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Laudatio Iuliae amitae

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The laudatio Iuliae amitae is a well-known funeral oration that Julius Caesar delivered in 68 BC to honor his deceased aunt Julia, the widow of Marius. The introduction of this laudatio funebris is reproduced in the work Divus Iulius by the Roman historian Suetonius:

"When quaestor, he pronounced the customary orations from the rostra in praise of his aunt Julia and his wife Cornelia, who had both died, and in the eulogy of his aunt he spoke in the following terms of her paternal and maternal ancestry and that of his own father: The family of my aunt Julia is descended by her mother from the kings and on her father's side is akin to the immortal gods. For the Marcii Reges go back to Ancus Marcius, and the Iulii, the family of which ours is a branch, to Venus. Our stock therefore has at once the sanctity of kings, whose power is supreme among mortal men, and the claim to reverence which attaches to the gods, who hold sway over kings themselves."

Analysis

The oration is a good example of how Caesar creates a speech in the genus demonstrativum as hymnic prose throughout, but with a decisive Caesarian character: His piece is of immaculate elocution and never loses its clarity and dispassion, even though the magniloquence of the topic could have easily enticed him to render it more exuberantly.

Caesar contrasts the two complexes—gods and kings—with almost mathematical precision, neither losing the systemic construct in the sentential context nor in the chosen word order, even framing his introduction with a skilled περίοδος by combining the regia and the divina gens in the last sentence and reprising the initial regibus as reges, thereby bringing the introduction to an organic conclusion.

The pneumatic and monarchic aspects are carefully emphasized by the closing metrics, which naturally induce a heroic feeling, when Caesar refers to ancient regality, and by vocal elongation, commonly associated with the sacral sphere (diis), which he seldom contrasts with short syllables. For this reason his speech develops a monumental grandeur at times without being too presumptuous.

Caesar himself abstains from using the moment to make pretentious or even vicious demands, but the oration will surely have angered many of the Roman nobility, because—as so often with Caesar—the devil is in the details: On the surface he seems to respect the division of kings and gods as well as the difference between the human and the divine sphere. But he clearly refers to Ancus Marcius, an ancient Roman king, who was said to have revived and completed the religious institutions of Numa after succeeding Tullus Hostilius. Caesar skillfully harmonizes the two complexes by emphasizing the sanctitas of the kings, making them a vis-à-vis of the gods with their caerimonia. Furthermore, Caesar functions not only as an orator but as the terminus of the two gentilician branches, introducing the attributes not only as family matters but as something that Caesar is entitled to by birthright. This incorporation of monarchic and divine attributes is therefore seen as an early proclamation of Caesar's aspiration for political and religious power in Rome.

References

Laudatio Iuliae amitae Wikipedia


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