Posts Tagged Cicero

Cicero, Rhetorica ad Herennium

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition to the Loeb Classical Library volumes noted as freely available online at Loebolus and Edonnelly, the Internet Archive has available Cicero’s Rhetorica ad Herennium (Loeb vol. 403) in a number of formats. Another HTML version is also available from the University of Chicago. Among the work’s other features, it contains a robust treatment of memory, which continues to have significance still today.

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

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Learning a Proverb from a Pagan

Angelico Silence

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Earlier this semester in Exploring Religion, we discussed Cicero’s On the Nature of the Gods, and one paragraph particularly struck me as an apt illustration of Qoheleth’s advice that עת לחשות ועת לדבר (Eccl 3:7b; there is a time to be silent, and there is a time to speak):

When Cotta had spoken, Velleius said, ‘It was indeed rash of me to attempt to argue with someone who is both an academician and an orator. I would have no fear of an academician who had no gift of words or of an orator however eloquent who was not a good academic philosopher. I am not put out by a stream of empty words, or by subtle propositions quite devoid of eloquence. But you, Cotta, are  a champion on both counts. You only lacked an audience and a jury. But more of this another time. Let us now hear Lucilius, if he will favor us with his views. (123; underlining added)

Roughly the first half of bk. 1 is Velleius’s argument for the Epicurean position, and the second half is Cotta’s Academic rebuttal. At the beginning of bk. 2, therefore, Velleius could well have stood to attempt to refute Cotta’s initial rebuttal. Yet, he defers this attempt to “another time” and passes the discussion to Lucilius Balbus, the Stoic, who will also do the Epicurean position no particular favors in the body of bk. 2.

This action serves Cicero’s larger purpose of transitioning into a discussion of the Stoic position. Yet, how he does so—namely, Velleius’s reservedness toward Cotta and his yielding the floor to Balbus—suggests, perhaps, an interesting perspective for applying Eccl 3:7b not simply to situations where speaking in general might be out of place but also to situations in which one’s own speech might be out of place (e.g., because of its preceding quantity; cf. Prov 10:19) but another’s speech might not be so.

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

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Cicero on the Earth as Sphere

The Flammarion woodcut is an enigmatic wood en...

Image via Wikipedia

Jim Davila has picked up a discussion about ancient testimony to the earth’s spherical shape. Cicero also, by way of his Stoic character Balbus, comments to this effect, saying,

[T]he sea, which is above the earth, tends still toward the earth’s centre, and so is itself shaped in conformity to the globe of the earth and nowhere spills or overflows. (171; italics added)

So, the Stoics, and perhaps Cicero, also would have acknowledged a spherical earth “before their time” (75, 238).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

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The Key Problem(s) in Cicero’s Preamble to The Nature of the Gods

The Nature of the Gods

Marcus Tullius Cicero

In his classic on The Nature of the Gods, Cicero identifies the key problem facing him as being “the question whether the gods do nothing, care for nothing, and take their ease detached from all concern with the care and government of the world: or whether on the contrary all things have been created and formed by them from the dawn of time, and will be ruled and governed by them to all eternity” (69–70).

The strict dichotomy that Cicero proposes between these two alternatives is certainly interesting, but each has its problems. According to Cicero, the first alternative undermines piety, reverence, and religion (70), and the second nearly amounts to “the gods[‘ . . .] creat[ing] all . . . things for the benefit of man” (71). Following the Academy’s method, if not its conclusions, however, Cicero finds it advisable to make his audience wait some time for his most (nearly) definitive thoughts on the matter (33–34, 74, 235).

Cross-posted from New Testament Interpretation.

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