Dancing, Declamation, and Deipnosophistry in the Deiotariana

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Brian Krostenko



This article argues that some formal features of Cicero’s speech pro rege Deiotaro reflect Cicero’s understanding of the ideological strains of those days. Some of the charges brought against Deiotarus seem likely to be true. Cicero’s rebuttals of those charges seem weak by the normal conventions of courtroom argument. But the rebuttals draw on modes of speech appropriate for sophisticated dinner parties—literary criticism, poetry, and moral philosophy. The arguments are not necessarily more successful for that, but they do make an ideological point: if political decisions now depend on one man, that brings political decisions very close to questions of taste and sensibility, which in their turn become a valuable and even necessary source of arguments. This aspect of Cicero’s rhetorical approach in the speech exploits the setting, Caesar’s house: Cicero speaks as if he were in a place where, not forensic convention, but intellectual intimacy was the chief value. But Cicero’s artful voice also lapses into patent sophism, making pointedly clever and painfully false argument. That, too, makes an ideological point: if the monarch must depend on intellectual intimates, he is also susceptible to flattery.



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