Skip to main content

Cicero, Catullus, and the Language of Social Performance

Charm, wit, and style were critical, but dangerous, ingredients in the social repertoire of the Roman elite. Their use drew special attention, but also exposed one to potential ridicule or rejection for valuing style over substance. Brian A. Krostenko explores the complexities and ambiguities of charm, wit, and style in Roman literature of the late Republic by tracking the origins, development, and use of the terms that described them, which he calls "the language of social performance."

As Krostenko demonstrates, a key feature of this language is its capacity to express both approval and disdain—an artifact of its origins at a time when the "style" and "charm" of imported Greek cultural practices were greeted with both enthusiasm and hostility. Cicero played on that ambiguity, for example, by chastising lepidus ("fine") boys in the "Second Oration against Catiline" as degenerates, then arguing in his De Oratore that the successful speaker must have a certain charming lepos ("wit"). Catullus, in turn, exploited and inverted the political subtexts of this language for innovative poetic and erotic idioms.

336 pages | 20 line drawings, 2 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2001

Ancient Studies

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Abbreviations and Key Words
Introduction: On the Language of Social Performance
I: Libertino Patre Natus: The Birth of Language of Social Performance
II: Grauitate Mixtus Lepos: The Ideologies of the Language of Social Performance
III: DE SVO FECERVNT: The Language of Social Performance in the Latin Rhetorical Tradition
IV: Suauis Grauis: The Birth of the Language of Rhetoric
V. Non ut Vincula Virorum: The Language of Social Performance in Cicero’s Speeches
VI: Sermo Facetus et Nulla in Re Rudis: The Language of Social Performance in Cicero’s de Oratore
VII: Leporum Disertus Puer: The Language of Social Performance in Catullus
VIII: O Omnia!: Remarks on the Subsequent History of the Language of Social Performance
Works Cited
Index Rerum et Nominum
Index Verborum
Index Locorum

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press