Cicero's Orations Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Cicero's Orations Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Alternative explanation

Cicero is well-known for his rhetorical mastery. In some of his writing, he talks about justice, persuasion, and rhetoric, but in this collection, we are given access to the content of his own Orations, where rhetorical principles are demonstrated in context. The first concept that becomes obvious is that rhetoric arises from the plurality of human points of view. Although one person might seem to have constructed a sufficient defense of their point of view, there is still need for defense because as shown in this case, the facts can often be misleading. Through alternative explanation, Cicero saves a man's life from execution.

Persuasion as a skill

Cicero also shows through motif usage what the basic strategies of persuasion are. Instead of confronting the jury and judge with a contrarian point of view, he predicates his arguments on what they share in common by way of virtue, political experience, and knowledge of human nature. In other words, he only speaks in a way that makes the jury and judge more likely to feel emotionally aligned with what he is saying. This is a portrait of the skill of persuasion, because his behavior has a manipulative quality by which he hopes to sway their opinions.

The political landscape

To understand Cicero's political point of view, one must comprehend civics. There were way less people alive back during Cicero's day, and only a small number of them were citizens of Rome. Of those citizens, only a few live right in the city and practice politics. The grass-roots politics of Roman government is highly diverse and full of various characters in a network of association with various alliances and so forth. Within that civic context, Cicero argues that there are civic virtues that must be upheld. This symbolism is nearly archetypal, but because the modern day does not practice civics in the same way, it sometimes goes unnoticed.

The mutiny revealed

Later in the Orations, Cicero reminds his audience that he has only the best intentions in mind for Rome. The most clear example of this is when he uses his entire political power and rhetorical ability to oust a closeted attempt to overthrow the emperor. The senator responsible for the coup does not have a chance. Instead of using his political associations to get ahead in conniving ways, he uses his absolute political power and rhetorical ability to dominate his opponents in public in the domain of honor and dishonor. The mutiny revealed shows Cicero's capacity to dishonor an opponent.

The Philippic

A Philippic is a derogatory speech which attempts to decimate the reputation of a political opponent. In classical terms, the speech is a full-blown "ad hominem," because it isn't dealing with syllogistic debate or reason; rather, Cicero's intention seems to be to rob Marc Antony of his ethos. By removing the automatic trust and good reputation that others feel toward Antony, Cicero hopes to shoulder him out of a political discussion. This is the classical equivalent of a "diss track." Cicero stakes his honor on the claims and carries his convictions to his grave when he is executed for treason against the throne.

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