Posted on December 9, 2009 by arltblogger
from Bozo sapiens, one for the A level candidates studying Cicero this year
The Latin word “Cicero,” as every schoolboy knows, means “chickpea” – an insulting nickname based possibly on the shape of the family nose. Cicero was a swot from the earliest age, motivated both by a desire to excel and by a slight but rankling sense of social inferiority. Though his family was rich, it was not… precisely
Roman, but Latin, from the surrounding countryside. Thus the young Cicero was apt to be treated the way Etonians treat grammar-school boys or New Yorkers treat midwesterners: “just as if he were one of us” – which is not like one of us at all.
Still, his keen brain and relentless ambition opened up for him the path to greatness: the cursus honorum
by which any citizen could rise from minor office to the heights of senatorial and consular power. All agreed that his knowledge of Roman law was matched only by his command of rhetoric – and in both he had no equal. Legal battle was a spectator sport in Rome: every politician seeking glory had not only to win a victory against the barbarians, but also to conduct a successful defense and prosecution. These performances took place in the open forum, before an audience as passionately expert in legal spectacle as its descendants are in opera or soccer: once, when Cicero finished an oration with the quick flick-flack of a double trochee, the whole court erupted in wild cheering.
He had no fondness for military life, but was not afraid to use aggressively those weapons he possessed. His first major speech was a direct challenge to the favorites of Rome’s current dictator, Sulla. Cicero hated dictatorship and felt a fierce loyalty to a republic that had not only established such an excellent legal system, “of universal application, unchanging and everlasting,” but had given a provincial like himself the rostrum from which to prove his superiority. He was grateful – and, as he said, “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” read the rest of this article
Filed under: Latin, Roman Civilisation