Cicero's Orations Imagery

Cicero's Orations Imagery

Roman citizenship

Roman law preserves rights for citizens. This is one of the first instances of official citizenship records in the governmental history. Citizenship shapes the language of Cicero's Orations because there are legal rights and protections given by the emperor to the citizens of the nation. This ends up being one of the most important steps forward in civic law, because as Cicero demonstrates in archetypal style, the right to a defense attorney and a public trial become extremely helpful tools in jurisprudence.

Court and law

The setting of these Orations is the courtroom or the Senate floor, typically. The imagery is famously depicted in important artworks like the fresco by Maccari which depicts the speech found in In Catilinam. That oration leads to the swift and violent execution of a real traitor, a man who allegedly planned a mutinous coup and assassination plot. The balance of human misbehavior with the brutal hand of law is the imagery on full display. One might say this is the historical portrait of humans beginning to be subjected to their own law.

Political power and rhetoric

This collection of speeches is not just recorded monologue. It is a full-scale depiction of rhetoric given by a master of the craft whose teachings about rhetoric are still treated as classical canon to this day. The political aspect of the speeches clearly unites the meaning of his words with a hope for attaining power. In other words, the imagery shows that rhetoric is the use of words to attain the future social dynamic result desired. One could almost say that rhetoric is a kind of magic, and politics is the interchange of that magical language for the competition of governmental authority on the Senate.

Loyalty and honor

The Roman concept for honor highly prioritizes loyalty to the public and to the Roman government. This creates an honor competition among the politicians, because if they can prove that someone did something to damage the Roman public for personal political gain, they will be dishonored by the rest of the Senate. This imagery sets the stage for the vicious political competitions that these Orations are embedded within. The imagery has two extremes, and Cicero sees both of them. His In Catilinam speeches led to the swift execution of a Senator; his Philippic leads to his own execution.

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