Servilia’s Consilium: Rhetoric and Politics in a Family Setting

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Abstract

This paper examines evidence from Cicero’s letters about two family councils held by Caesar’s assassins after the Ides of March, in 44 and 43 BC respectively. Servilia, mother of Marcus Brutus, appears as the key organiser, even as many other invited participants are also present, including several prominent women. Cicero and other politicians give prepared speeches that introduce debates about various possible courses of action, sometimes over many hours. These meetings apparently follow at least some customs also observed by the Roman senate, itself a grand consilium called to advise a magistrate (consul or praetor). Formal rhetorical speeches (orationes) were evidently specially prepared (or compiled from existing material and rumours or other political opinions circulating in Rome) specifically for such private venues, where friends and family debated what had already been done and what policies seemed best for the future. Servilia herself is portrayed by Cicero as fully capable of convening and presiding over such a family council, even as she calls on speakers to present a case or to stop speaking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInstitutions and Ideology in Republican Rome
Subtitle of host publicationSpeech, Audience and Decision
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages252-264
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781108681476
ISBN (Print)9781108429016
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities

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