Usu venisse hoc : unity and purpose of rhetoric in the Bellum Africum
Leh, Zachary Collin
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This report seeks to bring better understanding specifically to the rhetoric of the Bellum Africum and how that understanding sheds new light on the political atmosphere in the aftermath of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Through a literary analysis of various vignettes, monologues, and examples of adaptations of Caesar’s own rhetorical style within the Bellum Africum, I look to prove that the work’s anonymous author consciously sought to create a unified rhetorical program throughout his text which aids the image of the Caesarian cause as it stands at his time of writing in 44/3 BCE. I have found that he does this through a multi-part strategy: he took advantage of the circumstances of the African War, especially Scipio’s alliance with Juba, to reframe the civil war as defense from foreign aggression and to downplay Caesar’s own monarchical tendencies before his death; pulling from his own military background, he focused in especially on matters of military and political procedure to most vividly contrast the ‘Romanness’ of the values of the Caesarians and the opposing Pompeians; he divided the legacy of the original Optimates from that of the contemporary Pompeians, casting them as a disconnected and inferior set of political leaders; lastly, he amplified the pragmatic nature of Caesar’s clementia, dramatized Caesar’s emotional loyalty to the state and its people, and introduced religious connection to Caesar’s idea of felicitas to elevate Caesar and shift Caesar’s original model as servant to the Republic to appear more like a singular leader or savior of the Republic.