The Case for the Prosecution in the Ciceronian Era

Michael C. Alexander
A reconstruction of the case for the prosecution in the eleven trials in which Cicero delivered an extant defense speech


In The Case for the Prosecution in the Ciceronian Era, Michael C. Alexander offers a reconstruction of the case for the prosecution in eleven criminal trials held in the late Roman Republic. Scholars' previous understanding of these trials has been conditioned by the only extant primary source: the forensic speeches of Cicero. With the exception of one important trial, all these speeches are for the defense. In this study, Alexander analyzes Cicero's arguments to rebuild the lost side of the trials from the prosecution's point of view.

Alexander's examination of each trial reveals the strong points of the prosecution's case, as well as the weaknesses on which Cicero's defense seized. Alexander brings to bear his expertise on Roman law as he considers a wide variety of factors—evidence collected by the prosecution, legal arguments, rhetorical skill of advocates on both sides, and participants' personal prestige—to understand why the prosecutors believed they would emerge victorious.

The Case for the Prosecution in the Ciceronian Era is primarily a work of history, as it aims to shed light on what was actually said in these ancient trials. To accomplish that goal, it also draws on classical rhetorical theory and Roman law. By systematically considering a large number of trials, the book offers a corrective to the dominance of Ciceronian defense speeches in the study of ancient Roman criminal trials.

Michael C. Alexander is Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Praise / Awards

  • "This book delivers more than the title promises. For each of these eleven speeches, Alexander confronts directly the thorniest problems of the historical background. His comprehensive mustering of the evidence, judicious arguments, and clearly labeled speculative solutions will be extremely useful both for other historians and for all students of Ciceronian persuasion."
    —Christopher Craig, University of Tennessee
  • "Alexander is an expert in rhetoric and history, and his expertise shows. This is a learned and perceptive book. It does an excellent job of deducing the likely arguments of Cicero's opponents, and it sympathetically sets out the challenges presented by each case and the degree to which the prosecution rose to those challenges. There is much here for the reader to learn."
    —Jeffery Tatum, Florida State University
  • "Generally balanced, judicious and au courant with scholarship on the history of the period as well as rhetoric, law and procedure, this study should be the first port of call for those interested in the legal issues and argumentation of these eleven cases."
    —Andrew R. Dyck, University of California, LA, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • "This book is a fine example of the growing number of very scholarly and readable works on Roman justice. . . ."
  • ". . . a judicious overview of the legal issues connected with Republican prosecutions, and will need to be consulted as a matter of c ourse by those writing on the judicial procedure of the time. . . . [Alexander's] study advances significantly our understanding of the Roman prosecutor and his methods. Scholars interested in Roman legal procedure will find much to engage them here. And the book will provide profitable reading for those concerned with Cicero's rhetorical strategies. By shining a light on the role and function of the prosecutor, [Alexander] also allows us to appreciate all the more clearly Cicero's own astuteness and skill as a speaker for the defence."
    —Jon Hall, University of Otago, Classical Review

Look Inside

Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 384pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11261-6

Add to Cart
  • $99.95 U.S.

Related Products