A Political Thriller (c. 63 BCE)
The role of rhetorical leadership in plotting and putting down a conspiracy
Dissatisfaction with a leader--whether a parent, a coach, a boss, or the leader of the Achaean army--is something all of us have felt. How we express this dissatisfaction is a matter of ongoing debate. How far do we go? What do we do when speaking and voting are not enough? On the other hand, anyone who has held a leadership role knows that push-back, criticism, and even open revolt may come from those who do not approve of our leadership. How do you handle such antagonism as a leader? What are acceptable lengths to silencing the dissent? What do you to do manage your rivals? And, more importantly for our present study, what do you say to your rivals and to your community?
"It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark..."
In this unit you will learn about the Catilinarian Conspiracy, a plot to overthrow the Roman Republic and with it Marcus Tullius Cicero (known as Cicero in this unit; click here for a fuller biography) and Gaius Antonius Hybrida. This conspiracy was devised by a Roman senator Lucius Sergius Catilina (known as Catiline), who had run for the position of Roman consul (the highest elected political position) several times unsuccessfully and tried to take power illegitimately with the help of some other aristocrats. In 63 BCE, Cicero exposed the plot, and thus forced Catiline to flee from Rome. The conspiracy exposes strengths and weaknesses in leadership on the parts of both Cicero and Catiline, primarily through the use of rhetoric, otherwise known as the art of persuasion, an art so vital to ancient leadership that we see it almost everywhere, whether a leader is trying to reconcile two rivals ("You Can Go Your Own Way"), make a case for going to war ("Golden Years"), make a case for not going to war ("I'm Every Woman"), or just trying to build a rapport with and influence over those of wealth, power, prestige ("Getting to Know You"). We can see the abiding power of rhetoric in leadership in the modern day example of President Obama, who has been compared to Cicero in rhetorical skill.
This module is divided into four steps:
An introduction to the Roman republic and the conspiracy of Catiline
Why do we remember Cicero as a persuasive leader? How does Cicero use rhetoric to demonstrate his leadership?
An analysis of Cicero’s First Catilinarian Oration. How does Cicero show leadership in this oration?
Modern Connections: Is rhetoric still a path to leadership?
Please note: listening to speeches given by leaders is essential in this unit. Because Roman leaders had to make their case using oral language (i.e. spoken words) it is important to hear speeches that use this mode of communication for analysis.