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Making a New Man: Ciceronian SelfFashioning in the Rhetorical Works .

By John Dugan
Making a New Man: Ciceronian SelfFashioning in the Rhetorical Works by John Dugan
Review by: James E. G. Zetzel
Classical Philology, Vol. 101, No. 4 (October 2006), pp. 429-433
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/519189 .
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Book Reviews

429

It will be perilous for anyone writing on Cicero to neglect this book in checking
facts and chronology, and it goes without saying that every university library ought
to own it. Of course, only time and frequent use can reveal the overall accuracy and
thoroughness of a reference work of this type, but from the modest tests that I have
been able to perform, I have been duly impressed. The occasional lapses that I have
noticed tend to occur when the authors aim at greater chronological precision than the
sources permit. For instance, the statement on p. 54 that Cicero assumed the toga virilis
on 17 March 90 b.c.e. (citing Amic. 1) can be no more than an inference. The year
90 b.c.e., it is true, can be deduced from Brut. 303 (not cited in the book or on the CD);
the specic day (17 March, the Liberalia), however, is merely the traditional one for
this ceremony (Ov. Fast. 3.771; Att. 6.1.15). Likewise, the assertion on p. 89 that
Ciceros Pro Archia was delivered poco dopo la precedente orazione [Pro Sulla]
is, to the best of my knowledge, supported by no ancient evidence. Still, on the
whole, a balanced and sound presentation of chronological details concerning
the life and works of Cicero is everywhere in evidence. For this reason, I predict that
Ciceronian scholars will come to depend upon this compendium of data, especially
upon Malaspinas greatly expanded digital version, as they do upon Broughton for
the chronology of the magistrates of the Roman Republic. This publication is more
than worth its extremely modest purchase price.
John T. Ramsey
University of Illinois at Chicago

Making a New Man: Ciceronian Self-Fashioning in the Rhetorical Works. By John


Dugan. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. [x] + 388.
$120.00 (cloth).
Ciceros rhetorical works are among the most daunting productions of the late
Republic: learned, complex, ranging in subject matter from rhetorical theory to
philosophy to history to the intricacies of prose rhythm, they demand a breadth of
knowledge and intellectual sympathy that can keep pace with Ciceros own. They
are the work of a master of rhetoric, style, and wit at the top of his form; De oratore
is a formidable work, and Brutus and Orator, while slightly less ambitious, are not
far behind. It is a mark of John Dugans ability and ambitions in Making a New Man
that he understands the complexity of these works and goes a long way towards a
new interpretation of what Cicero is doing in the rhetorica; even if it does not always
convince, his book is essential reading for any student of Cicero and his time.
D.s subject (as indicated by his subtitle) is Ciceronian self-fashioning: the ways
in which Cicero constructs versions of himself in part to justify, in part to establish,
an image of his career and writings and above all to make the more unusual and
original elements of his style, as a politician and a speaker, seem natural. In four
chapters, D. deals rst with Pro Archia and In Pisonem as epideictic constructions,
positively and negatively, of Cicero as statesman and writer, then, in chronological
order, De oratore, Brutus, and Orator, followed by a brief epilogue on the Philippics.
His approach applies particularly to Ciceronian style, but in certain respects to politics
and Ciceros public persona as well: Cicero as novus homo is intimately related, in

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430

Book Reviews

D.s interpretation, to what he calls Ciceros theatrical, transgressive oratory (p. 107).
Thus, as he argues, the dramatic setting of De oratore is crucial to establishing a cultural ancestry for Cicero, connecting the novus homo with the upper strata of the traditional aristocracy of the previous generation in the persons of Crassus, Antonius, and
Scaevolaand, in turn, the setting allows Cicero to portray his own most innovative
rhetorical moves (essentially, and importantly, the use of epideictic techniques in
forensic oratory) as in fact inherited from his aristocratic teachers. In De oratore,
Cicero is present only in the prefaces and by implicationalthough D. seems to
worry too much about whether Cicero actually meant readers to believe the ction
of the dialoguewhile in Brutus eight years later, Cicero much more explicitly constructs the whole history of Roman oratory as leading teleologically to himself. In
Orator, he constructs a theory of elocutio that gures Cicero himself as the consummate orator, the closest approach humanly possible to a Platonic ideal. In each case,
moreover, Cicero is constructing a version of himself designed to x his image, as
statesman and as orator, textually and permanently, to transform Cicero into Cicero.
That Ciceros rhetorical works (and in fact, one could argue, many of his other
writings, including De re publica and more of the orations than D. discusses) are at
least partially shaped by, and intended to counteract, the uncertainties of Ciceros
self-image and reputationhis novitas, his political failures and exile, his stylistic
innovations and (according to some) excessesis shown very convincingly by
D., and a great many of his analyses both of particular passages and of the works as
a whole are compelling. His treatment of In Pisonem as a version of epideictic constructing a portrait of Cicero through an attack on Piso is excellent; his analysis of
Caesar Strabos speech on humor in De oratore is superb; his discussion of Ciceros
relationship to Brutus, Calvus, and Caesar in Brutus should arouse renewed interest
in a wonderful text that has largely been neglected except as a source for evidence
about earlier oratory. His reading of Orator convincingly draws together much that
he writes earlier in the book about Ciceronian epideictic and is in itself a valuable
analysis of Ciceronian style. And what is most refreshing about D.s approach to this,
as to the other rhetorica, is his recognition that rhetorical theory is not a static body
of techniques and examples, but is constantly manipulated by Cicero in particular
contexts for particular ends.
But while D. does an admirable job of showing the relationships among Ciceros
various preoccupationsthe link between setting and argument in De oratore, the
interweaving in Brutus of political and stylistic concerns and of Brutus as Atticist
and Brutus as philosopher of virtushis own single-minded emphasis on the issue
of self leads to serious distortions and at times comes close to trivializing Cicero.
That Cicero was indeed concerned (and again, not just in these texts) with xing and
transmitting his own version of the story of his rise, consulate, exile, and return is
absolutely true; that the shape he gives rhetorical theory is closely connected to his
own stylistic peculiarities is one of D.s most important and convincing contributions
in this book. On the other hand, although Cicero was certainly not the least selfcentered of mortals, he is not so exclusively self-absorbed as D.s account suggests.
D. badly distorts Pro Archia, making a light, ironic, and in fact very funny speech
into a ponderous and urgent plea for auctoritas and the immortalization of his consular deeds. He overemphasizes the one or two sentences that refer to Ciceros desire
to have Archias write an epic about Ciceros consulate, turns a joke about Sulla and

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Book Reviews

431

a bad poet into a particularly grimy exchange (p. 37), and ignores the humor of
Ciceros tongue-in-cheek explanation that many people in the world read Greek
rather than Latin. In the same way, while D.s discussion of Caesar Strabo and the
digression on humor in De oratore 2 is in itself a ne piece of analysis, he becomes
almost Straussian in insisting that this small section of a vast and complicated work
is somehow the key to interpreting the whole thing; in discussing Orator, similarly,
he makes the account of prose rhythm far more important than it actually is. These
are matters of emphasis; but as D. himself frequently makes clear, emphasis matters.
D.s single-minded reading of Cicero leads him on some strange and unconvincing
paths. He tends to fasten on particular words and import meaning from one context
into another: because Cicero uses imago in Pro Archia about the effect of reading
about famous men, D. believes that he must be alluding to the imagines of ancestors
of which a new man felt the lack (pp. 4042). Because the language of the body is
frequently employed in metaphors for rhetorical criticismby Cicero as by everyone
before him, for that matterCicero must be concerned about the corporeality of
his orations. Because prose rhythm is a part of compositio, compositio becomes prose
rhythm. And texts are often seriously distorted to mean what D. wants them to mean.
The reference to Ciceros being dissatised with Demosthenes at Orator 104 is not
a criticism of Demosthenes (pp. 31011): it is in the context of the perfect, ideal
oratorand even the greatest of all orators, Demosthenes, is not a Platonic ideal.
The story of Simonides, Scopas, and the invention of mnemonics does not show
Cicero presenting memory as born from trauma (p. 101).
Indeed, it does not help D.s case that his very rst quotation is misinterpreted. He
begins from the statement at the opening of Quintus Ciceros (?) Commentariolum
Petitionis, quicquid es ex hoc es (Comm. 2, speaking of Ciceros oratorical talent
and experience). D. describes this (p. 2) as a blunt statement that Ciceros self is
predicated upon his oratory. But there is no self here; Quintus (if it is he) is explaining the importance of Ciceros forensic career to his candidacy: Cicero has
defended consulars, and is therefore to be thought worthy of becoming one himself.
This is, Quintus rightly says, the basis of his career: what D. overliterally translates as
whatever you are you are from this emerges more accurately in Taylor and Murrells
serviceable translation as your position, whatever it is, is the result of this.1 Quintus
is concerned about public appearances and practical politics; D. misreads him as
speaking the modern language of self and psychology. Mistranslation, not just misinterpretation, follows on the next page, where D. describes Commentariolums
insistence on the radical equivalence of Ciceros self and his oratory . . . within a
dialectic of nature and its deliberate manipulation, using as evidence the following:
although nature has great power, still fabrication (simulatio) seems able to overcome
nature in a matter of a few months (p. 3, quoting Comm. 1). Taylor and Murrell are
again more accurate: Although natural talent is most important, it seems that it can
be defeated by fraud in a matter that lasts only for a few months (quamquam plurimum
natura valet, tamen videtur in paucorum mensum negotio posse simulatio naturam
vincere). Quintus point has nothing to do with self or even with oratory: it is one
1. D. W. Taylor and J. Murrell, A Short Guide to Electioneering: (?) Quintus Ciceros Commentariolum Petitionis, London Association of Classical Teachers Original Records, no. 3 (1968; reprint, Harrow,
England, 1977).

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Book Reviews

that we know all too well to be true, that a fraudulent political candidate in a short
campaign (paucorum mensum negotio) can trick the electorate into voting against
someone who is actually qualied. And when D. goes on to bolster his anachronistic
psychologizing of Cicero and his brother by dragging in the Stoic four-persona
theory from De ofciis, he again psychologizes the fourth persona (Off. 1.11517).
Cicero is talking about the choice of careers, not the inner self ; like Quintus, and
presumably every other Roman, he views identity, to the extent that he thinks
about it at all, as the sum of ones public acts, not ones private neuroses. And in terms
of the self, such as it is, against D.s completely unjustiable argument that Cicero
believes in a self textually constituted and fabricated within literary discourse (p. 3)
we have Ciceros own explicit statement about the self: mens cuiusque is est quisque
spoken in the Somnium Scipionis by the soul of the elder Africanus (26.2), but echoed
by Cicero himself at Tusculans 1.52 equating the animus with the self. Whether
Ciceros arguments for an immortal soul/mind/self and a truly permanent identity
are rhetorically motivated or genuine belief I do not know; but D.s unphilosophical,
imprecise, and thoroughly (post-) modern notion of the self is something that Cicero
would have found both repellent and incomprehensible.
D.s argument about self and self-fashioning provides a structure for his argument, but it is a perilously shaky one. When he says that Cicero constructed himself
as a politician whose claim on power rested solely on his intellectual and literary
achievements (p. 20; emphasis mine) he is simply wrong. In fact, Ciceros rise to
power was based in equal parts on oratory and on real political skills; even his later
claims to authority and greatness rely not just on his intellectual achievements, but
on his more-than-verbal actions in dealing with the conspiracy of Catiline. Selffashioning may be in fashion, and Cicero, as D. shows very well, indulged in itbut
he fashioned a great deal more than himself.
Cicero in the Brutus and Orator defended his elaborate, emotional, and often orid
style of oratory against the criticism of the Atticists on the very simple (and true)
grounds that it worked: people listened to him and juries acquitted his clients. Whether
Calvus was in fact as unsuccessful and boring as Cicero polemically suggests may
be doubted: it should come as no surprise to anyone that the kind of oratory Cicero
believed in was the kind of oratory that he practiced. But to suggest that Ciceros
primary goal in the rhetorica was to promote and defend an image of Cicero himself
is both false and a trivialization of works, particularly De oratore, of far greater signicance. D. has very little to say about Cicero and Plato (although he makes some
good observations); he notes only in passing Ciceros attack on Socrates and overturning of the Platonic critique of rhetoric, which in fact ought to be central to any
interpretation of the dialogue. Certainly there is an element of self-serving selfpresentation here; but the ideal of the orator-statesman that Cicero develops in De
oratore and De re publica had a genuine public purpose that went far beyond the
canonization of Cicero himself. Cicero rightly believed that oratory was an essential
element in a free republic: the lament for the death of oratory at the end of the Brutus
is not a lament for Cicero himself, but for Rome.
The fashionable emphasis on self-fashioning betrays a modern narcissism and
concentration on the trivial that diminishes modern scholarship much more than it
diminishes Cicero. Like most public gures in the ancient world, Cicero had a healthy
opinion of his own importance and merits; more than most, perhaps, he was capable

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Book Reviews

433

of convincing himself that his own opinion in this regard was correct, and there can
be no doubt that many of his works are shaped in such a way as to justify Ciceros
own version of himself. To that extent, D.s book is both right and important. But Cicero
justied his self-regard because of his genuine belief that his actions and his words
had served his country, that he was part of something larger than himself to which
he owed anything that he was and could become. D. ends his book, as do many others,
by citing the end of Plutarchs life of Cicero, Augustus description of him as logios
kai philopatris. For Cicero himself, those two words are in fact inseparable, and his
eloquence was an aspect of his public service, not of his self. We are not, Cicero
more than once says (borrowing from Platos Ninth Letter), born for ourselves, but
for others: non sibi se soli natum . . . sed patriae, sed suis (Fin. 2.45; cf. Off. 1.12,
Mur. 83). We can still understand Cicero better from Plato than from Foucault.
James E. G. Zetzel
Columbia University in the City of New York

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