Ideology for an empire in the prefaces to Cicero’s dialogues

Auteur: Habinek, Thomas N.
Titre: Ideology for an empire in the prefaces to Cicero’s dialogues
Revue/Collection: "Ramus", 23, 1-2 = In : Anthony James Boyle, John Patrick Sullivan, Roman literature and ideology : Ramus essays for J.P. Sullivan. Bendigo, Australia: Aureal Publications, 1995. 269 pages.
Annèe edition: 1994
Pages: 55-67
Mots-clès: Philosophie - Filosofia - Philosophy, Politique - Politica - Politics
Description: Habinek examines the prefaces of De Oratore, Tusculan Disputations, De Finibus, and De Officiis to disclose a consistent and novel ideological agenda in Cicero’s musings on the function of rhetoric in Roman society. He offers an incisive demonstration that Cicero seeks to ensure the authority of a specific segment of the aristocracy by “the expropriation of the cultural capital of a conquered people, namely the Greeks” (p. 55), and that, in so seeking, he deprecates the practical political aspects ( utilitas) of rhetoric in favor of its grandeur ( magnitudo) as the true mark of distinction in Roman society. Cicero even flirts with the notion that eloquence per se confers authority beyond that derived from the rival field of military achievement. Furthermore, he “takes it for granted that Rome has supplanted Greece as the locus of authorisation in matters cultural” (p. 58). In co-opting the heritage of Greek rhetoric and philosophy, the Roman literati assume the role of beneficent guardians, assuring the safe transmittal of culture through succeeding generations. The cultivated language of the educated, right-minded intelligentsia that Cicero addresses lends it solidarity and empowers it “to formulate the unifying myths and protocols for society as a whole” (p. 65). Cicero in his rhetorical treatises invited readers, in both his own time and the subsequent imperial era, to countenance and support an ideology of culture as the preeminent means to social control and domination. [James Holoka, BMCR 1995.11.04]
Sigle auteur: Habinek 1994