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Ancient Tyranny$
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Sian Lewis

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748621255

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748621255.001.0001

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Reckoning with tyranny: Greek thoughts on Caesar in Cicero’s Letters to Atticus in early 49

Reckoning with tyranny: Greek thoughts on Caesar in Cicero’s Letters to Atticus in early 49

Chapter:
(p.197) Chapter 14 Reckoning with tyranny: Greek thoughts on Caesar in Cicero’s Letters to Atticus in early 49
Source:
Ancient Tyranny
Author(s):

Ingo Gildenhard

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748621255.003.0047

The fascination with absolute power in the hands of an individual is a constant in Greek thought. In the wake of the intensified Hellenisation of Roman society in the second and first centuries BC, the figure of the tyrant also became, first, part of Rome's political discourse and then a dire fact. This chapter reviews one episode in this complex and fascinating story of acculturation, exploring how Cicero, in his correspondence with Atticus from the winter and spring of 49 (Letters to Atticus), reacted to the outbreak of civil war and Julius Caesar's rise to power. In these letters, he resorts repeatedly to Greek precedents to cope with and to position (and reposition) himself vis-à-vis the ever-changing face of Roman Realpolitik. This chapter explores how Cicero used the formulations of Plato's Republic about the nature of tyranny and the tyrannical man to guide his responses and actions at the outbreak of the Civil War in 49 BC, even seeing parallels between his relationship with Caesar and Plato's with Dionysius the Elder.

Keywords:   Rome, Cicero, acculturation, tyranny, Julius Caesar, Letters to Atticus, Atticus, civil war, Plato, Dionysius the Elder

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