Rhetoric and popular power in Cicero's early speeches
DiLuzio, Joseph A.
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This dissertation examines how Cicero characterizes the populus Romanus, its power, and its place in the Republic in speeches between 70 and 63 B.C. Cicero's rhetoric was inevitably a function ofhis persuasive aims and contemporary political ideology. Through close reading of relevant speeches and consideration of the circumstances surrounding their delivery, the present work aims to shed light on what Cicero and his Roman audience believed about the nature of the People's power and to show how an orator could manipulate those beliefs to achieve his rhetorical ends. For the period in question, Cicero consistently identifies the populus as the ultimate source of power and its interest as the end for which the res publica exists. The first chapter examines Cicero's first contional speech, pro Lege Manilia, in which the orator emphasizes the People's moral and political authority in an effort to persuade them to intervene in foreign affairs, a traditional purview of the Senate. The second chapter considers the first actio of the Verrines, specifically how Cicero puts pressure on the senatorial jury by appealing to the corona as "the People," thereby reminding the jurors that their conduct and, ultimately, their verdict are subject to public scrutiny. The third chapter treats the second actio of the Verrines and the fragmentary pro Cornelio, in which Cicero defends the legitimacy of collective violence in defense of the People's Iibertas. The fourth chapter looks at appeals to consensus in four consular speeches - the second de Lege Agraria, the pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo, and the first and fourth Catilinarians. In each speech, Cicero points to reactions from various crowds as evidence of unanimous support for otherwise "unpopular" positions, including the abrogation of civil liberties under the senatus consultum ultimum. Though he never insisted that the senatus abdicate its leadership of the res publica, Cicero continued to appeal to the populus Romanus as a remedy for the nobility's failures even after his election as consul. The prevalence of this theme in his pre-consular and consular rhetoric suggests that Cicero saw it as a solution to the divide between optimates and populares.
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