The State of Speech

The State of Speech: Rhetoric and Political Thought in Ancient Rome

Joy Connolly
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The State of Speech
    Book Description:

    Rhetorical theory, the core of Roman education, taught rules of public speaking that are still influential today. But Roman rhetoric has long been regarded as having little important to say about political ideas.The State of Speechpresents a forceful challenge to this view. The first book to read Roman rhetorical writing as a mode of political thought, it focuses on Rome's greatest practitioner and theorist of public speech, Cicero. Through new readings of his dialogues and treatises, Joy Connolly shows how Cicero's treatment of the Greek rhetorical tradition's central questions is shaped by his ideal of the republic and the citizen. Rhetoric, Connolly argues, sheds new light on Cicero's deepest political preoccupations: the formation of individual and communal identity, the communicative role of the body, and the "unmanly" aspects of politics, especially civility and compromise.

    Transcending traditional lines between rhetorical and political theory,The State of Speechis a major contribution to the current debate over the role of public speech in Roman politics. Instead of a conventional, top-down model of power, it sketches a dynamic model of authority and consent enacted through oratorical performance and examines how oratory modeled an ethics of citizenship for the masses as well as the elite. It explains how imperial Roman rhetoricians reshaped Cicero's ideal republican citizen to meet the new political conditions of autocracy, and defends Ciceronian thought as a resource for contemporary democracy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2794-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-22)

    Just as Rome’s legions left their mark on the map of Europe, Roman ideas about citizenship and constitutions helped frame Western political thought. The concept of individual liberty guaranteed by law, the beliefs that the end of political rule is the common good and that the community stands and falls on the civic virtue of its citizens, a strong notion of collective identity expressed in terms of cultural solidarity and common love for the fatherland—these compose the core of republican political ideas that, through the texts of Sallust, Cicero, Vergil, and Livy, were revived starting in the twelfth century...

    (pp. 23-76)

    What grants politics legitimacy? This is one of the great unresolved questions of political theory. To answer it, Hannah Arendt turned to classical antiquity, with special attention to Rome.¹ Defending a view of the republic to which I return several times in this book, she identified the source of Rome’s endurance as the “trinity” of “religion, tradition, and authority.”² This trinity had traction, she believed, because the ancient republic did not rest in any notion of God or eternal, absolute law but rather declared and constantly renewed itself in the recreation of the past, a past understood as the perpetual...

    (pp. 77-117)

    Western political theory still bears the stamp of the early modern disagreement regarding the origins and basis of the state.¹ Are human beings compelled by nature to want to live with one another, as classical political theory claims, or does the state come into being as a contract between rational agents who see security and advantage in sheer numbers and the rule of law? Contractarianism tends to treat nature in negative terms—in Hobbes’s famous phrase, as a state of war, which humans seek to escape in the formation of the civil state.² Classical theorists, by contrast, face a puzzle:...

  8. Chapter Three THE BODY POLITIC
    (pp. 118-157)

    These lines are spoken by Jonson’s rebel protagonist, who seeks to undermine the “tongue-man,” his rival Cicero, by linking his powers of persuasion to his low birth and envious ambition. “Peace leud Traitor or wash thy Mouth,” the younger Cato retorts, setting the stage for Cicero’s counterattack on Catiline’s vicious habits of speech and lifestyle. Like much Renaissance drama, the play draws on a tradition of skepticism about eloquence two thousand years in the making, a tradition that revolves around the question, what is the relationship between virtue and the ability to persuade? We shall see in this chapter that...

    (pp. 158-197)

    The standard account of political liberty conforms to an opposition laid out by Benjamin Constant in postrevolutionary France and elaborated by Isaiah Berlin in 1958. Negative liberty, or “freedom from,” is so called because it involves the absence of interference in the operations of individual free choice.¹ Positive liberty, or “freedom to,” demands the individual take action in reining in the self, with the object of achieving mastery over it. Broadly associated in political philosophy with the Greco-Roman tradition and especially Sparta and Rome, positive liberty is often taken to mean the freedom to participate in politics; in Berlin’s presentation,...

    (pp. 198-236)

    “The tongue is suspect,” Cicero complains, and talk about training the tongue lacksdignitas; even his friends question his detailed treatment of the arts of speech (artificium,Orat. 140, 145–46; Orat. 1.91, 2.28, 2.156). Part of his defensiveness derives from his awareness of the second-tier status of the rhetorical text itself, which may be seen as “acting” the good orator’s part, with all the anxieties about mimesis that this entails.¹ Roland Barthes believed that the rhetorician’s tendency to apologize for his profession arose out of his awareness of its essential futility, his knowledge that thears rhetorica...

    (pp. 237-261)

    Sallust explains the republic as a regime of inexorable, desperate competition. “All men who are eager to surpass the other animals (ceteris animalibus) must strive with all their resources, lest they pass through life like beasts” (Jug. 1.1). Such a regime always falters on the edge of failure: the threat of failure is its permanent spur, and, as Sallust notes, even imperial victory brings defeat. “When the republic grew through labor and just practice (labore atque iustitia), when great kings were tamed in war, savage nations and powerful states conquered by armed force, when Carthage, rival of Roman imperial power,...

    (pp. 262-274)

    This book has argued that Roman rhetoric makes a major contribution to the way the western tradition thinks about politics. It looks forward, almost in spite of itself, to liberal and communitarian theorists who want to conceive a theory of citizenship broad enough to be available to all types of citizens yet one sufficiently strong, unified, and appealing to hold its own in a sea of cultural relativism and intellectual abstraction. No liberal, Cicero uses rhetoric to think through political problems in a fashion relevant to the liberal claim that citizens have the capacity “to act as conscientious interpreters and...

    (pp. 275-292)
    (pp. 293-294)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 295-304)