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Cicero: Pro Cluentio

4. Cicero’s Defensive Strategy

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In this module, we think about how Cicero arranges his defence of Cluentius, focusing in particular on: (i) the amount of time that Cicero spends on the three murders (Gaius Vibius Capax, Balbutius and Oppianicus Senior) and the feebleness of his arguments in each case; (ii) the amount of time that Cicero spends on the fourth charge, that of ‘judicial murder’, which relates to a trial that took place in 74 BC (see previous section); and (iii) Cicero’s portrayal of Oppianicus Senior as a mass murderer.


In this course, Dr Andrew Sillett (University of Oxford) explores Cicero’s Pro Cluentio. In the first module, we provide some of the key context for Cicero’s speech. When did the trial take place, and why is this important? What were the key features of the Roman court? How was a verdict reached? In the second module, we look at three of the four charges levelled against Cluentius, before turning in the third module to the fourth charge – a crime that relates to a trial that took place almost a decade previously. In the fourth module, we think about Cicero’s defensive strategy in this case, before moving on in the fifth module to explore the political context of that previous trial – a context that is fundamental to Cicero’s defence of his client – and why Cicero mentions it only in passing.


Andrew joined Brasenose in 2006 to study for his BA in Classics (Course IIA). Thanks to the generosity of the Helmore Fund, he was able to stay on for his MSt in Classical Languages & Literature. As a senior Germaine Scholar, he recently completed his DPhil on the early imperial reception of Cicero under the supervision of Llewelyn Morgan. His research interests include the reception of Cicero in the early imperial period, politics and thought in the late Roman Republic and early Principate.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Sillett, A. (2020, September 01). Cicero: Pro Cluentio - Cicero’s Defensive Strategy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Sillett, A. "Cicero: Pro Cluentio – Cicero’s Defensive Strategy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 01 Sep 2020,

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