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Seminar Latin: Cicero and Ciceronianism(s). Aspects of the reception of his persona and his style from Antiquity onwards



This course is open to MA and research MA students in Classics and Ancient Civilisations (specialisation Classics).


In this seminar, we will investigate how Cicero was read, imitated, commented upon and – last but not least – talked about through the ages. Soon after his death, he was transformed both into an ideal of Roman eloquentia, almost a suprahuman figure (e.g. in Quintilian’s famous formulation that Cicero was more the name of eloquence than that of a real person, Inst. 10.1.112). His style was studied in order to be imitated – but also to be criticized. At the same time, his persona was transformed into an exemplum, both of brave republicanism and of arrogant cowardness.

We will address a wide range of texts that deal with Cicero’s rhetorical and personal heritage (and if the participants want to, also Cicero philosophus could be included into the program). Texts that the participants could study for their presentations and papers include: (1) commentaries and scholia on Cicero from Antiquity, Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages and early modern times; (2) texts by Seneca (the Elder and the Younger), Quintilian, Tacitus, Plutarch, Macrobius et al. on Cicero, his style and his ideal of oratory; (3) the Renaissance debate on Ciceronianism between (among others) Angelo Poliziano and Paolo Cortesi or Pietro Bembo and Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, culminating in Erasmus’ brilliant treatise Ciceronianus; (4) Cicero in academic biographies and in (semi-)fictional books and films of the 20th and 21st century…

A more detailed program will be finalized with the participants – partly according to their own research interests – at the beginning of the seminar.


  • Writing skills: ability to formulate a sound research question and to write a concise academic paper.

  • Presentation skills: ability to present results of individuele research in a concise way. Ability to lead a discussion and to (co) teach a part of the seminar.

  • Knowledge: classical tradition; canonization; Cicero; late antiquity and medieval and Renaissance Latin


Please consult the timetable on the Classics and Ancient Civilizations website




The total course load is 280 hours (10 ec):

  • 2 × 14 = 28 hours presence at course

  • 3 × 14 = 42 hours weekly preparation

  • 55 hours preparing of the presentation

  • 55 hours reading an individuel reading list

  • 100 hours writing the paper


  • Paper: 50%

  • Reading list (oral exam in the seconde half of the seminar): 25%

  • Oral presentation: 25%

If the overall mark is unsatisfactory, either the oral exam of prescribed reading or the paper can be repeated (depending on the marks for the individual parts) after consultation with the teacher. The two other partial marks will still count in such a case.


Blackboard will be used for communication, to distribute hand-outs and for additionele texts and material.


A bibliography will be distributed at the begining of the seminar. All primary texts will be made available in te form of a reader or via a special reading shelf at the University library.

For a first orientation, it might be helpful to read Part III (pp. 233-373) of the Cambridge Companion to Cicero, ed. C. Steel, Cambridge 2013.

Groundbreaking is still T. Zielinski, Cicero im Wandel der Jahrhunderte, Leipzig 1912 (and many later reprints) – if you can find the book second hand (for a fair price), I can only recommend you to order it (it will, however, also be on the reading shelf)!


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.


Christoph Pieper


If you want to start reading in the holidays, I recommend to read a biography of Cicero, e.g. the one by W. Stroh (in the series Becks Wissen – akkoorden to me the best of the recent biographical essays), M. Fuhrmann (beautifully written), E. Narducci (for those who read Italian – sound and trustworthy) or any other…

The course will be taught in Dutch or English, depending on the first language of participating students.