Cicero’s Pro Archia:
What Grattius (might have) said

Jon C. Hall (University of Otago)

Dominic Berry has recently identified two of the prejudices inherent in Roman jurors that Cicero had to overcome in his speech in defence of Archias: their dislike of foreigners and intellectuals (“Literature and Persuasion in Cicero’s Pro Archia,” in Cicero the Advocate 2004: 291-311). Berry does not, however, discuss the ways in which the prosecution may have exploited these prejudices. The present paper examines what we can infer about the approach of Grattius, the prosecutor, to these issues – or, at least what Cicero expected his approach would be.

From sect. 12 (quaeres a nobis, Gratti) it seems that Cicero anticipated a personal attack on his own interests in poetry. Such an attack would fall squarely in line with Roman oratorical practice (cf. e.g. Mur. 2-7), and would work as part of Grattius’ attempts to denigrate poetry in general. Cicero’s vocabulary certainly suggests the rebuttal of a personal attack (12: ego vero fateor; ceteros pudeat; me autem quid pudeat? 13: qua re quis tandem me reprehendat? Cf. 1: non infitior). At section 15 he imagines another objection (quaeret quispiam). From what follows, we can infer that Cicero expected Grattius to present examples of famous Romans who had achieved greatness without any knowledge of poetry. Again, such argument from example was standard oratorical practice, and Cicero responds with counter-examples of his own (16). Cicero goes on in sect. 21 to refer to the expeditions of L. Lucullus against Mithridates. Especially striking here is his five-fold repetition of the phrase populus Romanus. The aim seems to be to shift the focus away from Archias’ close attachment to the Luculli and present him instead as a public poet of the Roman people. Presumably Cicero expected Grattius to depict Archias as the complete opposite: an opportunistic foreigner and pet-poet of the Luculli, paid to write propaganda for their self-aggrandizing military campaigns. As Cicero claims, the trophies of war in fact belong to all Romans (21: nostra x 3). Finally, sect. 23 seems designed to address the criticism that Archias does not even write Latin poetry.

As noted, most of these arguments involve Cicero anticipating the prosecutor’s line of attack. This fact may reflect the circumstances of the trial. In this relatively short hearing, Cicero would not have had much opportunity to organize a reactive speech, and these elements of personal attack would not have been mentioned explicitly in any pre-trial hearing. Cicero thus had to prepare his arguments in advance, an aspect evidently reproduced in the published version of the speech. If this is correct, the Pro Archia may in fact tell us less about what Grattius actually said and more about how Cicero himself would have approached the prosecution case. Clearly he expected Grattius to go beyond the legal aspects of Archias’ citizenship, and it was this concern that generated most of the argument in the much-discussed second part of the speech (12-30). (See e.g. von Albrecht Cicero’s Style: A Synopsis 2003: 198-217; Narducci Cicerone e l’eloquenza romana 1997: 3-18; Dugan Classical Antiquity 20 (2001) 35-77.)

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