‘I defended this country when I was a young man: I shall not desert it now that I am old’ PHILIPPICS II
In 80 BC an unknown advocate stood up before Rome’s criminal court to defend a son accused of murdering his father. Others had been reluctant to touch the case, for the accusers were powerful men, but through sheer eloquence, the 26-year-old Cicero prevailed. He became famous as Rome’s most outstanding lawyer, and later acceded to the consulship. His speeches are masterpieces: emotionally powerful, brilliantly constructed and often devastatingly funny. Cicero’s rhetorical questions, his use of repetition, emphasis and antithesis, his personal appeals to his listeners – all have been imitated, but rarely bettered.
Cicero was a novus homo: the first in his family to serve in the senate. He also lived through the fall of the Roman republic. The speeches selected for this volume offer a masterclass in declamation, a portrait of a self-made man and an insight into one of the most dramatic chapters in Rome’s history. ‘Against Verres’ reveals the corruption endemic in Rome’s provinces. ‘Against Catiline’ exposes an aristocratic conspiracy to overthrow the senate. In 43 BC, Cicero spoke out against Mark Antony, who had seized power after Caesar’s assassination. The Philippics itemise Antony’s many crimes, from sexual misconduct to murder, and are considered the greatest example of invective ever recorded: ‘Are you going to reply to me? Are you going to dare open your mouth at all? Are you going to find a single point from this very lengthy speech of mine that you feel confident enough to answer?’
This defiance was too much for Antony, and in November of the same year Cicero was executed, his head and right hand nailed to the rostra in the forum. But the great orator could not be silenced so easily. His cadences have been echoed by the most famous speakers of modern times, from Winston Churchill to Barack Obama. This edition uses the acclaimed 2006 translations by D. H. Berry, which preserve every possible nuance of Cicero’s language. Introducer Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement, shows how Cicero’s eloquence ‘is studied by many who do not even know that they are studying it’. In a rare commission for Folio, Tom Phillips, RA, has incorporated the author’s original Latin words within a series of ingenious, innovative illustrations.