Presenter: Gerardine Hoogland (Confirmation seminar)

Cicero is perceived as being utterly opposed to rule by one man, as demonstrated in many of his speeches, rhetorical works and private correspondence. However, his adherence to the constitution and to tradition meant that he upheld a commitment to maintaining order and stability for the purpose of Rome’s security. The dictatorship was a safety mechanism for this to occur during times of military and civil turmoil. Cicero proclaims through his fictional character, Marcus, in De Legibus, that ‘praetors, judges and consuls’ will keep the people safe through supreme military power, but in their absence, and in face of ‘serious war or civil disorder,’ one man shall hold power ‘for a period of no longer than six months’ (3.9). The theme of this presentation is the stability of Rome through the established order. I will present an overview of Cicero’s attitude to the dictatorship, followed by a discussion of two speeches from the 80s and 70s BC to illustrate my point that Cicero considered the office of dictator as integral to the constitution. This is a particularly poignant period encompassing Sulla’s reign as dictator, when Cicero delivered a defence speech, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino, that could be viewed as a veiled challenge to Sulla’s authority, while, at the same time, giving him the opportunity to define Sulla as a saviour of Rome, with Cicero describing the dictator as a repairer of the past, and a man who prepared ‘for the possible emergencies of the future’ (8.22).