Three Different Ways of Emulating Cicero
by Kayla Kane, Lizzy Tommey, and Peter Stern
Kayla, Lizzy, and Peter are Latin students passionate about Cicero!
Marcus Tullius Cicero is known, perhaps best, for his infamous oration against Lucius Catiline, a conspirator against the Roman Republic. In Cicero’s lengthy condemnation, he demonstrates a masterful command of Latin rhetoric, employing devices such as praeteritio, chiasmus, anaphora, hyperbole, and tricolon.
To get a taste of Cicero’s style, here is our English translation of the first paragraph of Cicero’s oration:
How long at last will you abuse our patience, Cataline? How long still will that madness of yours mock us? To what end will this unrestrained boldness toss itself? Not at all does the nightly defence of the Palatine hill, not at all do the night-watchmen of the city, not at all does the fear of the people, not at all does the gathering of all good men, not at all does this most fortified place of holding the senate, not at all do the expressions and faces of these men, move you? Do you not perceive that your plans lie open, do you not see that your conspiracy is held bound now, by the knowledge of all these men? What you did last night, what you did the night before last, where you were, with whom you came together, what plans you made, whom of us do you think are unaware?
You can read Cicero’s full oration, in both its original Latin and an English translation, here.
Below are some examples of Cicero’s imitable style. Included is an oration against Odysseus, the epic hero from The Odyssey, against Salvius, a character from Cambridge Latin Course, and against “Becky with the Good Hair,” from Beyonce’s Lemonade. The Ciceronian style fits just about any type of condemnatory speech.
Poseidon’s First Oration Against Odysseus by Kayla Kane
How long at last will you abuse my patience, Odysseus? How long til your unrestrained hubris chokes itself? How long more will you exploit these laws of hospitality, which in return, plague your household, your wife, your son? By no means does the cry of your wife, by no means the death of your mother, by no means the disorder of your household, by no means the intoxication of all your men, move you? I must not utter these words too obvious, that by the very nature of your audacity Odysseus, you are held bound. Your intellect cannot bear no recognition, no glory, no praise. Before the senate, I say, that this most arrogant fox, more bitter than the most bitter wolves, must bear punishment by means of slaughter, eternal torture by the hand of Hades… But surely, with your godlike qualities, you can repress death! Prove me wrong, valorous Odysseus, witty Odysseus, immortal Odysseus… Or else, upon your death, Odysseus, you ought to have been weakened for a long time already by control of me myself, Poseidon.
These very ancient laws of hospitality, which you exploit for your own gain, are in place, so that if a visitor might be a God in disguise, they cause no wrath. You, mortal Odysseus, expect godly treatment, by means of overly-hospitable expectations. Recall with me, Odysseus, that when you entered the cave of my son, Polyphemus, hungry for unwarranted food, you trespassed private grounds of an unexpecting resident. Did you expect that your flaming offering would sway him? Did you think that falsely accusing me, of imposed shipwreck, would move him? Did you believe that you yourself, irrelevant to Polyphemus’ existence, indeed a Nobody to this creature, deserved his food? Your men wanted food, and food some men became. Surely, their gluttony was justly devised against them; but you, Odysseus, on this day, remain unconsumed by revenge.
Let us remember, that not only did you cross the rubicon of disrespect when you entered the cave of Polyphemus, but also, that you nearly destroyed this Cyclops altogether. You drugged him by means of undiluted wine, let him fall faint to this substance, stabbed this innocent man in his only eye! Oh immortal gods! For what crime is this blinding a punishment? Must we recall another blind man, Oedipus, blinded by means of his own hands, blinded for his discovered incest? Is it not clear that blinding is the penalty of wrongdoing, is it not obvious that blinding is no moral means of escape, from trespass? And yet you pierced him, and yet you escaped, and yet that was not enough. I see that this most despicable man, Odysseus, can have no accomplishment so insignificant that it goes unrecognized. You never truly escaped, Odysseus, you never will escape, you are under my tightest grasp, for when you uttered your condemnable name, you caused my eternal wrath. The unjust punishment, which you have imposed upon my innocent son, ought to be brought against you in the underworld. With me recall, that in this underworld, you witnessed Tantalus, hungry for the grapes above him, thirsty for water the below him, unable to retrieve these things. For feeding his mortal son to immortal gods, Tantalus endures the consequences. You, Odysseus, crossed the threshold of the the Cyclops’ cave, you blinded my son, you will now be blinded yourself, you will cross that river styx. Like Tantalus, Odysseus, your crime will reverse unto you and blind you in the afterlife.
With these words having been said, it is clear that you, most notorious Odysseus, ought to be slaughtered for the sake of fair revenge. Die Odysseus, and die not for the sake of preserving your dignity, but for weakening it. For this end will only foreshadow an eternity of suffering, of physical blindness, which your death itself inherits. Into a blind eternity, Odysseus, hail and farewell.
The First Oration Against Salvius by Lizzy Tommey
How long will you misuse the fortune of yours, Gaius Salvius Liberalis. You descend from the most highest, the most prudent, and the most noble family and ancestors. You are a man of high importance, a senator yourself, however you do not behave as a reliable and truthful man of this honor. You act as a loyal patron of King Cogidubnus, you act as loyal friend of Quintus and Dumnorix, you act as a loyal citizen of Rome itself, however this loyalty is a mask of betrayal. You plan the fatal destruction of Quintus and Dumnorix, both men of great courage and bravery, an enemy of yourself. You plan the fatal destruction of King Cogidubnus, a man of the highest virtue, the victim of your fatal plan. Why do you commit these treacherous crimes against these great and most fortified men?
Tell me, Salvius, for what reasons did you wish to defeat Dumnorix. You sent 30 soldiers for the purpose of arresting Dumnorix and the King himself. You uncover the truth that Dumnorix escaped from the arrest, by the words of your loyal slaves. You uncover the truth that Dumnorix seeks the help of Quintus, so that they may seek the assistance of the powerful Agricola, a man of the most distinguished and highest power in Britannia, in hopes of defeating you forever. They exit the ends of the earth, searching far and wide to arrange a plan ensuring your destruction, and exposing your many lies told, along with your greatest opponent Agricola himself. Out of unbridled rage and madness, you deceive Agricola with dishonest words about King Cogidubnus. You sent a letter, containing false words of the King’s scheme to drive out the Romans from their homes in Britannia. You however, even more wicked, more malicious, more corrupt, sent Belimicus for the purpose of murder and slaughter against Quintus and Dumnorix. You successfully murdered Dumnorix, but to your dismay, Quintus escaped your fatal hand. To what end will this slaughter and weaponry stop itself?
Not only did you, Salvius, plot the murder of Dumnorix and Quintus, but also, you plotted the murder of King Cogidubnus himself, out of rage and jealousy to obtain such power. Aware of the serious illness of King Cogidubnus, you began to plan his death. You planned to poison Cogidubnus, in the Aquae Sulis bath’s, with the help of Lucius Marcius Memor, who however rightfully betrays you. You forced Cephalus to carry out the poison against Cogidubnus, but Quintus, much to your dismay, uncovers these truths, bringing destruction to your plans. You spoke many false lies so that you might condemn the treachery of Cogidubnus. After his death you planned for all the Britons to hand over their money and goods to yourself. To what end will these malicious actions of yours continue? You wanting the power of Cogidubnus so much, are willing to kill anyone.
I do not understand this madness of yours, Salvius. Do you not understand that you are put on this trial to honorably accept these deservingly given punishments? Do you not understand that you must pay the penalty of your treachery? Indeed, never again will you, Salvius, be able to tell another lie, devise another scheme, murder another man, or be defended by another, under the protection and eyes of these ordered guards. These truths are now clearer than light to me, and now remain unclosed to us all. Not at all do you feel regret for your actions? Not at all do you have any morals? Do you not understand that your motives and plans now lie open. If Salvius should escape out of this prison, each and everyone of us are fated for death. Oh immortal Gods! Save us from the destruction that Salvius might bring onto this entire world!
The First Oration Against Becky (with the good hair) by Peter Stern
He only wanted you when she wasn’t there. Yes, I am delivering an oration against you, Becky with the good hair. I desire of you all now to listen– after the release of Beyonce Giselle Knowles Carter’s sixth-studio-album, Lemonade, fans were left musing over one prominent question. Who is Becky with good hair? Indeed in the fourth track of Lemonade, Beyonce ponders over her failing marriage, as her husband has been repeatedly cheating on her with a woman known only by the alias of “Becky with the good hair.” Oh immortal gods! How could Jay Z live the life an adulterer while still now married to pop-culture’s immortal goddess? And Becky and her good hair live on in anonymity? For how long at last will you abuse our patience, Rebecca? To what end will you use that good hair of yours to tempt Jay? For how long will you take it upon yourself to slaughter Beyonce’s pride? In no way at all did Lemonade move you, the anguish Bey endured, do you have no fear of the Beyhive’s wrath? Do you not perceive that your affair now lies open, do you not see the pain that Beyonce is being bound by? What you did with Jay those nights, where you were, when it happened, what plans you made? How Beyonce felt after she was promised forever and faithfulness, only to have these notions dashed by you! We have a song detailing your misdoings, Becky, severe and important against you and your hair. Oh the times, oh the ways! Beyonce suffers because of these things, the Beyhive sees them; however this woman’s reputation lives.
Recognize with me, Becky, that on many nights; you cast anguish upon Beyonce. Beyonce! Beyonce who promotes good values, healthy relationships, feminism, healthy body image, and gay rights. Starting in the year of 2008, Beyonce has been donating millions of dollars to a Houston charity that is working to fight homelessness, all without much public acknowledgement. I will not speak obscurely, Rebecca, you have a wounded a goddess. And yet you still stay silent? Why? The Beyhive will still vanquish you, if you say nothing. Is your silence in solidarity with the silence of Bey’s husband, rapper Jay Z? Change that mind of yours now, forget him. Your fault lies not in your choice of the men in your life, but yet the life in your men. Jay Z is weak, and when you began your liason, you took advantage of an impotent, fragile man. Why else would he marry Beyonce? If not for her superstar looks and charisma, then for her powerful character. Your plans to me are more apparent than Beyonce’s vibrato.
Do you remember the infamous elevator fight during the night of the Met Gala, some two years prior to today? In the elevator of the Standard Hotel, the sister of Beyonce, known as Solange, punched Jay Z in the jaw. Much speculation has been put upon the cause of this outburst, and it surely does not deceive me. I am aware of what prompted Solange, yet I shall not say it...You, Becky, you and your hair were the cause of the fight. One photograph taken by the paparazzi after the trio exited the elevator says it all. Jay clutches his face, Solange has fury in her eyes, and Beyonce a smirk on her face. This charge was one of sisterly protection, Becky, because of Jay’s actions. Because of your actions!
I am presently unaware of the tactics you employed in your seduction. To lure a man away from Beyonce is an impossible feat, therefore it must be your “good hair” that initially seduced Jay. How good is your good hair, Becky? As long as you lie in anonymity we shall not know, and indeed, this is your third villainy. Beyonce’s locks are universally acclaimed, so her begrudging approval of your tresses must certainly be your greatest accomplishment. Bedding Jay Z falls short when compared to this triumph. Yet do you step forward and share your hair secrets with the rest of us commoners? What conditioners do you use? How often do you apply a hair masque, and from what ingredients is it made? In no way at all do you offer your hair advice. The Beyhive has demanded your identity, but I am not yet prompted to do this. Accusations have been made from fashion designer Rachel Roy, to celebrity chef Rachel Ray, to singer Rita Ora, to professional-human Kris Jenner. Oppositely, I very much shut out and pass over those whom are listed as potential suspects. Why should we offer fame to a woman known best for being Jay Z’s second pick. The world doesn’t need a second-hand Beyonce. We already have Queen Bey, herself. I desire now of the Beyhive to follow my lead. Cast Becky out! Cast her hair out, too! She is not worthy of our curiosity nor is she worthy of our hate. In the words of Beyonce herself: “Ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks.”