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

Ingo Gildenhard

in Ancient Tyranny

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780748621255
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651047 | DOI:
Reckoning with tyranny: Greek thoughts on Caesar in Cicero’s Letters to Atticus in early 49

Show Summary Details


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

Chapter.  5180 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.