The lecture titled ‘Staging a Prosecution: Cicero, Against Verres’ attracted a strong number of Latinists from various schools in the area, eager to hear Dr Tempest’s interpretation of one of the texts being studied by AS students. Dr Tempest has furthered her research into Cicero and the Attic orators after studying their prosecution techniques for her PhD, releasing a book on Cicero and his oratory in the context of the politics of Ancient Rome: Cicero: Politics and Persuasion in Ancient Rome.
Dr Tempest (Senior Lecturer at Roehampton University) outlined how Cicero faced many challenges as a Roman orator; not only did he grow up 70 miles from Rome, the hub of the judiciary, but he also lacked a noble background. As a ‘novus homo’ (the first man in his family to serve the Roman Senate), Cicero had few contacts to aid him in climbing the ladder of political advancement. We learned that because so much of Roman oratory was based around ‘amicitia’, bribery was rife in legal and political life.
Additionally, Cicero was an orator who believed strongly in the institutions of Roman political and judicial life; he took an idealised view of Rome, contrasting with the aristocrats who were rather more cynical. We were interested to hear how, in the Verrine speech, Cicero gives clear instructions on making and reading a prosecution. At this time the jury was made up of senators, so we can study both Cicero’s literary and delivery technique in attempting to appeal to the people of this rank.
According to Cicero, a good orator needs: a sense of humour, an excellent knowledge of history in order to provide precedents, and the ability to make an emotional appeal – not too tall an order then!
Many thanks to Dr Tempest for providing such a captivating insight into some of Cicero’s traits and the role he played in Roman oratory.