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Chapter Two Transforming the Visible: In Catilinam 1 and 3
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Signum Jovis

This, even in the self-aggrandizing world of the Roman Republic, was surely going too far, and Cicero was not so enamored of his own success as not to have known it. While the orator wished to establish his own claims in unmasking and crippling the conspiracy, he knew that it was necessary to put those claims within a larger context—one that would, without diminishing his stature as savior of the Republic, make his role a more acceptable one. One of Cicero's rhetorical aims in the speech, then, was to present all that had happened as an expression of the will of the gods. In the development of this theme the manipulation of the symbolism of what the audience saw before their eyes was again to be crucial.

While, in general, the scene that greeted the audience who assembled for the third Catilinarian was a familiar one, yet in at least one respect a perceptible change had taken place. Cicero had seen to it that a new statue of Jupiter would that morning be set up on a high column within the Capitolium so as to be visible to the audience that stood in the Forum below. The section of the speech in which Cicero first alludes to the statue begins with the statement that all that he had done had been planned and foreseen by the immortal gods, and that this was proved by the fact that the gods had lately been praesentes (18) in the city in such a way that one "could almost see them with one's eyes." Cicero then speaks of the omens that had recently occurred: the lights and flames seen in the night sky, the various incidents of lightning and earthquake, and, most important, the signs of the year 65 B.C. , when various monuments on the Capitol, including a statue of Jupiter, had been struck by lightning. At that time soothsayers had advised that another statue of Jupiter, larger than the one that had been destroyed, should be made and placed on the Capitolium.[83]

What Cicero wanted his audience to think and feel when they saw this statue becomes clearer when we note the meaning that had been attributed to the other signs and omens of 65 B.C. Among the objects destroyed by lightning were statues of gods and heroes, the bronze table of the Laws, and the statue group of Romulus, Remus, and the wolf. The soothsayers stated that these events signified the onset of murder, arson, the destruction of the laws, civil war, and the fall of the city and its imperium (19). It is evident, then, that the lightning was not inter-


preted as a sign of divine displeasure with the city. Rather, the method of the soothsayers was to read the physical as an analogue for the conceptual. Just as lightning had struck the Capitol, destructive plans that would strike at the heart of the city were being formed; as the Capitolium had been ravaged by fire, so the plans would include an attack by fire on Rome; and as the physical monument of the Laws had been destroyed, in the future the conceptual laws would be overturned. By objectifying the peril in which the city stood Jupiter had made perceptible that which was hitherto hidden and thereby made it possible for those who saw and understood the signs to take action to prevent the fulfillment of the evil.

Just as these visible signs were seen as a divine "objectification" of the danger that threatened to destroy the city, Cicero presents the new statue of Jupiter as a human attempt to objectify the means by which the city might be saved. He states that the soothsayers, after declaring that supplicatory games in honor of the gods should be inaugurated and that a larger statue of Jupiter should be erected on the Capitolium, made the following statement:

ac se sperare dixerunt, si illud signum quod videtis solis ortum et forum curiamque conspiceret, fore ut ea consilia quae clam essent inita contra salutem urbis atque imperi inlustrarentur ut a senatu populoque Romano perspici possent.


They said that they hoped that if the statue that you see were to look on the rising sun and the Forum and the Curia, that those plots that had been secretly formulated against the welfare of the city and its imperium would become evident to the Senate and the people.

The meaning of the passage is carried both by its diction and syntax. After dixerunt three phrases occur, the first ending with conspiceret, the second with inlustrarentur, the third with perspici possent . Each of these phrases turns on the concept of the visible and what is represented by the visible. The statue (signum ), which can be seen by the audience, is a sign (signum ) of Jupiter, who is unseen.[84] The "gaze" of the statue, looking towards the rising sun that floods the Forum with light, is a symbol of the divine illumination (inlustrarentur ) of what has been concealed. The statue looks down on the Forum and the Curia; in a parallel position (albeit in chiastic order) in the third phrase of the sentence are the


groups symbolized by these two loci: the Senate and the people of Rome. The intended collocation of object and place, then, is an attempt to concretize the relationship between the divine and the human that will allow the city to be saved. The hoped-for result of this relationship will be that Jupiter Optimus Maximus will cause the plots that have hitherto been hidden to be revealed and made plain to the Senate and the people.[85]

At first the assertion by Cicero that if the visual field of the statue would include the Forum and Curia, then the people and Senate might be saved from disaster by divine intervention appears to be a rather crude attempt to manipulate the religious gullibility of his audience. However, the relative complexity of Cicero's intent becomes clearer when we compare his handling of the material with the traditional interpretation given a similar event, preserved in an account of Aulus Gellius (4.5.1–7).[86] Gellius reports that when the statue of Horatius Codes in the Comitium was struck by lightning Etruscan soothsayers were summoned to interpret the event and to advise the Romans what action ought to be undertaken. Out of enmity to Rome, the soothsayers said that the statue should be reerected in a low place where the sun, cut off by the shadow of surrounding buildings, would never strike it (sol . . . numquam illustraret ). The plot of the soothsayers was eventually exposed, and it was found that the statue was actually meant to be relocated in a high place (in locum editum ), where, presumably, the sun would always illuminate it. When these instructions were carried out the interests of the Republic prospered (ex quo res bene ac prospere populo Romano cessit ).[87]


In the case of the statue of Cocles, what is implied is a kind of sympathetic magic whereby the placement of the statue itself served to determine whether benefit or harm would come to the state. Cicero, on the other hand, speaks of the decision to erect the statue of Jupiter as an attempt to emblematize topographically the relationship between the divine and the human that will bring about the salvation of the city.[88] This action is not a binding of divine forces but rather a supplication of the gods. It is "hoped" (20: sperare ) that the physical relationship between the statue, on one side, and the Curia and the Forum, on the other, will reflect the true relationship between the god and his people. Only if Jupiter assents to this relationship, may the citizens be assured that he will exercise his power to "bend" (19) the destructive fate that impends.

The intent to erect the statue, then, is presented by Cicero as an appeal to the gods, and the erection of the statue in itself could neither guarantee nor prove that the city was divinely protected. But in the chronological coincidence of the carrying through of this intention and the revelation of the conspiracy the statue takes on a new significance. Cicero asks whether it was not obvious that all had occurred by the will of Jupiter Optimus Maximus when it happened that the conspirators and witnesses had been led through the Forum to the Temple of Concord, where they disclosed the details of the conspiracy, at precisely the same time that the new statue of Jupiter had been set up overlooking the Forum and the Curia (21). The fact that Jupiter had caused the conspiracy to be made known on the day his statue was placed on the Capitolium was evidence that it was he who had actually brought about the


revelation of the plot. The sight of the statue, therefore, becomes visual evidence that "all that we see and especially this city is guided by the will and power of the immortal gods" (21).

This interpretation by Cicero of the meaning of the statue is accompanied by a reinterpretation of his own role in what had occurred. The consul once again summons up the image of the urban landscape—"even the temples and shrines of the gods"—threatened by destruction (22: non solum vestris domiciliis atque tectis, sed etiam deorum templis atque delubris ), an image introduced at the beginning of the speech (2: toti urbi, templis delubris, tectis ac moenibus ). In the exordium, however, Cicero had claimed that he himself had put out the fire threatening the city, had turned away the daggers from the necks of the citizens, and had been responsible for illuminating and revealing the details of the plot (3: inlustrata, patefacta, comperta sunt per me ). By the end of the speech, however, the focus has shifted. Jupiter rather than Cicero is said to have turned aside the fire threatening the city, and the conspirators' plans have been "illuminated and revealed" (21: inlustrata et patefacta ) not simply through the vigilance of the consul but by means of divine intervention.

The orator, in fact, emphatically and explicitly refuses credit for saving the city, declaring that if he himself were to claim that he had foiled the conspiracy, he ought not to be endured. Pointing to the statue on the Capitol, he declares, ille, ille Iuppiter restitit; ille Capitolium, ille haec templa, ille cunctam urbem, ille vos omnis salvos esse voluit (22). In the passage the demonstrative ille is repeated twice at the beginning of the second sentence and six times in all. Over and over again Cicero demands that the audience direct their attention to the monument that has been rhetorically transformed into evidence of the protection of Jupiter for Rome and the relationship between the god and his people. The result of that relationship has been the manifestation of the conspiracy, which Cicero now asserts has occurred by divine, not human, will. It has been Jupiter, not Cicero, who has protected "the Capitol, these temples, and the whole city" (22). Here, the sequence of topography pictures the protecting power of the god extending from his preserve on the Capitoline Hill to the temples of the gods visible to the audience in the Forum, to the whole of Rome, rising up beyond the boundaries of the Forum valley. Since the entire city, according to Cicero, owed its continued existence to the gods, not only does the statue on the Capitolium become a reminder of the divine patronage of Rome; all that the audience sees (21: omnia quae videmus ) becomes such a reminder.


This change in interpretation, although couched in self-effacing terms, provides Cicero with no less exalted a role than that which he had earlier claimed. At first the unmasking of the conspiracy appeared to be a testament to his own unstinting labor, his vigilance, and his courage, but by the end of the speech he claims that his actions were guided by divine wisdom, and he presents himself as an instrument of Jupiter. While, for the modern reader, there is little to choose between the two assertions in terms of self-advertisement, Cicero would surely have felt the distinction was an important one to make. By indicating that his own actions stemmed from the gods' desire to preserve the city and, in turn, that this desire on the gods' part arose from their love of the Roman people (1: summo erga vos amore ) Cicero gave his listeners a powerful motivation to accept his interpretation of events: to honor him was to affirm the divinely sanctioned status of themselves and their city. Further, if his audience accepted the orator's claim that his actions had been guided by the gods, then the fulfillment of the demand made at the end of the speech for their undying honor and respect was not simply a debt of gratitude but a religious imperative involving their pietas .

Thus a series of changes in the listeners' perception of the meaning of what they see around them plays a central role in the speech. Cicero first makes his audience aware of the extreme danger through which the city has passed. Its unchanged appearance is not to be taken for granted but is a special circumstance requiring explanation and interpretation. At the beginning of the speech Cicero makes the emergence of the city from peril the equivalent of a rebirth, thereby celebrating his own role as savior, refounder, and alter Romulus . Later in the speech, however, the orator asserts that the revelation of the conspiracy has been chiefly the work of the gods, and he enlarges on this theme through the meaning given the new statue of Jupiter set up on the Capitol.

By the end of the speech, then, we have arrived at the same conclusions as in the first Catilinarian: that Rome is a unique foundation, "guided by the will and power of the immortal gods" (21); that opposition to Catiline is inseparable from a belief in this unique sanction of Rome and her mission; and that Cicero's own leadership of the opposition to Catiline expressed his role as an instrument of divine will. The rhetorical course traveled in order to arrive at these conclusions, however, has differed in the two speeches, just as the audience and setting of the speeches have differed. In fact, the most striking conclusion of our analysis is that the ideas Cicero used to bridge the gap between the specifics of each rhetorical situation and the general patriotic and religious


conceptions referred to above were not just supported by the ambiance of each speech but were determined by it. In both speeches, the welfare of Rome is made dependent on the special connection between the chief god and the city. In the first speech, however, delivered in the shadow of the Palatine Hill, Cicero had spoken of this connection as a kind of covenant between Jupiter and Romulus made at the city's inception, while in the speech delivered from the Rostra, Cicero announces to the people of Rome that the saving of the city has been accomplished through "the great love of the gods for you" (1). In the first speech, delivered to the Senate within the Temple of Jupiter Stator, the principes of the state are described as the chief targets of Catiline's murderous plans, and it is they who, like the early Romans of the Palatine city, must force the enemy back from the walls. In the later speech Cicero emphasizes that in the great battle that has been won with the help of the gods the lives of all and even the existence of the city itself had hung in the balance. Finally, in the first Catilinarian Jupiter Stator is referred to as the most ancient protector of Rome, and it is he who is invoked from his temple to protect Rome from the conspirators; in the rhetoric of the third Catilinarian, Jupiter Optimus Maximus, whose statue had recently been erected on the Capitolium, is restored to his traditional role as the supreme guardian of the city.


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Chapter Two Transforming the Visible: In Catilinam 1 and 3
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