26 November 2016
In “The First Oration Against Catiline,” Cicero relentlessly attacks Catiline, whom he accuses of conspiring against himself, other consuls, and the Republic. In his effort to compel Catiline into self-exile, Cicero introduces the ideal that the unpolitical life is the unlived life. In paragraph fifteen, Cicero generates a phenomenon of life distinct from other activities. While he employs a series of rhetorical devices, it is particularly significant that Cicero espouses this ideal through the development of an extended metaphor of domesticity, insofar as the configuration of the political state-of-affairs through the domestic state supposes a necessity, and inherent humanness, to participate in political life. By supposing that Catiline’s villainy has rendered him incapable of living a politically active life, Cicero develops the notion that Catiline can no longer assume a worthwhile human existence within the Roman Republic.
Upon examining the life that Catiline leads, Cicero speaks to him “not influenced by the hatred [he] ought to feel, but by pity, nothing of which is due to [him].” (15) Cicero’s use of antithesis characterizes the conditions suffered by Catiline as hostile and inhumane. Cicero’s supposition that pity, rather than hatred, must be felt for Catiline’s circumstances establishes the importance, or necessity, of civic engagement in a productive and valued human existence. Through his allowance of undeserved empathy, Cicero not only aids in self-valorization but foreshadows the figuration of political engagement as a constitutive element of life, which Catiline is effectively deprived of. Thus, Cicero’s call for sympathy portrays the inability to partake in partisan life as truly disheartening and unnatural.
As he continues, Cicero enumerates a series of rhetorical questions, regarding Catiline’s “condemnation of silence.” (15) Throughout his line of questioning Cicero employs auxesis allowing him to effectively demonstrate how Catiline is neither saluted or surrounded by neighboring bodies since “men of consular rank” (15) vacate the seats within his proximity. In addition, Cicero’s use of auxesis amplifies a feeling of isolation as Catiline faces progressive political exclusion. Once he has established the conditions faced by Catiline due to his unredeemable actions, Cicero utilizes hypophora by metaphorically answering questions he seemingly directs towards Catiline. After inquiring what constitutes an appropriate response to such condemning treatment, Cicero responds, “if my slaves feared me as all your fellow citizens fear you, I should think I must leave my house.” (15) Cicero’s employs a metaphor in his response to analogize the fear and disdain felt by citizens towards Catiline, to that of his hypothetically fearful slaves. Analogizing these two figures allows Cicero to make a figurative leap — if he is hypothetically compelled to leave his house because of his fearful slaves, then Catiline should feel obligated to leave the Roman Republic due to his peer’s sentiments. Furthermore, Cicero’s use of hypophora establishes authority and suggests a finality in the option of self-removal supposed in his metaphor. Additionally, Cicero’s response marks the beginning of his extended metaphor of domesticity.
As he continues, Cicero elaborates his metaphor through the continued use of hypophora. In another response, Cicero states, “if your parents feared and hated you, and if you could by no means pacify them, you would, I think, depart somewhere out of their sight.” (15) While expanding his metaphor, Cicero now analogizes a parent’s disdain to that of the citizens’, once more implying that Catiline should feel compelled to leave the Republic. Furthermore, Cicero’s use of an extended metaphor suggests that the domestic sphere configures the political sphere. The domestic sphere is often considered a key facet of human existence, and configuring the political sphere alongside the domestic sphere suggests that existence within the political sphere, like the domestic sphere, is essential to life. This figuration allows Cicero to justify empathizing with Catiline, but more importantly inculcates the ideal that the unpolitical life is not worth living. Cicero’s formulation of this ideal implies that Catiline inability to lead a politically engaged life makes his life worthless, and furthers his plea for Catiline’s self-exile.
Cicero’s oration against Catiline continues following the fifteenth paragraph and takes the form of massive character assassination. However, Cicero’s strategic use of rhetorical devices in the fifteenth paragraph allowed him to create a new ideal while appearing sympathetic, or at the very least unbiased. Through the formulation of this ideal, the unpolitical life is not worth living, Cicero effectively makes a case against Catiline, while seemingly eliminating any biases and justifying Catiline’s self-exile.