Paucity of evidence inevitably makes Caesar's Anticatones an enigmatic work. In an effort to remedy this problem, source-critical approaches have traditionally been applied to Plutarch's Life of Cato the Younger, which explicitly cites both Cicero's posthumous encomium of Cato and Caesar's polemical response in 2 books. Thus, the order and logic of the encomiastic material in the Life has often been used to reconstruct the work of Cicero, while the vituperative motifs have frequently served as a guide to the content of the Anticatones, their relationship to the discourses of praise analyzed as a possible window into a charged and highly public political debate in 46-45 BC (cf. Kumaniecki (1970), Berthold (1971), Tschiedel (1981) for the principal source-critical work).
This paper is interested in the strategic and nuanced literary gestures through which the political confrontation over Cato's legacy (itself a literary enterprise, spearheaded by Cicero, that would gain legendary status, cf. Goar (1987)) took place. What does the title Anticato signify? What kind of generic forms/registers did the work employ? What can we say about Caesar's authorial persona? As regarded the literary production of the most powerful man in Rome, these were not trivial questions - of which Cicero was well aware. In writing his commentarii, Caesar had developed a genre and cultivated an authorial persona that allowed him the barest expression of his political and military power -a gesture that was keenly perceived by his contemporaries, as illustrated by Brutus' penetrating comments in Cicero's Brutus: although commentarii were notionally meant to provide the raw material for a proper historia, Caesar had deterred all intelligent men from attempting such a task (Cicero, Brutus 262). In the Anticatones, which were dedicated to Cicero, Caesar appears to have taken a similarly minimalist approach: he wrote with lethal irony that it was "not for the words of a military man to compete with the rhetorical prowess of an illustrious orator, who moreover had copious leisure to devote to these pursuits" (Plutarch, Caesar 3.4). If Cicero seems to have opted for an encomium based on Hellenistic models (which he prescribed for a history he desired to be written about his consulship in Ad Fam. 5.12) and chose to construct Cato as a homo philosophicus, Caesar's chosen playing field was forensic and traditionalist (rescripta oratione velut apud iudices respondit, Tacitus, Annals 4.34); that he expressed suspicion about hardline philosophical pretensions is clear from his effort to undermine Cato's alleged philosophical virtues (that Cato was a drunkard is a slur commonly traced back to Caesar, cf. Plutarch Cato 6). Cicero's reflections in the Brutus suggest that the Anticatones staged a confrontation between the orator and the general (here I follow Dobesh (2002) in outline but not in argument); in casting his response to Cicero's literary concoction in a deliberately traditionalist framework, Caesar was in many ways beating Cicero (and Cato) at his own game.
This paper will assess the character of Caesar's literary strategy in the Anticatones, both as a specific response to Cicero's literary provocation, and as a means of political self-fashioning through a carefully encoded public statement on the controversies fomented by his political opponents.
- Berthold, H. (1971) "Cato von Utica im Urteil seiner Zeitgenossen," in Acta Conventus XI Eirene, 21-25 oct. 1968. Warszaw. 129-141.
- Dobesch, G. (2002) "Caesars Urteil über Ciceros Bedeutung: Gedanken zu Cic. Brut. 253 und Plin. N.h. 7, 117," Tyche 17: 39-62.
- Goar R. J. (1987) The legend of Cato Uticensis from the first century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. Bruxelles.
- Kumaniecki, K. (1970) "Ciceros Cato," in Wimmel W. (ed) Forschungen zur römischen Literatur, Festschrift zum 60. Geburtstag von Karl Büchner. Wiesbaden. 168-188.
- Tschiedel H. J. (1981) Caesars Anticato. Eine Untersuchung der Testimonien und Fragmente. Darmstadt.