Forense Regnum: Oratory from Republic to Principate

Joanna Kenty, University of Pennsylvania


In this dissertation, I challenge ancient narratives of a decline of oratory at the end of the Republican period, and I argue instead that our sources show considerable continuity in oratory as a social practice into the early principate, particularly in the use of oratory to shape one's public persona. I focus on the corpus of Cicero, which offers invaluable evidence for the theory and the practice of oratory, not only by Cicero himself but by his contemporaries. I use Cicero's texts to establish an interpretive framework for relatively meager testimonia about other orators in following generations, linking the accounts of such authors as Seneca the Elder, Tacitus, Suetonius, Appian, and Cassius Dio to the Ciceronian orator to highlight areas of continuity. I limit my study to the crux of the transitional period, beginning in 57 BCE with Cicero's return from exile and reaction to the consulship of Julius Caesar, the return of Pompey the Great from the East, and the tribunate of Publius Clodius Pulcher, all of which upset the equilibrium of Republican politics; and ending with the reign of Tiberius, when the features of Imperial oratory appear in their nascent stages. In each of my four chapters, I explore the ways in which Cicero and his fellow orators used oratory in order to embody one of four fundamental aspects of authority: they used oratory for self-promotion, in order to portray themselves as worthy, influential leaders; for political advocacy, as spokesmen for other individuals or groups; for education, as teachers and social role models; and for dissent, as idealists speaking against abuses of power. In each chapter I proceed diachronically, showing that the rise of overpowering military leaders at the end of the Republic posed considerable challenges to politicians who sought to influence the course of events through speech, but that the role of the orator and expressions of oratorical authority remained substantially the same throughout the period of transition, adapted and reinterpreted to suit changing political circumstances.

Subject Area

Classical studies|Classical Studies|Ancient history

Recommended Citation

Kenty, Joanna, "Forense Regnum: Oratory from Republic to Principate" (2014). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3623626.