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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.173) 4 Demosthenes
Cicero, Greek Learning, and the Making of a Roman Classic

Caroline Bishop

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses Cicero’s most successful co-option of a Greek figure, Demosthenes. Cicero primarily associated Demosthenes with his Philippics, in which he painted himself as an opponent to the tyranny of Philip II of Macedon and the saviour of democratic free speech—even though Demosthenes ultimately failed at both goals. Yet it was this very failure that made Demosthenes an appealing figure for Cicero after his defeat in the Roman civil war. This chapter demonstrates that Cicero implicitly and explicitly compared his own oratorical career to that of Demosthenes in his post-civil war rhetorical works (Brutus, De Optimo Genere Oratorum, and Orator), as well as in his speeches against Antony (Philippics) because he believed that drawing a parallel between Demosthenes’ noble failure and his own offered an attractive light in which he could cast his own mistakes and still survive as an object of classical veneration.

Keywords:   Cicero, Demosthenes, ancient oratory, ancient rhetoric, Atticism, Atticists, Philippics, reception of Demosthenes, Brutus (work by Cicero), Orator (work by Cicero)

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