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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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From Polite Fictions to Hypocrisy

From Polite Fictions to Hypocrisy

(p.78) 2 From Polite Fictions to Hypocrisy
Politeness and Politics in Cicero's Letters

Jon Hall (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the more manipulative and self-interested uses of affiliative politeness among Cicero's correspondents. It suggests that at times it is difficult for us to distinguish between hypocritically fawning remarks (blanditiae) and conventionally supportive polite fictions. The contextual cues on which Cicero would have based his own judgements are often unavailable to the modern reader. Several letters are examined in order to illustrate these interpretative challenges: Cicero's exchanges with Mark Antony in 49 B.C and 44 B.C., a letter from Cassius Parmensis to Cicero, and letters from Marcus Lepidus to Cicero. In several instances we may well suspect deceptive intentions on the part of the writer, and such hypocrisy seems to have been a regular feature of Roman political life. The exploitation of this potentially deceptive language was facilitated to a considerable degree by the conventionalized use of polite fictions in everyday aristocratic correspondence.

Keywords:   polite fictions, affiliative politeness, hypocrisy, blanditiae, Mark Antony, Cassius Parmensis, Marcus Lepidus

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