All Things to All Men: Ethos in Cicero’s Post-Ides Correspondence
In the wake of Caesar’s assassination, Cicero was without the necessary magisterial and martial authority to direct affairs and his influence over the fractious Senate was fragile at best. So, too, did he face the challenge of physical distance. With influential statesmen scattered across the Roman world, the reliance on correspondence for political manoeuvring and the performance of self was more pronounced than ever before. Cicero’s letters, then, played an essential role in his self-fashioning of authority after the Ides of March.
This thesis illuminates the nuanced, critical, and underappreciated role that Cicero’s correspondence played in his cultivation of fresh influence after Caesar’s death by assessing the post-Ides corpus through the lens of ethos. In particular, Aristotle’s conception of ethos as comprising phronesis (‘practical wisdom’ or ‘prudence’), eunoia (‘goodwill’ or ‘benevolence’), and aretē excellence’ or ‘moral virtue’) provides a valuable framework. When applied to the letters, three distinct instances of epistolary persona creation are revealed: Cicero as Nestor, Cicero as amicus, and Cicero as saviour. Each of these personae, it is demonstrated, are ultimately employed by the statesman to establish authority as the res publica’s helmsman.