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date: 03 March 2021

Tullius Cicero, Marcus, poemslocked

, the famous orator Cicero
  • Jonathan G. F. Powell

Extract

Cicero early acquired a reputation as a bad poet on the basis of two lines from his autobiographical compositions, ‘o fortunatam natam me consule Romam’ (‘O happy Rome, born in my consulship’) and ‘cedant arma togae, concedat laurea laudi’ (‘yield arms to the toga, the bay to achievement’) (the variant linguae ‘to the tongue’, was probably satirical). The obvious faults of these lines are a naïve self-esteem and a somewhat old-fashioned taste for *assonance; in general, Cicero was a competent enough versifier, and despite his admiration for the older poets, his verse technique is more modern than that of his contemporary *Lucretius. He appears at times to have had serious poetic ambitions and to have regarded verse-writing as more than an amateur's accomplishment. It is perhaps less surprising in an ancient than it would be in a modern context that he chose to make verse a vehicle for personal propaganda, in the Consulatus suus (of which a substantial passage is quoted by Cicero himself in Div.

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