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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.219) 5 Letters
Cicero, Greek Learning, and the Making of a Roman Classic

Caroline Bishop

Oxford University Press

This chapter hypothesizes about the nature of Cicero’s planned but never published letter collection, and argues that Cicero was inspired both by Greek epistolary theory and by Greek letter collections of classical figures like Plato and Demosthenes. Many of these letters were elaborate self-defences whose authenticity was vouched for by epistolary theory, in which letters were taken as unmediated glimpses of the sender’s true character. For this reason, this chapter argues that Cicero likely planned to publish a collection of his letters about the civil war. Many of these letters portray Cicero as an ideologically consistent statesman who foresaw the outcome of the war but joined the losing side out of a sense of duty. A version of this account published in letter form would have had a unique air of authenticity, and been an important component in the literary legacy of a classic.

Keywords:   Cicero, epistolography, ancient letter collections, epistolary theory, Ad Atticum, Ad Familiares, Ad Quintum Fratrem

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