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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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Politeness in Epistolary Conflict

Politeness in Epistolary Conflict

(p.135) 4 Politeness in Epistolary Conflict
Politeness and Politics in Cicero's Letters

Jon Hall (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the extent to which principles of polite restraint were observed by Cicero and his contemporaries in their correspondence when engaging in disputes and disagreements. It focuses in particular on Cicero's often tense exchanges with Appius Claudius Pulcher, Metellus Celer, C. Antonius Hybrida, and T. Fadius. These examples suggest that, while certain philosophical ideals of decorum proposed that the cultured man should not become involved in angry wranglings, the practical Roman politician often needed to assert himself with considerable force and vigor, and that a degree of epistolary aggression was thus regarded as entirely acceptable. It was important, however, to be able to claim that such aggression was deployed only as a response to provocation by the other party. Cicero's initial reactions in fact are usually characterized by restraint but then become more acerbic when confronted with further antagonism. At the same time, these epistolary shows of aggression always steer clear of direct insult.

Keywords:   conflict, restraint, decorum, aggression, insult, Appius Claudius Pulcher, Metellus Celer, Antonius Hybrida, Fadius

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