Cicero’s use of the terms optimatus and popularis, see Robin Seager, "Cicero and
the Word Popularis," The Classical Quarterly 22, no. 2 (1972). On populares and land
reform, see Cicero, On Duties, ed. M.T. Griffin and E.M. Atkins (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1991). II.73.
47
Cicero, De Lege Agraria, 1.23.
15


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