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Cicero, Greek Learning, and the Making of a Roman Classic$
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Caroline Bishop

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198829423

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198829423.001.0001

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(p.41) 1 Aratus
Cicero, Greek Learning, and the Making of a Roman Classic

Caroline Bishop

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the importance of Cicero’s Aratea, a translation of Aratus’ Phaenomena, to his classical ambitions. It argues that while Cicero likely translated the poem as part of his training as an orator, his creative incorporation within the translation of Aratus’ Hellenistic reception is a sign that he also had lofty plans for it. The Phaenomena was an instant classic in the Greek world: praised for its Hellenistic aesthetic, used as the primary source text in the instruction of astronomy, and appropriated by Stoics, who considered it a poetic reworking of their cosmology. Cicero’s savvy use of Aratus’ diverse commentary tradition allowed him to not just display his facility at turning Greek into Latin, but also produce an even better version of the Phaenomena that could itself become a canonical teaching tool for astronomy at Rome.

Keywords:   Cicero, Aratus, Aratea, Phaenomena, ancient astronomy, Hipparchus of Nicaea, Stoicism, ancient translation, reception of Aratus

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