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This paper proposes a new synthetic account of the presence of Cicero as both character and source in Lucan's Bellum Ciuile. Lucan's treatment is derived primarily from Virgil's technique for creating intertextually complex characters, but further builds on Sallust's displacement of Cicero in his narrative of the Catilinarian conspiracy and on the declamatory practice of reducing the orator to a few prominent and recognizable traits. Cicero the character, as he briefly appears at the opening of the seventh book, is not simply an ahistorical caricature: he is constructed through a careful series of allusions designed to indict his use of violence in the suppression of Catiline. Other prominent aspects of Cicero in the tradition are displaced and transferred to other characters more important to Lucan's design, Cato and Pompey. Lucan's depiction of Pompey, especially his death and decapitation, draws on the language and affect of the tradition associated with Cicero, using Cicero's own words and the obituary of Cicero in the lost historical epic of Cornelius Severus. Finally, the language of Cicero's peace-making efforts in his correspondence, suppressed in Lucan's depiction of him as a warmonger, forms an important part of the narrator's own emotional evocations of the impending catastrophe of civil war. The combination of models Lucan uses is more broadly reflective of his technique in composing a historical epic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-740
Number of pages20
JournalClassical Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Classics
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Cato
  • Cicero
  • Lucan
  • Pompey
  • character
  • historical epic
  • intertextuality


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