Roman frieze

“In Dialogue with Dialogues: Ciceronian Presence, Absence, and Inversion in Varro’s de Re Rustica”
S.C. Stroup (University of Washington, Seattle)

In this paper, I argue that Varro, a close textual comrade of Cicero in the final years of his life, creates in de Re Rustica not only an intimate “dialogue” with the dialogue project of his deceased friend but, in its inversion of that project, a vibrant commentary on the textual transition from the late Republic to the early Principate. Although Cicero is notably absent from the dialogue(s), he is made “present” in the strong Ciceronian riffing of the introductory and concluding structures of all three books; in the use of Atticus as an interlocutor in Book Two; and in the self-conscious theatricality of the books, a tip of the hat to Cato and Laelius. Beyond presence and absence, however, the Ciceronian model is strongly inverted: each of the books is dedicated to a different individual; each is set in a different time and place; the “villa” of the final book is no Ciceronian Tusculum but the Villa Publica of downtown Rome. Published six years after Cicero’s death, dRR functions in some ways as a eulogy for Cicero’s dialogue project even as it cynically recontextualizes that project in the crumbling political, social, and textual world of the early 30s.

Return to CAPN program