Caesar: Drives with his knees. Has a bowl of cereal balanced precariously in his lap, spoon in his mouth. Is adjusting his tie in the mirror and talking to someone on speaker. Says, "Hey sorry, one sec" so he can lean out the window and curse out the guy who cut him off
Brutus: Agonizingly cautious. Lets EVERYONE go ahead of him. Apologizes to people who cut him off. Does not understand that sometimes the right of way can be his. Still wants to drive bc he gets carsick otherwise
Pompey: Plays very loud rock music the entire time. Honks at the person in front of him the millisecond the light turns green. Names his car and talks to it like it's a human woman. Argues with the GPS
Antony: Never cleans his car, which smells faintly like weed. Is known for his traffic violations. Bullies those who drive the speed limit. "Yellow light means speed the fuck up".
Cleopatra: Believes the road belongs to her. Has a lead foot but knows when not to use it. Keeps her car in pristine condition and the air is always just slightly too cold. Doesn't curse people out or flip them off, just gives them long, hard looks of judgment as she drives by
Cassius: isn't afraid at all but doesn't go anywhere fast enough simply because he has no sense of urgency. Drives slowly in front of others bc he doesn't see the need to be rushed by other people's busy schedules. Has a tendency to ride the rumble strip and will not even notice
Octavian: The best driver. Every move he makes is calculated. Weaves through traffic jams like a ghost phasing through walls. Blows vape smoke out the window.
The charge of vanity commonly made against [Cicero] is not exactly correct; for he was sometimes able to laugh at himself
Elizabeth Rawson, Cicero: A Portrait (1975)
Further details under the cut
As a shameless Cicero apologist, I really do love this book, because Elizabeth Rawson offers convincing arguments to support what I had always thought about Cicero. We must excuse him to some extent for several reasons, she says:
“his self-criticism was as excessive as was his self-satisfaction”
dignitas was a result of one’s individual deeds but also those of one’s ancestors. Cicero, as a new man, had nobody’s deeds to extol but his own.
He was always afraid that his execution of the Catilinarian conspirators would come back to haunt him - staunch optimates were already kicking up a fuss in 61BC - and so a bit of self-promotion is not an unreasonable reaction
Rawson cites several examples of this ‘being able to laugh at himself’: one, when he received a huffy note from Metellus Celer, Cicero did indeed write back admitting his desire for recognition and that he realised people were laughing because of it; secondly, he makes many jokes to Atticus referring to the phrase, previously used to mock him, ‘I have been informed’.
Rawson, of course, does stress that Cicero is not entirely blame-free, and that he was overly fond of congratulations even for a man whose culture valued honour like the Romans’ did. I agree, he is flawed. But I really don’t think Cicero deserves all the backlash he gets for his vanity - at least he has the decency to be frank about it, and we mustn’t let his flaws obscure the fact that, actually, he was a really great guy.
Let’s keep up the #ciceropositivity on this site and rehabilitate the memory of a very real, human man, and a gift to classical scholarship.
Wow that got a bit more serious that I expected. I’m tired and emotional and I just love Cicero OK?!
Dear Cicero, I have a few questions for you. Firstly, what is your opinion on women in politics? While it was not allowed for woman your age, it is in many countries nowadays. So there are quite a lot female politicians. Secondly, what do you think about social media and would you use it? And lastly, who did you respect and love the most during your lifetime?
I hope you have a pleasant time in Elysium!
Sibyl: ✨appears in a puff of smoke✨ Hello there. I have a reply from Cicero. Unfortunately it didn't all fit onto one scroll, so here's volume one: On Women in Politics. Further installments to come, if you can bear to read that awful waffle he comes up with. Bye. ✨ disappears in a puff of smoke✨
Marcus Tullius Cicero sends his greetings to his anonymous correspondent.
Well, well! How times have changed since the Republic I knew! Women in politics! What an idea! I await with great anticipation the reaction of my respected if rather traditional contemporary Cato, for I fear his innards may fall right out again. How it is possible for women to go into politics is not clear to me - what of child rearing? I do not doubt, however, not for a moment, that with the proper education, a woman could fulfill admirably the roles of state, if this were a woman of great virtue and dignitas equal to that of a man - my own Tulliola showed such a spark of brilliance, such keenness of mind in our discussions of literature that if she were my son she would doubtless rise to the rank even of consul, and, I feel I can justifiably say, suo anno, though of course you must be aware that my pride and joy as a father would compel me to say such things even if they weren't true, which, incidentally, they are - and so if women of decent moral virtue and equal brilliance are considered able to enter into the world of politics, I give them my blessing. However, the judgements of Cato, however conservative, must not, in my view, be entirely disregarded, for, as has been proved many a time, women without these essential qualities may have a nefarious nature and seek power beyond that which they deserve: I am convinced, in fact, that a woman could make as treacherous and dangerous an enemy of the state as Catiline, that notorious scoundrel who would have brought Rome to ruin were it not for my quick action and dutiful vigilance, or Antony, who boldly dared to take the place of the hated and rightly-slain Caesar so that he might surpass even him in his unbridled audacity. I am aware, however, that you may regard such views as antiquated - though the messages I receive from the mortal world are, alas, paltry, the majority, I am deeply sad to say, are merely ungrounded invectives haranguing me for my dust ancient morality- let them criticise! I know that I myself in my time sought to act always as a paragon of virtue, and so I hope you will treat my response accordingly and trust that, were I privileged enough to have been born in your time, I would uphold what have become the new standards of morality with the same rigorousness as I did when I was alive.
Ask to Cicero: Salve! First of all, I'm a big fan of yours. That you don't receive that much fan mail nowadays is a shame. But many have to translate your speeches in school, so you are definitely not forgotten...oh wait, maybe the whole school-thing could be the reason you're losing fans. Anyways...my question for you: If you could live now, 2021, what would you absolutely want to do/see/...?
✨appears in a puff of smoke✨The Sibyl: Here’s that pompous buffoon’s reply. I told him that this kind of response is exactly why he doesn’t get any fan mail anymore, but then he went off on one so I took his answer and left. I eagerly await his 14 books of invectives against me when I get back to the Underworld. Anway, here’s the message. Can I go now? ✨disappears in a puff of smoke✨
Cicero: It is indeed a great pleasure, let me say, to receive a message from the mortal world after all this time when it seems that – o woe! – the people of your age seem to no longer have any time to spare a thought for those who lived before them and to appreciate their contribution, nay, genius, which I feel I can humbly say I gifted to the world over the course of my long and, let it be said, tumultuous life. O what an age you must live in when my words, timeless records of the thoughts and deeds of so many great men, are merely a cause of boredom for the intellectually-stunted schoolchild! Did I turn my eloquence against so many a monster, against such great tyranny, so that the people of a future age should spend their time huffing and groaning over the elaborately crafted architecture of my phrasing? Let me say, however, that all does not seem to be lost. That my voice still speaks out above the clamour of all men who came after me, minds almost as great as my own yet to come into the light of the world, that my efforts are still remembered over the centuries is, needless to say, a source of great solace, dare I say joy, to me, one that oversteps the hasty wrath of ambitious men who sought to end my days because I dared to stand in the way of their kingly ambitions.
But I digress – let me now turn my eloquence to answering your question. I have no doubt that your age is one which I would find entirely unfamiliar since, even in my lifetime, I watched the Rome of old crumble before my eyes, despite my best efforts to uphold the power of the Senate like one of the noble caryatids supporting the pediment of the great Parthenon. With me died the Republic I loved. And so, dear reader, I would dearly love to see that in 2021, the pillars of reason and order have been rebuilt by those seeking to continue in the path I laid out, just as the Pompeys of my days sought to emulate the Alexanders of old. No greater boon could be granted to me in my death.
I would also be keen to try my hand at politics again, to show the world, as indeed I am certain I would, that I still have the knack of leading the hearts and minds of men and to relive in a new age my great consulship. I have no doubt that I would make a terrific President or Prime Minister.
And finally, dare I mention it, I would quite like a JSTOR subscription and some tweed suits.
“What can be more delightful than to have some one to whom you can say everything with the same absolute confidence as to yourself? Is not prosperity robbed of half its value if you have no one to share your joy?”
Greetings, I am the Sibyl, guardian of the Underworld, but unfortunately my main job has basically become passing messages to and from the spirits of the dead like some lowly messenger boy *eye roll*. Anyway, I’ve just seen Cicero and he’s given me his direct telepathic link number so I can send through any questions you may want to ask him. He’s feeling rather depressed from the lack of fanmail he’s getting from the mortal world these days, you see.
*whispers* please PLEASE send some questions through to keep him occupied he keeps going round telling terrible jokes and reminding everyone for the millionth time about how he saved the Republic. To be honest, he’s making Elysium so terrible that some spirits have asked to be transferred to Tartarus. Please, by the gods. Help us.
You can find me at the Ask Cicero page on locutus_sum’s Tumblr.