Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
  • Time Travel Rome

Primus Pilus

Cicero, Great Statesman Or Over-rated

Recommended Posts

His first case was certainly a brave affair. Roscius I believe his name was. No one would take the case because of the involvement of Sullan partisans in the prosecution. Cicero went after Sulla's freedman, Crysigonus (sp) and asked the crowd "Qui bono" (who benefits) from a guilty verdict. His Pro Milone, one of his most famous speeches was delivered meekly and unremarkably, as Cicero had the tendency to crap himself under preassure. The courtroom being packed with Pompei's soldiers after he'd been declared sole consul following the death of Clodius.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let us not forget his prosecution of Gaius Verres (71BC) for his corruption and extortion during his governorship of Sicily. A very high profile case at the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cicero also defended Murena, and it was a case study of Cicero the Weasel.

 

Murena was an old Sullan, and he bribed his way to an electoral victory. Serving as quaestor, Cato was on the prosecution; while still consul (best I recall), Cicero was on the defense.

 

Cicero's argument depended on two variants of the same logical fallacy (the appeal to distraction). The first argumentum was that Cato's Stoicism maintained the law to extremes, and Cicero condescendingly poked fun at the classic Stoic disputanda. The second argumentum was that Murena shouldn't be tried because the republic was under threat by Catiline. Neither of these claims, obviously, were germane in the slightest to the issue of Murena's guilt, which Cicero all but admitted, but Cicero won nevertheless. (Cato, ironically it would turn out, claimed that Cicero was just over-hyping the Catiline threat for the sake of his client.)

 

In every way, Cicero's defense was amoral if not immoral. Leaving aside the indignity of a consul attacking the person of a junior prosecutor and ignoring that Cicero's arguments were illogical, of all the people to condone bribery it should never have been a new man--in a republic, bribery is the ultimate crime that benefits the ruling class to the exclusion of the talented. Moreover, by protecting the dregs of Sulla, Cicero undercut any claim to uphold libertas, thereby suggesting that his defense of the republic was merely an instrument for maintaining his own power.

 

I guess the overarching point is that even in the law courts Cicero could be a real ass.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MPC, that is called rhetoric. I am no fan of Cicero, but this went on in Roman courts all the time.

Money did, does and always will buy 'justice'. It is a schiester's duty to defend his client to the best of his ability.

Edited by Gaius Octavius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MPC, that is called rhetoric.

Today it's called rhetoric, but the term today has no honor. If you look at ancient writings on rhetoric, however, the field was far more honorable, and illogic was NOT universally admired. Look especially at Aristotle's Rhetoric. In the ancient context, what Cicero was practicing was not just rhetoric, but sophistry. And he should have been ashamed to employ it on behalf of a blood-stained Sullan.

 

I am no fan of Cicero, but this went on in Roman courts all the time. .... It is a schiester's duty to defend his client to the best of his ability.

 

OK, but the question is whether a consul of Rome should behave like a schiester on behalf of a Sullan. I say No--it's completely beneath the dignitas of the office; Cicero knew better; but he was willing (as usual) to compromise himself to cozy up to the powers that were.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've noticed that somebody is yet to mention Cicero's reputation in the law courts.

 

His reputation in the courts was well appreciated and he was sought after.

 

...very funny :huh:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe it's me or maybe it's Cicero, but I just can't stop having second thoughts about the guy. Having just finished trashing him, let me mention one area where I think Cicero deserves unabashed praise: His policy toward non-Romans. On this matter, I think, Cicero rendered an innovative and far-reaching service to the republic.

 

As I've said many times, the long-term success of Rome depended on its security amidst its possessions. To this end, it was critical that Romans respected the basic human rights of its allied citizens and provincials lest a valuable Roman trading partner become an enemy. Nowhere was this better illustrated than by the effect that the mistreated and ill-used Goths had on Rome, and centuries earlier it appeared that there were many potential Goths in the making, whether in Carthage (which had been ravaged out of pure spite), in Italy (which had erupted in rebellion when Rome failed to take Yes for an answer), in Syracusa (where Verres had gone so far as to crucify even the Romans living there), or in Gaul (where Caesar the Merciful butchered or enslaved--by his own reckoning--two million men, women, and children).

 

Against these short-sighted policies, however, there was a movement for expanding the protections and representation of non-Romans. Beginning with the Gracchi and Drusus, who were martyred for their efforts on behalf of non-Romans, the attitudes of Romans toward non-Romans evolved slowly, but these efforts (as far as I can tell) came to a standstill immediately after the civil rights of Italians had been granted to end the Allied War. Between the Allied War and the prosecution of Verres, virtually no one championed the cause of non-Romans (though Sulla did have some leanings in this direction thanks to the influence of the Drusi and Cato Salonii).

 

It was during this period of acquiescence that the cause of non-Roman rights was re-ignited by Cicero's enormously influential (and popular) prosecution of Verres, which seems to have finally united the Roman political elite behind a more cosmopolitan and sane foreign policy. After the prosecution of Verres, everyone from Cato (whose one surviving letter concerns the importance of treating the provinces with the universal humanity enshrined in Stoicism) to Caesar (who despite his mistreatment of Long-haired Gauls nevertheless extended the franchise to at least his Gallic clients) was on-board the Cicero train. After the prosecution, non-Romans in Italy played an increasingly important role in Roman politics. Furthermore, looking outside Italy, Cicero's exemplary governorship of Cilicia finally showed Cicero (at least on one matter) putting his ideas into action: his service in Cilicia was so beneficial to the republic that he was voted the thanks of a Senate that had abondoned him countless times.

 

Cicero's legacy on Rome's policy toward foreigners also proved to outlast his own life. Augustus' behavior toward non-Romans was purely Ciceronian (at least when he was finished butchering the republicans in Perguia anyway), and in some ways, the Pax Romana can be seen as the ultimate culmination of Cicero's cosmopolitan (and Stoic) vision for Rome.

 

For all this, I think, Cicero really was a great statesman and not overrated.

 

(But I'll probably remember some more complaints against him in an hour or so. :huh: )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was going to mention a bit about the duality of Cicero's character, but Cato's doing a better job than I could've done.

 

I'll just say that Cicero was vain, hypocritical, and hungry for praise. With that in mind, he definately had talent and plenty of wisdom. He might've always been conscious of his status as a new man, which could explain why he had to play up some of his triumphs--he didn't have the easy acceptance that others would've gotten.

 

Cicero is a flawed persona, but he certainly deserves his reputation. It might be embellished a little, especially by his own pen, but it's certainly authentic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"He was a learned man, dear child, a learned man who loved his country." --- Augustus.

 

But one on the wrong side of history. Nonetheless, so dignified was he, I'm sure the Rostra was immeasurably ennobled by his severed head hanging as ornament.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find Cicero to be in the main uhmm, niave.....his trying sit at both tables and setting himself up as the savior of the rep. Was naive in that he didn

Edited by Cohort

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We all know of Cicero's many reported assets such as his exceptional skill at oration (related to his abilities in the courts) and his lead role in quelling the Cataline Conspiracy, but does Cicero truly deserve his generally accepted station as one of history's great politicians? Even some of his greatest orations were in a failing cause (Pro Milo) for instance.

 

Yes, he was a great orator and lawyer, but there could have been better orators during his time, except there works didn't survive; Cicero was fortunate to have a lot of his work survive. But seriously now, why is Cicero remembered as one of history's greatest politicians when he eventually failed. To attach such a powerful label to anyone, you would at least expect that their political philosophy or principles were officially adopted and made a large impact on Roman government or society. When Cicero died, his ideals died with him, actually they died when he was still alive. Based on that, I can only say he was a good orator and lawyer, but "history's greatest politicians"? no he doesn't qualify or come close to that. As you said, if his works did not survive, then he would have been as insignificant as a blimp on the radar of ancient history. The most overrated Roman figure without a doubt, and thats an understatement.

Edited by tflex

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When Cicero died, his ideals died with him, actually they died when he was still alive.

 

Look around trex. The ideal of the republic has smashed autocracies all over the world, and those ideals have yielded a superpower the likes of which no monarch has ever hoped to attain. In the end, Cicero's ideals were victorious on a scale even he could not imagine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×