Cicero’s short speech in defense of the Syrian Poet Archias has hardly been neglected in modern scholarship. Especially discussed have been both Cicero’s unusual style and his focus on the value of literature — the use, as he himself puts it, of prope novo quodam et inusitato genere dicendi (3). Length, style, and subject have also made the Archiana a favorite of Latin teachers, and numerous student editions have appeared over the years. The oration, though, is also a precious source for historical understanding of Roman citizenship, both its legal regulation and broader societal attitudes towards it, in an era of great change. Scholars and teachers interested in this aspect of the defense, including the lex Papia of 65 BC about which the ancient testimony is confusing, have been less well served.
Setting out to fill this gap, Altay Coskun has produced an edition of great value that students of Cicero and of Roman history will all wish to have in their libraries. Le¬gal, political, and social aspects — rather than stylistic or literary — are throughout the focus. Indeed, as Coskun explains in his preface, his work on the speech grew out of his involvement in a collaborative research project on »Roms auswärtige Freunde«, and an earlier version of his commentary was made available in 2004 on the project’s website. Scholarship published since then — especially outside the historical realm — has not always been fully absorbed into this revised version of the commentary. More use, for example, might have been made of D. H. Berry’s »Literature and Persuasion in Cicero’s Pro Archia« (in J. Powell and J. Paterson, Cicero the Advocate [Oxford, 2004], 291-311).
Following the preface is an extensive bibliography (to which should be added Berry’s excellent translation in his Cicero: Defense Speeches [Oxford, 2000]), and then a lengthy introduction. A running commentary comes next, and then is printed a Latin text, followed by a German translation. The text has no apparatus, and divergences from earlier editions are not tabulated; scholars, as Coskun indicates (8), will still need to consult the earlier editions of Vretska, Gotoff, and Gaffiot.
The commentary is full of valuable observations germane to the speech’s historical value (see, e.g., the notes dealing with Archias’ galaxy of prominent Roman connections). Also to be commended is the lengthy introduction, which gives an overview of the trial; a thorough discussion of the Roman citizenship in the lifetime of Archias (including the lex Plautia Papiria of 89 BC); and an essay on Cicero’s rhetorical strategy in the speech and his depiction of Archias as a »good Roman citizen.« The biography of Archias included in this final essay (65-70) has many worthwhile suggestions, for example about the circumstances of Archias’ ascription at Heraclea.
Two especially important contributions stand out in the introductory material. First, Coskun convincingly argues (exploiting especially Cic. Off. 3.47) that the lex Papia was in character similar to the earlier lex Licinia Mucia of 95 BC, insomuch as it punished those who had illegally comported themselves as Roman citizens. The later law, though, was stricter in the allowable penalty, which was no longer simply loss of citizenship (which, of course, had significant ramifications) but also expulsion from Rome. The law thus furnished a platform for attacking those of foreign birth, and was exploited in factional politics (as the more prominent trial of Cornelius Balbus in 56 BC shows). Second, from a different perspective Coskun complements Berry’s arguments that Cicero’s extensive discussion of the value of literature (sections 12-30) — which follows the briefer attention to legal issues — should not be viewed as an attempt to mask any fundamental weakness in defense, legally speaking. For Coskun what is important is that when it came to a defense of citizenship, »eine solide Rechtslage« alone was not sufficient (63). While Cicero, significantly, in no way belittles Archias’ Greekness and construes it as still a part of Archias’ identity, Archias has also, through his services to the Roman people, earned their grant of citizenship.