Republican Satire in the Dock: Forensic Rhetoric in Lucilius

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This chapter treats the account of the courtroom activities-Q. Mucius Scaevola Augur defending himself when brought to trial for extortion in 119 BC by T. Albucius-in book 2 of Gaius Lucilius' satires as an example of forensic oratory in post-Gracchan Republican Rome. The fragments of Lucilius' verse record of the trial are considered in their historical and literary context, with a view to their influence on later satirical tradition. The fragments reveal intimations of force standing in for physical injury, problems resulting from the impact of philosophy on speaking styles, and ironies of mixed identity put to service in courtroom repartee. Lucilius is something of a stenographer, whose take on the trial is slanted towards its relevance for equestrians and its sensational elements redolent of Pacuvian tragedy; finally, the identification of poet and defendant encapsulates the trial's interest and uniqueness.

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This analysis explores aspects of the extant fragmentary record of early Roman poetry from its earliest accessible moments through roughly the first hundred and twenty years of its traceable existence. Key questions include how ancient readers made sense of the record as then available to them and how the limitations of their accounts, assumptions, and working methods continue to define the contours of our understanding today. Both using and challenging the standard conceptual frameworks operative in the ancient world, the discussion details what we think we know of the best documented forms, practitioners, contexts, and reception of Roman drama (excluding comedy), epic, and satire in their early instantiations, with occasional glances at the further generic experimentation that accompanied the genesis of literary practice in Rome.
The Gracchan era (149–91 BCE) has excited the interests of historians and the general public alike for its populist movements, and yet there exists no synthetic treatment of its culture. Typically, period studies have focused only on the headliners, the Gracchi brothers, whose legacies become reduced to Tiberius’ land bill. While it is commonly held that Tiberius acted to relieve demographic, political, and economic pressures, existing publications have not yet appreciated the broader cultural movement in which the Gracchi played a part. For the fragmentary state of texts dating from this period has stymied our appreciation of Rome’s rich interactions with the thought, technologies, and peoples of the rest of the Mediterranean. In particular, this dissertation fixates on a group of foreign professionals who were attached by necessity, by opportunity, and by friendship to the upper classes of Roman society. As “culture workers,” professionals conveyed ideas and resources from the Hellenistic world to central Italy, where they would spark a series of cultural revolutions. The arrival of this new cultural package brought staple Roman institutions under scrutiny, such as the role of democratic elements within the Roman constitution. Roman politicians at first weaponized populism against one another in the name of accountability, but eventually their rhetoric was retooled to mobilize mass political movements. Ideologically motivated violence rocked the city, which it would haunt for another century. Chapter 1 defines the classes of professionals and patrons studied, and interrogates ancient and modern views of the Gracchan period. It rejects the brand of nativism professed by Cato the Elder, and questions the historical reception of the Gracchi. Chapter 2 describes how the patron-professional relationship was formed in practice. It first autopsies the historical milieu, tracking a pattern of “brain drain” from the cities of the Hellenistic kingdoms to Republican Italy. The chapter argues that Rome’s administration and exploitation of the provinces brought the Roman patron class and foreign professionals into constant collision. Chapter 3 offers the theoretical underpinnings for a new method of “textual archaeology,” which is necessary to control for the selection of the literary fragments that comprise our sample of Gracchan-era literature. Foremost Chapter 3 demonstrates how the later grammarians who are responsible for preserving the overwhelming majority of Gracchan-era fragments have distorted the fabric of their source texts. Chapter 4 examines Gracchan-era literature with the philological tools developed in Chapter 3. The chapter groups various literary trends together as modes of public “translation,” a metaphor that previous scholars have fruitfully applied to Roman–Greek cultural contact in other eras. Of great importance were a broad set of critical and scientific tools imported to Rome for the first time, which among other things helped shape the newly created genre of satire into a vehicle of social critique of and by elites. Lucilian satire forms a bridge into the final chapter (5), which charts the formalization of political mechanisms to restrain abuses by Rome’s executives, e.g. a new court system specialized for the review of ex-magistrates (quaestio de repetundis). Eventually the Gracchi brothers logically extended clambering for political oversight to a re-affirmation of sovereignty of the Roman people over its government. Threatened by the prospect of a Greek-inspired popular uprising (stasis), Roman authorities reacted with brutality against the Gracchi and their followers.
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