Cicero's Defense of Quinctius

Below is a sample project which is probably more extensive than those which you will do, but illustrates the principles involved of layout and analysis of sources ancient and modern. All sources, whether ancient or modern, have biases, either because of the involvement of the writer in events about which s/he is writing. This involvement can be either direct, as in the case of Cicero arguing a case or Caesar writing about his wars, or indirect but psychological or emotional, as in the case of Livy writing about events which took place before he was born. Modern scholars also have prejudices, partly formed by events through which they themselves have lived. At any rate, it is important to read all things critically. In this sample I have arranged the modern sources in the order in which I would use them to lay out the argument, but one can also arrange them alphabetically or chronologically, earliest to latest. If each is cited properly there is no need to add a separate bibliography.

I have not used here any modern scholarship which is substandard, although I am aware of some; it seems unfair to publish such criticism on the web. But there are articles and even books published whose authors do not read all of the ancient sources, or do not read them carefully, and who seem blissfully unaware of what most modern scholars (especially those writing in a language other than their own) have to say, even when, for example, one or more of these omitted scholars has either stated exactly the same case or definitively disproved it.

The modern bibliography given here is extensive but its purpose is to give examples of how to write about a variety of different things. Students who define their topics carefully will not need to read so many books and articles, although they must read all of the ancient sources pertinent to their topic. Students do not need to present exhaustive modern scholarship but must have more than, say, one or two books. See the strictures under the description of the project.

Thesis statement: Cicero used political circumstances as a ploy to create sympathy for his client Quinctius in a financial litigation. Quinctius may well have been at fault in this action although it is impossible to know for sure.

Ancient sources:

Only one, Cicero's oration Pro Quinctio delivered in the year 81. Quinctius was the brother-in-law of Roscius the actor, who asked Cicero as a favor to represent his relative. We do not have any evidence for the arguments of Naevius, the opponent in the lawsuit, represented by Hortensius, other than what Cicero says in the defense speech. Since Cicero is Quinctius' lawyer it is uncertain to what extent he has misrepresented even the financial aspects of the case. It is evident from court cases about which we know more, for example the defense of Milo, for which we have an independent narrative, that Cicero does not lie about events but interprets events to the advantage of his client. Sections 7-9, 31, 45-47, 50, 69-70, 72, 76 of the oration are especially pertinent to my argument.

Modern Sources:

Kinsey, T. E. M.Tulli Ciceronis Pro P. Quinctio Oratio. Edited with Text, Introduction, and Commentary. Sydney 1971. There is no English translation with this edition, but there is a good introduction and extensive notes. Kinsey has written many articles about Cicero's orations, especially the early defenses of Quinctius and Roscius, and knows his subject matter and bibliography relating to it very well. Kinsey does not say much about the rhetorical use of politics in the speech, but suggests (p. 6) that the case was offered to Cicero because it seemed so hopeless that none of the more established advocates was interested, and that Cicero accepted the task in view of the potential publicity to be gained, given Hortensius as opposing advocate, even if he were unsuccessful.

Drumann, W. Geschichte Roms 2 ed. vols. 2 & 5. Leipzig 1919. This history of Rome is based upon biographies of prominent people; Drumann does not scrutinize carefully individual lawsuits in the biography of Cicero because his aims are different. The bibliography is up to date for the time of publication, and Drumann's knowledge of ancient sources is excellent. In volume 2 page 247 he says that the defense of Quinctius was not political. Drumann is on the whole prejudiced against Cicero, although the prejudice is not evident from his remarks about the Quinctius trial.

Stockton, David. Cicero. A Political Biography. Oxford 1971. Well researched and sympathetic biography of Cicero, taking into account ancient and modern sources as necessary. Stockton does not pay close attention to minor lawsuits and believes, p. 8, that the defense of Quinctius was not especially important except as Cicero's first extant case.

Fuhrmann, Manfred. "Zur Prozesstaktik Ciceros. Die Mordanklagen gegen Sextus Roscius von America und Cluentius Habitus," in Grosse Prozesse der römischen Antike. edd. Ulrich Manthe and Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg. Munich 1997. 48-61. This is a very recent work and Fuhrmann has consulted all appropriate modern scholarship on a narrow topic, the defenses of Roscius and Cluentius. He pays little attention to the Quinctius trial but says in passing (pp. 26, 28) that it has no political overtones.

Heinze, Richard. "Ciceros politische Anfänge," Abh. Leipzig 27 (1909) 947-1010. = Vom Geist des Römertums 3d ed. Darmstadt 1960 87-140. (cited from 1960 reprint) Heinze considers Cicero's earliest trial cases from the point of view of building a career. He cites all appropriate ancient sources and modern scholarship available to him at the time of writing (1909), and his insights into the political situation are still worth reading. He writes on p. 94 that the Quinctius trial "acquired a political aftertaste" because of the notables involved and the manner in which Cicero argued the case.

Ciaceri, E. Cicerone e i suoi tempi. 2 vols. Milan Rome Naples 1926. Ciaceri's biography is up to (its) date in modern scholarship and omits no ancient sources. Ciaceri (vol. 1 p. 21) agrees with Heinze that the trial had a limited political content because of the personalities involved on either side.

Gruen, Erich S. Roman Politics and the Criminal Courts, 149-78 B.C. Cambridge, Mass. 1968. Very well researched book focusing on the political causes and effects of litigation. Gruen denies that the impetus behind the Quinctius suit was political, and cites Heinze and Ciaceri as people whom he contradicts in this statement. His objection does not seem fair because both of those scholars are aware that Naevius and Quinctius went to court to win in a property dispute, but that Naevius' several powerful supporters made the trial politically noteworthy (just as happens today), and Cicero took advantage of that in making his defense.

Haury, A. L'ironie et l'humeur chez Cicéron. Leiden 1955. This book is about Cicero's use of irony and humor to good effect in his orations. He knows his ancient sources well and cites modern scholarship as appropriate to his topic. He believes that in defending Quinctius Cicero stepped on some toes, especially Hortensius' and perhaps even Sulla's. But since Roscius the actor was such a good friend of Sulla it seems unlikely that Sulla minded what Cicero was doing here.

Hinard, F. "Le Pro Quinctio, un discours politique?", REA 77 (1975) 88-107. Hinard is the first fairly modern scholar to look carefully at this oration for political content. He is well versed in ancient sources and modern scholarship relating to the time of Sulla. He states (p. 93 n.7) that although the oration entailed no attack on Sulla, Cicero's defense has political overtones. His pp. 95-101 contain discussion of relevant passages on important people in the oration.

Ridley, R.T. "Cicero and Sulla," WS NF 9 (1975) 83-108. Ridley is one of many who have looked at all of Cicero's works, not just the orations, to try to assess what Cicero actually thought of Sulla. He cites modern scholars as appropriate and knows Cicero's works very well. He concludes that Cicero is not usually hostile but shades his interpretation to fit the circumstances and the audience. He discusses the Quinctius trial on pp. 87-88.

Diehl, Hermann. Sulla und seine Zeit im Urteil Ciceros. Hildesheim 1988. Beiträge zur Altertumswissenschaft Bd. 7. This is an entire book analyzing Cicero's treatment of Sulla. The modern bibliography cited is extensive and Diehl is well acquainted with all of Cicero's works as well as other ancient sources necessary to his case. On p. 42 he says the case is both political and non-political, since there is no need to mention Sulla in connection with the actual issues, but that by mentioning the recent proscriptions (Quinctius' financial agent had been proscribed) Cicero can elicit sympathy. Diehl argues that Cicero does this on tactical, not political, grounds, but all the same makes his opinion of the political situation clear.

Bannon, Cynthia J. "Self-Help and Social Status in Cicero's Pro Quinctio," Clio 30 (2000) 71-94. This is a very recent article with good bibliography in the notes. Bannon's approach is somewhat different from her predecessors' as she shows how Cicero characterizes the opposition as people whom the senatorial jury ought not to want to support.

Last updated: 6 April 2004
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