Cicero the dialogician : the construction of community at the end of the Republic



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In the opening lines of the preface to De Divinatione 2, Cicero describes his motivation in composing of the complures libros of his post-exilic years. Most of all, he says, he wished to prevent any interruption in his service to the state. Though he does not say so explicitly, he clearly refers to an interruption occasioned by his exile and Caesar’s ascension. Elsewhere Cicero describes this period of his life as enforced otium, an otium threatened by the absence of the dignitas which Cicero identifies with the otium of L. Crassus in the opening words of De Oratore. As he claims in Div. 2, Cicero achieved a level of usefulness to the state (and so maintained a certain amount of dignitas) by writing his theoretical books, books which he says communicate the optimarum artium vias to the Roman reading public. What Cicero does not explicitly explain is why the great majority of those works assume the form of the dialogue. In this dissertation I seek to explore the formal capabilities of the dialogue which would make it attractive to a Cicero seeking to maintain dignitas and to render significant service to a state faced with a rapid shift of political and social structure. In general I argue that the dialogue form itself represents an antidote to the decommunalizing and populizing nature of Caesarian hegemony. As I contend, the dialogue achieves its communal nature through an emphasis on three major ethics, each of which is demonstrated in the theories expressed within the dialogues, in the actions of the interlocutors, and in the activity of Cicero himself as author. These three ethics (imitatio, memoria, gratia) each depend on community for their actualization and themselves generate the bonds that lead to community. By placing significant, multi-layered emphasis on each of these ethics, Cicero aims to communicate their validity to a generation of boni faced with the non-traditional, non-communal power of Julius Caesar.