This essay explores an aspect of Cicero's use of cultural writing for political ends: his employment of the epideictic rhetorical mode in two of his speeches, Pro Archia and In Pisonem. The epideictic is a ludic rhetorical domain that embraces paradoxes: it encompasses both praise and blame, is both markedly Greek and proximate to the Romans' laudatio funebris, and is associated both with textual fixity and viva voce improvisation. The epideictic mode is thus an ideal vehicle for Cicero's self-fashioning and, moreover, constitutes a framework which reveals that Cicero's encomiastic defense of Archias' Roman citizenship and his invective against his aristocratic nemesis Piso are polar and complementary opposites. The self-consciously literary quality of epideictic allows Cicero to transform the Pro Archia from a legal defense to a general meditation on literary culture in which Cicero blurs himself with his client to defend his own status within Rome's elite while fixing his version of his consulate in ornate prose. The Pro Archia simultaneously becomes a simulacrum of the poem which Cicero hopes Archias will write and Cicero's own pre-mortem funeral oration. Yet the Pro Archia's suppressed legal arguments pregure the eventual failure of his immediate self-fashioning aims. The In Pisonem's invective inverts the Pro Archia's self-fashioning strategies in order to debunk Piso's image and to recuperate Cicero's own prestige at the expense of Piso's. The In Pisonem has the same long-range cultural ambitions as the Pro Archia, but without the previous speech's hopes for tangible short-term success. Faced with his inability to cause Piso real political damage, Cicero crafts an ornately polished caricature of Piso designed to achieve canonical longevity. Cicero's reception by the orators of Seneca's Suasoriae and Controversiae gives evidence of the successes, and limitations, of these long-term cultural goals.
- ©© Regents of the University of California