Keeping up Appearances: Shame and Oratory in Cicero's Thought
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imperfect, if well-intentioned, people.”
To prepon, for Panaetius, was the external
manifestation of internal harmony, just as for Cicero (in On Duties) it was the “outward
aspect of moral excellence…a kind of moral beauty which ‘shines out’ (elucet) in the life
of the virtuous person.”
Dyck suggests in his valuable commentary on On Duties that “To prepon is a
concept without a content of its own; it merely sets up a proportional relation between
One of the terms is the individual agent, and what is appropriate for him,
given the roles he plays (the other term), “whether of his own choosing or imposed by
external circumstances.” We must modify this claim, however, as general
prepon/decorum was a more fixed concept than particular decorum, insofar as it is rooted
in human nature as it differs from animal nature. As we shall see, “within certain spheres
certain actions are appropriate or inappropriate per se.”
Moreover, despite the ethical
content of the term, it also has an aesthetic facet rooted especially in the desire to meet
the expectations of others; as we shall see, “The poet and the moral agent thus have two
points in common: both judge decorum ex persona and both strive for approval.”
Christopher Gill, "Panaetius on the Virtue of Being Yourself," in Images and
Ideologies: Self-Definition in the Hellenistic World, ed. Anthony Bulloch, et al.
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993). 335-339.
———, "Personhood and Personality: The Four-Personae Theory in Cicero, De
Officiis I," Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy VI (1988). 173.
Dyck, A Commentary on Cicero, De Officiis. 240.