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Politeness and Politics in Cicero's Letters$
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Jon Hall

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195329063

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195329063.001.0001

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Doing Aristocratic Business

Doing Aristocratic Business

Affiliative Politeness and the Politeness of Respect

(p.29) 1 Doing Aristocratic Business
Politeness and Politics in Cicero's Letters

Jon Hall (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines in detail seven letters from Cicero's correspondence in order to establish some of the conventions of linguistic politeness typically used in more formal epistolary exchanges between Roman aristocrats. These seven letters include missives from Cicero to C. Matius, Marcus Crassus, Cassius Longinus, Scribonius Curio, Acilius Caninus, and L. Culleolus, as well as one from M. Marcellus to Cicero. These letters show the important role played by conventionalized polite language in aristocratic correspondence and in particular by the following linguistic strategies: expressions of thanks and appreciation, pledges of help and support, emphatic assertions of pleasure, assertions of goodwill and congratulations, compliments (often wittily phrased), and the commemoration of family ties and previous friendly services. Overall, these letters demonstrate the value placed on the politeness of respect in circles where personal dignitas received great emphasis, as well as the significance of conventionalized affiliative politeness and polite fictions for individuals attempting to forge cooperative political alliances.

Keywords:   politeness of respect, affiliative politeness, polite fictions, thanks, congratulations, compliments, dignitas, Marcus Crassus, Gaius Matius, cassius Longinus

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