Thursday, 17 March 2011

Cicero: Politics and Persuasion in Ancient Rome by Kathryn Tempest: Party

Yes, and in a small club off the Charing Cross road there were indeed scenes of Verrine proportions this evening, as classicists convened for the launch of up-and-coming academic Kathryn Tempest's debut book, Cicero: Politics and Persuasion in Ancient Rome. The Phoenix Club is the haunt of the louche and the lush: Cicero would perhaps not have felt very comfortable in such surroundings, and would probably have made a disapproving speech about it the next day in the forum (well, unless Marcus Caelius Rufus was there, of course, in which case it would be classified as Youthful Fun and to be encouraged.) He would have enjoyed the symbolism of the Phoenix, though, as he himself was constantly reinventing himself to fit the circumstances of political life. One can forgive him his epic poem celebrating his own achievements (thankfully lost to posterity): one thing that comes through all his speeches, and from all the stories about him, is that he was an unfailingly good man; and that is indeed a rare thing.

(Verres, if you remember, was a very naughty praetor who liked to be carried around by slaves in a litter with rose-petal stuffed cushions; I don't know whether the cushions in the club were actually stuffed with petals, but they were certainly very comfortable.)

The book itself looks like it's a readable and erudite account, for the general reader, of Cicero's life and times. I look forward to reading it, and (with any luck) will post a review of it anon. Until then, I pour a libation to Cicero's shade in Elysium, where I have no doubt that he rests, probably telling anyone who'll listen about the time he saved Rome from the evil Catiline...

And yes, it is true, that classicists always throw the best parties...

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