The Imitation of Some Structural Techniques in Cicero, Tacitus, and Minucius Felix

Christopher Van Den, Berg
2007 The Imitation of Some Structural Techniques in Cicero, Tacitus, and Minucius Felix » Schedae   unpublished
Reminiscences of Cicero's dialogues clutter the literary landscape of Tacitus' Dialogus de Oratoribus (hereafter DDO ). The patient philology lavished upon excavating their common literary ground gives little cause for surprise. The references -or (put less generously) the debt owed -to Cicero have remained a prominent focus since the DDO 's earliest modern readers. Yet the call for renewed examination of the issue has recently been sounded and is thus far largely unanswered 1 . The still
more » ... 1 . The still pressing need to rethink Tacitus' reworking of Cicero can be seen as the natural result of two tendencies within the scholarship to date. To begin with, the inquiry of the nineteenth century and the greater part of the twentieth largely confined itself to Quellensforschung . That philological labor has borne impressive fruits: catalogues of parallel passages and lists of structural or thematic likenesses. These investigations culminate in the systematic monograph of Haß-von Reitzenstein 1970, though her general restriction of the study to formal aspects understandably makes it a valuable prolegomenon to future work rather than the final word on Tacitus' refashioning of Cicero. Readers who appreciate the dialogue's imitation of phraseology, redeployment of dramatic motifs, or adaptation of Ciceronian ideas have begun to inquire into the broader relevance of such techniques. And these readers are growing in number. Döpp's 1986 lean foray into the issue was soon followed by Luce 1993 who emphasizes the importance of the differences between the two authors 2 . The DDO readily exhibits a Prépublication n°1 Fascicule n°1 Schedae , 2007, prépublication n°1, (fascicule n°1, p. 1-14). profound knowledge of Cicero, but such knowledge need not imply either slavish imitation or lack of independence 3 . And while the useful (but restricted) traditional approaches have ceded ground to more searching methods, recent discussions also expect a more encompassing engagement with the subject. Goldberg 2002, for example, in a review of Mayer's 2001 Cambridge Commentary on the DDO , points out the need to extend the consideration of influence beyond Cicero's rhetorica 4 . As a response to this second point -the need to treat more comprehensively Tacitus' adaptation of Cicero -the first part of this essay will explore how a range of Cicero's dialogues simultaneously contributes to the DDO 's literary design. It will likewise consider the relation between the work's borrowings from Cicero and its explicit judgments on him. Imitation of Cicero cannot be disentangled from the DDO 's alleged valorization of his age 5 . That fundamental issue inaugurates the dialogue and assumes center stage in its second and third debates 6 . The recourse to Cicero not only displays Tacitus' own erudition, but Schedae , 2007, prépublication n°1, (fascicule n°1, p. 1-14). that Tacitus idealized his age and imitated him in tacit recognition of imperial oratory's decline. A different approach is called for. Not only differences from Cicero, but equally similarities to him lend uniqueness to the DDO 's message. This claim cannot be made, however, without first recognizing the literary sophistication of the Ciceronian models themselves. Recent scholarship has come to appreciate more fully the pitfalls and merits of Ciceronian dialogue. We now read Cicero quite differently from just a few decades ago 9 , but that shift has not yet been brought to bear on interpretations of the DDO 10 . It will further be important to consider the reverse direction of the relationship between Cicero and Tacitus: for Tacitus' imitations also propose ways of reading Cicero and consti- Schedae, 2007, prépublication n°1, (fascicule n°1, p. 1-14). dicere, et argumentis et exemplis et lectionum auctoritatibus adornasset et quod malevolos isdem illis, quibus armantur, philosophorum telis rettudisset, ostendisset etiam veritatem non tantummodo facilem sed et favorabilem 45 . The passage holds a close connection to a similar passage of the DDO. In the brief exchange between Aper's second speech and Messalla's first speech at DDO 24.1, Maternus remarks on Aper's impassioned defense of modern oratory: adgnoscitisne... vim et ardorem Apri nostri? quo torrente, quo impetu saeculum nostrum defendit! quam copiose ac varie vexavit antiquos! quanto non solum ingenio ac spiritu, sed etiam eruditione et arte ab ipsis mutuatus est per quae mox ipsos incesseret (24.1) 46 . Schedae, 2007, prépublication n°1, (fascicule n°1, p. 1-14). DDO as a particularly apt model through which to justify the values of the present day while still connecting those values to their cultural past.