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How Does Cicero Make His Support for Archias as a Worthy Member of Roman Society Appealing to a Traditional Roman Audience?

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Cicero, Pro Archia 

How does Cicero make his support for Archias as a worthy member of Roman society appealing to a traditional Roman audience?

In Roman society, the mutual relationship of beneficium and officium held great weight, manifested in what is arguably the most important social structure of the Roman Republic: clientship and patronage, or clientela. Likewise, the highly martial culture placed great emphasis on the honour and glory of valourous warfare. Appealing to these same values, Cicero frames his defence of the poet Aulus Licinius Archias, defending him against the prosecution’s challenge to Archias’ Roman citizenship. In proving that Archias is thoroughly immersed in this system of Roman patronage, and a valuable asset for the enshrining of the legacy of the Roman empire due to his role as a poet, Cicero makes the case that his client is a worthy member of Roman society.

The Roman Republic was closely bound by the social paradigm of the client-patron relationship. Archias’ role within this system is clearly defined by Cicero, as he was received into the house of the powerful Luculli family, respected by the distinguished Quintus Metellus Numidicus of the Metelli gens, and as a poet, received support for his endeavours in the liberal arts from Marcus Aemilius, consul in 115BC. Archias also accompanied Lucius Lucullus, an accomplished general, quaestor and proconsul on his campaigns in Asia and the Pontic Empire, carrying out his officium by providing a literary commemoration of the triumphs and strength of leadership displayed by Lucullus. Accordingly, Archias too reaped benefits from his association with Lucullus, gaining popularity as a poet amongst the wider public and receiving a steady inflow of achievements which served as subject matter. The Luculli family also displayed due beneficium, wielding their authority and influence to secure Archias a residency in Heraclea. Cicero highlights Archias’ “close social ties” to many patrons of noble standing in Roman society, depicting him as a man of fides who has behaved in the manner of a worthy citizen of Rome, partaken in a societal structure based upon core Roman values, and fulfilled his obligations to the community in a more meaningful way than any public records or census documents could assert. Thus, Cicero appeals to the mores of a traditional Roman audience.

Documenting the heroism and valour displayed by an individual in war was significant to properly honour one’s virtus, but more importantly, was a representation of the values and mindset of the Roman people. Cicero asserts the importance of men such as Archias who possessed the skills of literary commemoration, playing a pivotal role in bringing tangible honour to the Roman people through enshrining military feats. Through his poetry, Archias is also able to establish moral exemplars of behaviour for the wider Roman society, appealing to the Roman values of pietas for the patria and the pursuit of gloria in war - driving others to follow suit and sacrifice their lives for both personal glory and for the strengthening of Rome’s reputation. Thus, Archias, as a poet, proved himself a valuable member of Roman society who wielded great power in his societal context; he enshrined what was a source of pride for the Romans, and inspired others to pay heed to honourable acts and aspire to do the same.

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