Religion in Cicero

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Religion in Cicero

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Title: Religion in Cicero
Author: Short, Richard Graham
Citation: Short, Richard Graham. 2012. Religion in Cicero. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This study describes the religious content of the Ciceronian corpus and reappraises Cicero’s religious stance. Chapter 1 develops a working definition of religion in terms of interested supernatural agents, briefly situating it within the historiography of religion. Support for this definition from scholars in a range of academic disciplines is demonstrated. It is then engaged in Chapter 2 as a tool with which to locate and classify religious material in the Ciceronian corpus, approaching the texts genre by genre and indicating certain difficulties encountered when seeking to divide the religious from the non-religious. Religion in Cicero now defined, Chapter 3 considers the limitations in scope and methodology of previous research on the topic, arguing that these limitations call for a new approach but also suggest how it should proceed. The corpus must be considered as a whole, with twin objectives: to describe and account for conflicting religious viewpoints within and between individual works, and to establish whether a coherent authorial religious position exists. Cicero generally presents religion as beneficial to society, but never expressly sets out to elucidate the reasoning behind this recurrent proposition or collects in one place those beliefs and practices that are repeatedly advocated. Chapter 4 combines disparate Ciceronian material to show how social utility is thought to accrue and how it is predicated upon a surprisingly large and specific body of religious doctrine. This doctrine amounts to a dominant religious ideology; its operation in practice and its substantial resemblance to Roman orthodoxy are illustrated in Chapter 5, a case study on Cicero’s use of religious rhetoric in connection with the Catilinarian conspiracy. Chapter 6 details the similarities and many conflicts between the dominant religious ideology and the religious viewpoints of the Stoics, Epicureans and Philonian Academics as each school is portrayed by Cicero. Finally, Chapter 7 argues that a coherent authorial attitude to religion is present, which maps closely onto the dominant religious ideology and is characterized by a consistent and spirited endorsement of traditional Roman religion in full awareness of competing rational arguments from Greek philosophy. Some possible explanations for this attitude conclude the study.
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