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66.5.Mahy

In this paper, I consider the ways in which Caesar, in his role as the author of his Commentarii, treats the presentation of speeches, not least of which his own, in these historiographical works. Caesar’s Commentarii provide a relatively rare opportunity for the modern scholar to assess the presentation of oratory in historiographical works in which the author himself was not only a contemporary to, and participant in, the actions and events that he writes about, but who also delivered many of the speeches that he himself presents in the Commentarii. The only comparable extant work from the ancient world with such a unique combination of author, general, and orator is surely Xenophon’s Anabasis.

The value of Caesar’s Commentarii for the study of the presentation of speeches in Latin historiography is underlined by Caesar’s own reputation in antiquity as an orator of the first rank (Cic. Brut. 252, 261-2; Sall. Cat. 54.1; Quint. 10.1.114, 10.2.25; Tac. Dial. 21.5, 25.3, Ann. 13.3; Plin. Ep. 1.20.4; Suet. Iul. 55; Plut. Vit. Caes. 3.2; Fronto, p. 117, 14; Gell. NA. 19.8.3; Apul. Apol. 95.5). That reputation notwithstanding, however, the survival of Caesar’s oratory to the modern day, as it is presented by Malcovati (1976), amounts to a mere 34 fragments from just over a dozen orations. Thus, the value of Caesar’s presentation of his own speeches in the Commentarii is further enhanced by their very failure to survive as extant works elsewhere. That being said, the aim of my paper is not merely to argue for approaching the presentation of speeches in the Commentarii as a means, admittedly flawed, but nevertheless valuable, of retrieving some of the lost oratory of Caesar; to use the Commentarii only in this way would be to treat them as no more than potential reflections of otherwise lost orations, and in so doing, would be to take a step back, and to reconfirm earlier dismissive attitudes towards these works of Latin historiography as nothing more than propaganda or handy bits of prose for the classroom.

On the contrary, the approach to the Commentarii in my paper stems from the reappraisal in more recent scholarship of the literary qualities of the Commentarii and of its author, a reappraisal that is certainly more in line with Caesar’s reputation in antiquity as a man of letters. The primary focus of my paper, therefore, is on examining the Commentarii for the choices that Caesar, as author, faced, and the decisions that he made, when his narrative intersected with his role as Caesar the orator. Did Caesar, like his predecessor Xenophon in his Anabasis, use his Commentarii as a platform to display the undeniable skills of Caesar the orator? If not, or if with restraint, what might this suggest about Caesar’s conceptualization of himself as an orator within his own narrative, and, more generally, about the role of oratory in Latin historiography? Moreover, was this conceptualization static, or is it possible to identify changes over the course of the Commentarii as to Caesar’s treatment of his own oratory? Finally, how does Caesar’s treatment of his own oratory compare to his presentations of the oratory of others in the Commentarii?

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