Author: Annette Baertschi
Source: Lucan's Imperial World: The 'Bellum civile' in its Contemporary Contexts
Publication type: Chapter in a book
Abstract: Lucan (in)famously included some purely fictitious scenes in his historical epic about the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. This paper analyzes the harangue delivered by Cicero before the battle of Pharsalus in book 7, even though it is well attested that the Roman orator stayed behind in Pompey's camp because of illness. Rather than assuming that Lucan purposefully manipulated the truth by inserting 'alternative facts' in order to exonerate Pompey from the subsequent disaster, I situate Cicero's speech within the contemporary Roman practice of declamation and argue that it is an instance of deliberate rhetorical role-play, which the educated audience of the early empire fully recognized and appreciated as fiction. Furthermore, I claim that Lucan not only drew on Cicero's epistolary correspondence when composing the 'suasoria', but also chose Cicero as the spokesman for the Pompeians because of his reputation as the pinnacle of Latin eloquence, a status cemented by the educational curriculum.