A Double Sermocinatio and a Resolved Dilemma in Cicero’s Pro Plancio

Author: Grillo, Luca
Title: A Double Sermocinatio and a Resolved Dilemma in Cicero’s Pro Plancio
Review/Collection: Classical Quarterly 64, no 1
Year edition: 2014
Pages: 214–225
Keywords: Rhétorique - Retorica - Rhetorics, Stylistique et genres littéraires - Stilistica e generi letterari - Stylistics and literary genre
Description: In the litigious world of ancient Rome patroni were often torn between conflicting bonds of loyalty, and this is the dilemma that Cicero laments in the exordium of the Pro Plancio (5). Both the prosecutor, Laterensis, and the accused, Plancius, were personal friends, and Cicero bemoans the quandary: either upsetting Laterensis by comparing him unfavourably with Plancius, or letting down his client. A second problem for Cicero was that the prosecution also took the opportunity to impugn him as the creature of Pompey and Caesar, so that Cicero had to defend himself as much as his client. Two examples of sermocinatio (an imaginary dialogue with a personified entity) helped him to face these challenges: these sermocinationes are Cicero's main strategy for getting out of the conundrum but, in spite of their relevance to his line of argument, they have received very little attention. In this article, after a brief historical contextualization, I analyse each sermocinatio, arguing that Cicero cunningly sets aside the dilemma of comparing two friends by constructing an alternative comparison between Laterensis and himself, and that such a comparison, which is highly selective, re-establishes his own positive public image. The two sermocinationes, moreover, also display some meaningful textual references which have remained unnoticed: in the final part of this paper I set them against the backdrop of Plato's Crito and of Cicero's letter to Lentulus (Fam. 1.9), arguing that the reference to the Crito supports Cicero's strategy of contrasting himself with Laterensis and that comparison with Fam. 1.9 illuminates the connection between the Pro Plancio and Cicero's broader post reditum self-defence. (Throughout this paper I treat sermocinatio as the Latin equivalent of prosopopoeia, following Quintilian, who calls them both by the same name (ego iam recepto more utrumque eodem modo appellavi, Inst. 9.2.31–2) [Author]
Link: https://www.academia.edu/9843812/A_double_sermocinatio_and_a_resolved_dilemma_in_Ciceros_Pro_Plancio
Author initials: Grillo 2014