The Importance of the Rhetoric of Cicero

Cicero was, as I have written before, a master rhetorical speaker.  He new how to obtain his intentions through use of rhetoric.  So powerful were his speeches that they achieved his intentions through the Roman Senate, of which he was speaking to.  Cicero enforced his will upon the Senate, his will being that he wanted the Senate to drive Cataline, his rival, out of the city.  And Cataline did leave.  Cicero said that not until Cataline lost all his supporters would he execute him, and therefore he drove Cataline out of Rome.

One of Cicero’s tactful attacks against Cataline was his accusing him of having ‘profligate’ followers.  All drunkards, murderers, thieves, and the whole bad lot of Rome were on Cataline’s side.  Constantly, Cicero, throughout all the orations against Cataline, slammed him about his followers being despicable people.  He warned the Senate that Cataline was the biggest problem within the city because of the ‘profligates’ who sided with him.  He claimed that if the great evil, Cataline, was removed, the city would return to glorious days.

Cicero also reminded the Senate that the people were watching every move they made, a sneaky little remark.  The Senate, of course, did not want to fall out of favor with the people, thus voting against Cataline.  Although Cicero was a chief orator, he probably wasn’t the fairest.  The silence of the Senate Cicero used against Cataline in a way that wasn’t fair.  Cicero most likely didn’t cease from speaking, thereby granting none of the senators time to speak a rebuttal.  But, even if he did desist from speaking, who’s to say the senators weren’t so in awe and in trance of the power of Cicero’s language that they didn’t think about arguing with him?

The importance of Cicero’s rhetoric in terms of inspiring fear into the hearts of the senators was very great.  The main intention of Cicero was to destroy his rival of the consulship.  Hence he had to convince the Senate of Cataline’s monstrosity and danger to the republic.  If he was able to do this, Cicero would have no fear of being subject to falling out of the consulship.  This factor in mind, he needed to say and claim whatever was required to defeat Cataline, even if it meant telling exaggerations or possibly lies.  Cicero was a politician, and the goal of a politician is to gain power, through lies if that’s what it takes.

What can we conclude from Cicero’s rhetoric?  It was powerful, magic in its effects.  He persuaded the Senate of Cataline’s instability towards the republic.  His rhetoric was entrancing, silencing the Senate from opposition of opinion.  None of the senators defended Cataline, either because of Cicero’s spellbinding words, the senators’ total agreement, or because Cicero allowed no time for opposition.  The rhetoric was effective in that it accomplished Cicero’s goals of eliminating any rival of consulship.

Finally, it is legacy.  We will never forget the oratorical majesty of one of the greatest speakers to ever open his mouth.


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