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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 and Political Negotiation

Politeness and Political Negotiation

(p.169) 5 Politeness and Political Negotiation
Politeness and Politics in Cicero's Letters

Jon Hall (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the role of polite language in the political negotiations that followed Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C. It examines in particular the correspondence of Mark Antony with the leaders of the conspirators, Marcus Brutus and Cassius Longinus, and the letters exchanged between Cicero and Munatius Plancus. In the former case, Brutus and Cassius appear to deploy a highly respectful and restrained manner in order to present themselves as solid, conservative types, an image necessary given their radical use of violence against Caesar. Antony, by contrast, seems to have adopted a harsher, more abusive style in his later public letters in order to define himself more starkly as a Caesarian staunchly opposed to the assassins. In the following year, Cicero and Munatius Plancus employed affiliative politeness with remarkable energy during their high-stake political negotiations. The latter's eventual defection to Antony highlights the duplicitous potential inherent in this type of language, even though both parties seem to have been well aware of the political game they were playing. In this connection, Cicero's correspondence with Octavian and Dolabella during this period is also examined.

Keywords:   assassination of Caesar, affiliative politeness, Mark Antony, Munatius Plancus, Marcus Brutus, Cassius Longinus, Octavian, Dolabella, restraint, political negotiation

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